Home' Journeys : Feb Mar 2016 Contents in this Latin American city, but at every
civic monument, our tour guide breathes
the name with reverence ... ‘O –Hee–gens!’
A two-hour flight takes us from the capital
to Calama, the gateway to the Atacama
Desert. Apart from the polar deserts of
Antarctica, the Atacama region is the driest
place on Earth. In some parts, it never rains.
But as we arrive at the Alto Atacama, a
luxurious desert spa hotel surrounded by
pools and landscaped gardens near the town
of San Pedro de Atacama, thunderclouds
build ominously on the horizon. Late in the
afternoon we tour to the nearby Valley of
the Moon, a lifeless place of salt-encrusted
rocks and weird sculptural landscapes.
On this day in this driest of deserts, thunder
rolls and the sky cracks with forked
lightning. A blatter of heav y raindrops
turns to driving hail. Local kids rush out
into the storm to gather icy handfuls –
they’ve never seen hail in their lives!
By the following day, the sky is clear, the
sun is hot and the adobe buildings of San
Pedro are steaming as they dry. The red
rocks of the Cordillera de la Sal have a
white crust of salt, brought up by the rain –
and the Atacama is a desert again.
No place seems more barren and desert-
like than the Salar de Atacama, a huge
salt-pan, 50 kilometres from San Pedro.
The chemical element lithium is mined
in parts of the salt-pan – concentrated in
brine, the versatile metal is used in the
manufacture of glass, batteries, lubricants
and pharmaceuticals. And even here, there’s
life – in shallow pools, Andean f lamingoes
Chris Viney travelled as a guest of
LAN Airlines and South American
specialists, Contours Travel. RACT
Travel can help you plan a journey
to Santiago, Atacama, Patagonia or
any of the continent’s unforgettable
destinations. For more information,
call us on 1300 368 111 or visit your
CHILE’S ALTO ATACAMA LODGE & SPA
STAYS OF DISTINCTION
PER PERSON, TWIN SHARE (LAND ONLY)
• 3 Nights accommodation at Alto Atacama
• Transfer to/from Calama airport and Alto Atacama Hotel
• All meals as per itinerary
• Access to spa & use of outdoor pool
• Use of mountain bikes
• Transfer ser vice between the Hotel and the village San Pedro
• Open bar with great selection of Chilean wines
• 1 full day trip or 2 half day tours per person daily
For further information please call 1300 368 111 or contact your nearest branch
Devonport 6421 1977
Launceston 6335 5655
Hobart - Murray St 6232 6455
a member of
EX HOBART & LAUNCESTON
PER PERSON, TWIN SHARE FROM
19 Day Grand New Zealand Tour
Multiple GUARANTEED departures
at a leisurely pace. Visit the ‘must see’ attractions, including
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour (pictured), as well as some of the lesser
known regions - Napier, the Wairarapa & Blenheim. This fully
escorted tour includes 4 two night stays.
ALL INCLUSIVE Tour includes airfares, taxes, accommodation,
most meals, sightseeing & attractions.
ASK ABOUT Special RACT Travel group tour. Departs 5 Feb 2016.
>> UNBEATABLE VALUE!
*Conditions apply. Price valid for travel ex HBA/LST and includes prepaid taxes of $140. Price shown is for a cash payment credit card fees of up
to 2% will apply. Prices & taxes are subject to change.**Discount is per person and has been deducted from advertised price. Travel Guide is per
household. Offer varies on special group departure. No other special offers or discounts apply. Special offers apply to new bookings only until 30
November 2015. Availability is limited. Amounts payable to third parties not included. Offers can be withdrawn at any time without notice. RACT
Travel Pty Ltd ATAS No. A11470 ABN 45 144 538 803.
*Conditions apply. Travel is valid from APR-SEP16. Valid for land bookings only and does not include airfares. Member bonus applies to new bookings only deposited by 31Mar16 and is included in advertised price. Applies only in Catarpe room category. No
other discounts or benefits will apply. Subject to availability at time of booking. Please check with your nearest RACT Travel office for further information RACT Travel Pty Ltd. ABN 45 144 538 803. ATAS No. A11470.
pace delicately on twiggy legs, dipping into
the water to sieve brine shrimps through
Back at Alto Atacama after the El Tatio
hot pool experience, I need a hot shower to
wash the gritty mud from my ears. I spend
time with Veronica, the Chilean landscape
architect who designed the hotel ’s extensive
gardens. Then it’s dinner on the terrace of
the hotel with my Australian friends, our
last meal before f lying home.
The evening sun glows on the
ochre-coloured hotel buildings, a perfect
match with the terracotta hues of the
mountain beyond. We raise pisco sours
for a farewell toast – Salud! – to Chile, this
country of astonishing contrasts, spectacular
landscapes, and warm, welcoming people.
Opposite page: El Tatio geyser field; electrical
storm in the Valley of the Moon; the hot pool
This page: Andean flamingoes, Salar de Atacama
FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 Journeys 59
TRAVEL by RACT
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