Day 4/Part 4–
We arrived in San Pedro de Atacama late in the afternoon and we were greeted by hordes of tourists, backpackers, vagabonds, and stray dogs. Of course, there were lots of locals, too, especially young children. The kids were playing on the playground, riding their bikes, and skateboarding. The town itself was made up of a series of narrow roads, that seemingly had no discernible pattern or structure. Humble homes and businesses, most in need of serious repair and paint, lined the road on both sides. Adobe walls topped with straw and shards of glass created boarders between the houses, and along the roads where there were no structures.
We needed to fill up the tank with gas, and we were grateful that Pierre was able to get the GPS on his phone to work. We typed in ‘gas station’ and the device indicated that there were two nearby. One appeared to be smack dab in the center of town, the other was situated on the outskirts. We opted for the later, and we followed the directions on the screen, which was weaving us up and down narrow, dusty streets. Dogs zipped across the street almost non-stop, and it appeared that school was also letting out. To put it mildly—it was pure chaos!
We looped around the edge of the town and finally saw the gas station in the distance. As we approached, we saw that it was under construction. Frustrated, we reprogramed the device and headed off again. As we approached our target the roads narrowed (if that was even possible), and Pierre was on high alert for dogs and people, because both repeatedly darted across the road without warning.
‘The Bitch’ (our nickname for the GPS) announced, “You’ve arrived.”
We looked from side-to-side and saw a mud wall to our left, and the entrance to a hotel on our right. We had no other choice but to keep going straight, which landed us in the middle of the tourist area. We drove down the little street lined with merchant stalls on both sides and clogged with pedestrian traffic. We were kicking up a huge cloud of dust behind our camper, and one of the shop keeper’s shook his fist at us and yelled something in Spanish. It was so tight that I could have helped a passerby blow their nose, if I had held a tissue out the window at just the right moment.
We finally made it down to the end of the street, and Pierre pulled over to the side of the road. We were hot, tired, and frustrated. We decided that we would try to go to another town to find gas, but it appeared that there weren’t any other options within at least a one-hundred-mile radius in any direction. We reprogramed the GPS, and once again followed the directions down the narrow streets. We hit the same location, and she announced, “You’ve arrived.”
To the left we saw the mud wall, and to the right, we saw the entrance to the hotel. We looked again, and this time, we noticed a tiny sign on the wall that said, ‘gas station’ in Spanish. The arrow was pointing toward the gate that was labeled, ‘hotel.’ We followed a small road around the bend, and there, hidden from view, was a tiny gas station. We got in line behind a row of cars, and we quickly discovered that the little dirt road was the entrance, but also the exit. Pierre maneuvered the camper through the small area, and then up to the pump when it was our turn.
As we were pumping gas, we looked up and saw a huge truck squeeze down the road. Everyone had to pull over tight to the wall, to allow them to pass. When the driver got out of the truck, he immediately started talking to us, and we discovered that he was from Germany. In fact, he was born a short distance from Pierre’s home town.
He and his wife had bought and refurbished a military truck in Germany, and then had it shipped over to South America. The truck was a beast! They were driving through South America and had already covered 40,000+ kms. It was fun talking to them, and we expressed amazement at how easily he seemed to be able to get his big truck into such a tiny space. His answer was simple, “After driving so many miles, I know exactly how much space I take up, and most people just get out of my way!”
Words to live by!
We followed him out of the station, and it was so easy to follow in his wake—everyone DID get out of his way!
After getting gas we parked the camper in a parking lot and walked into town for dinner. We found a cute little place with delicious food. One of our favorite things about the meals in Chile is the “sauce” and bread that is brought out as a starter. Each restaurant puts their own twist on their sauce, but all of them were so tasty!