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JLW on the Road: Andes Mountains

4 July 2017

Fresh from her epic adventures in South East Asia, outdoor hero JLW on the Road is trekking the length of Chile, and charting her highlights here. Last time she checked in she was cycling through the desert – this time she’s up in the Andes.

San Pedro de Atacama, a small town in Northeast Chile, is spectacularly set in the heart of the Andes Mountains. Whichever way you look, you are met with incredible landscapes; from snow-capped volcanos (in the winter) to stunning sand formations carved out over centuries in one of the world’s driest deserts – the views are so breathtakingly alien, they have been compared with the surface of the moon.

Speaking of things out of this world – stargazing! There are a couple of things you must not miss out on when visiting San Pedro de Atacama and, personally, I think they are the reasons the town is the third most visited place in Chile. One of those is ‘astro-toursim’.

DSC_1022Stargazing is a huge business in San Pedro de Atacama. Since it is so high and dry it is world renowned for its unpolluted, clear night skies and it gave me the chance to get an up close look at those twinkly stars. The night sky is usually so clear in fact, you could just ‘look up’ to see the amazing constellations and the Milky Way in all their glory. But if you’d like a closer look into night’s sky and interesting facts about why they exist then an evening tour is for you. The tours include seeing the sky through a telescope and an hour presentation with a chance to ask any questions you have.

Make sure you look into when there’s a full moon and go any other time of the month. The couple of days leading up to and after the full moon you aren’t able to see the stars; at any other time the naked eye can soak up the constellations and the Milky Way. With the help of a couple of telescopes you also get to see certain planets – like Saturn (with it’s rings!) and Jupiter – up close and personal.

Don’t know anything about space? Don’t think you care that much? It’s actually really interesting, you get an hour talk in Spanish and English where the tour guides scrape the surface and give you a beginner’s look into stars, space and planets; you’ll learn everything you have always wanted to know. Well…mostly. Don’t go if you want to know if aliens are real and don’t get astronomy and astrology mixed up, they don’t like it. Other tips, make sure you go on a clear night. The tours mostly operate with 95% clear skies but if there’s less they give you the option to cancel or go another night. Another tip, WRAP UP WARM. Even though Atacama can get really hot in the daytime, particularly in the summer. The evening is freezing. Two pairs of trousers, jumpers, a thermal coat, big socks AND my Trekmates Classic DRY gloves, did the trick. The tours go throughout the evening from 8pm until 11pm and last about three hours.

Enough about the wonders of the night’s sky, the next activity on my list involves plunging into luscious, natural, warm water, but that’s after skimping down into your tankini or speedos and bracing the whipping cold winds at 3500 meters above sea level.

Swimming in the natural hot springs at Termas de Puritama.

Located a couple of kilometres from San Pedro de Atacama in the Andean highlands you can enjoy the exquisite natural hot water springs known in Chile as ‘Termas de Puritama’. The 100% natural mineral thermal water has sodium sulphate, magnesium, potassium and calcium in it which rejuvenates your body. A tip, though, after a couple of hours soaking up the minerals you’re left feeling extremely relaxed and certainly ready for a snooze. Don’t plan anything which requires energy afterwards, your body will by crying out for a relaxing evening and plenty of h2o!

Watch this space for more of Jade’s adventures in South America, and don’t forget to check her out on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/jade_louise_worsley/) on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JLWontheroad) and on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/user/jadeworsley1) for more awesome content