Why Lobitos should be a stop on your Peru tour.

I took a bus from Mancora to Talara, Peru about three stops, or an hour and twenty minutes at around 12pm. I am confident I was the only foreigner on that bus.

Talara is not nice. That is the simplest way to put it. It is a Peruvian city overrun with trash and people. It is a oil port town and many people came to the city hoping for jobs. However, the companies (owned by the Spanish) ended up bringing in people from Spain to perform technical jobs such as Engineering which the people of Talara were not trained for. This turned into a problem which results in near weekly strikes where any cars approaching Talara have rocks thrown at them.

Needless to say I was glad I wasn’t staying in Talara but I was nervous for Lobitos at that point. I got off the bus and walked about two blocks to where the local collectivos were, or shared taxis. The interesting thing about these Taxi’s is you don’t move until the taxi’s are full. Then again, I cannot complain after a 20 minute ride for 3 soles or $1 USD.

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I figured I would be okay hanging out in Lobitos for a while.

When I finally arrived to where I was staying in Lobitos, I was pretty content. It was a hotel on an old military base. It was a short walk to the beach. It was small and their was a room with a TV to watch movies. Of course, there was no market in Lobitos so you always had to plan your meals when you went to Talara. Also, internet was spotty but you could not beat the calm uncrowded beaches.

So why should you visit Lobitos?

1. Beaches – These are not the best beaches in the world. These are solid beaches on Peru’s North Coast and honestly, nicer than most beaches I saw in Peru and even Colombia.

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I love when you have beaches to yourself.

2. Surf – If you are an intermediate to expert surfer, Lobitos is for you. It occasionally gets a bit busy but you can usually find some time for yourself during the day. As a beginner, it was a bit too much for me and I was taken out a few times.

3. Relaxing – So relaxing. No rush. No problems. No traffic. No daily grind for anyone in Lobitos. All you have is sun, surf, and drink (if you want).

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The only complaint was when the sun would get too hot walking back to the hotel from the beach. Things could be worse.

I stayed in Lobitos for about 2 weeks. Fortunately it was a much better workaway than my previous experience. After two days in Lobitos I was a bit worried that I would be so bored. I came to really enjoy the pattern and days to focus on myself. My days usually went like this: Wake up at 7am, Run 3 miles (on the beach), jump in the ocean, dry off in the sun while reading, Nap or watch a show, Work lunch from 1-5, make dinner, watch a movie, call it a night by 10pm. Wake, and repeat.

Not a bad way to start the day, not at all.

Not a bad way to start the day, not at all.

I don’t think I’ve ever been less stressed in my life. Occasionally, I’d change things up by trying to surf or writing. I think I read about 4 books in two weeks while out in Lobitos. It was also great to get to know people as there was a French couple, a Swedish couple, and  a girl from Colorado out there with me.

Do yourself a favor and get off the beaten path and take a few days to refresh in Lobitos, Peru.

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I was sad to say goodbye, and especially to these sunsets.

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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: Supposedly one of the driest places on earth

I was immediately nervous coming into San Pedro. It is literally in the middle of nowhere and when you arrive at the bus station all you see are little shacks on the side of the road. There are barely any street signs when you arrive so finding where I was staying was not the easiest task. I fortunately had 3G service still (kind of crazy in the middle of the desert, thanks T-mobile!) and was able to map my way to the hostel.

For those of you who are not familiar with San Pedro de Atacama, it is a desert town in the northeastern corner of Chile. It is surrounded by the Atacama desert and is very remote. The buses only go every other day from Argentina and that is mostly for tourists. It is one of the driest places on earth, although it seemed to rain at least a bit every day I was there. It also is one of the places on earth with the least light pollution making it a prime spot for those who enjoy star gazing.

San Pedro de Atacama is not much of a town. It is pricey compared to other parts of Chile and South America (as everything is brought in) and it consists of only a few blocks. Even more so, most of those few blocks are filled with tour companies. It is overwhelming. Especially for someone like myself who likes to do too much research and overthink options.

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One of the main streets in San Pedro de Atacama. The downtown consists of around 5 x 5 blocks.

I should have done a bit more research before I left. I ultimately planned on staying only two nights and heading to Arica, Chile before heading into Peru. This is one of the best things about solo travel. You can change your itinerary in the course of a few hours. That is exactly what I did.

The first day I arrived in San Pedro I basically decided on which tour I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do Geisers and I wanted to do something that took up most of the day. I ended up settling on Salar de Tara for 35.000 CP (~55 USD). We (other people on the tour) were picked up at our hostels just after 8am. We then headed to the only road out into the middle of the desert where luck would have it, was closed do to a bit of snow, which they aren’t really used to here.

The tour guide took us all back to our hostels and told us if he wasn’t back by 11, we wouldn’t be doing the tour. Well, I went back to bed after waking up at like 6am. An hour later, still asleep, a knock on the door and I was whisked off again for this tour. The road had opened.

Our first stop on the Salar de Tara tour. The landscape was unlike anything I've seen before.

Our first stop on the Salar de Tara tour. The landscape was unlike anything I’ve seen before.

The drive out was pretty long. We stopped at the first lagoon to have breakfast which consisted of Avocado and cheese on bread. We then proceeded to drive through the desert. This was the first time I had done something like this. The views were amazing and it was very cool to see the driver just follow other paths in the rocky sand or make his own path based on previous knowledge. We eventually arrived at the stone cathedrals, where we took some pictures and just stood in awe of the power of water and wind.

The Salar de Tara and myself. It was pretty incredible to see this oasis in the middle of the desert after driving for over an hour.

The Salar de Tara and myself. It was pretty incredible to see this oasis in the middle of the desert after driving for over an hour.

The next stop was the Salar de Tara which is not the typical Salt flat you imagine. It was a bit more of a lagoon like oasis. There were flamingos and what stood out the most were the colors. The Salar de Tara is amazing. It is a gorgeous site and we stopped and had our next meal there.

The stone monks in the middle of the desert outside of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

The stone monks in the middle of the desert outside of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Our last stop was the entrance to the national reserve which had the stone monks, or tall stones standing alone once again carved by wind and water. It is beautiful out in the desert and amazing to see so much untouched land after so much time in cities. This last stop I was once again told I should go to Uyuni in Bolivia and I couldn’t miss it.

That pretty much sealed the deal. I couldn’t avoid Uyuni. Everyone was telling me to go. I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t, and the original Visa fee I didn’t want to pay, was less than half what I anticipated. Given the facts, I arrived back in town around 7 that night and began my research. To be continued.