Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Downtime in San Pedro.

View of snow capped Licancabur from Plaza de Armas.

We finally made it to Valle Arcoiris this morning but for me, it turned out to be a bit of a let down for me as I have seen far more colorful and interesting rock formations in other parts of the world. Nonetheless, I'm glad we went as I know it was a new experience for Bro.

Again, we checked with Tourismo Layana if the tour to Cejar Lagoon was on or not and as I had expected, the tour still remains closed so that means we had another free afternoon today.

We headed back to the row of local eateries and had lunch at the same place we ate at yesterday.   The fare is simple but tasty enough.  Today, we had some hearty cazuelas - soups that were chock full of pork and plenty of veggies.  Though it's not ideal to be eating hot soup on a 95+ degree day, it was still enjoying sipping on the flavorful broth.


The eateries are located literally less than a minute walk from the market area.  We had noticed vendors here everyday and today, we decided to pay it a visit.

The market is under the canopy.  Snow capped Licancabur provides a dramatic backdrop.

There were less than a handful of vendors set up under the canopy.  A few sold produce, two sold household goods and there was a food vendor selling snacks and drinks.


It wasn't much but I know   that Bro is running short on fruits so this was a good opportunity for him to do a bit of restocking.  He can eat a LOT of fresh fruit and I mean a LOT!!



From the market, we walked through the handicrafts market to get to Plaza de Armas.  It's a small with maybe about 20 or so vendors who pretty much sell the same stuff - souvenirs and some clothing items.  Given how touristy San Pedro is, I am a bit surprised there aren't more souvenir places here.  Not that I'm complaining as it's nice that the focus is on seeing the incredible sights of the Atacama Desert and not about getting a refrigerator magnet or some other kitschy item.



On our way, we did make a quick stop to check out the church as we noticed the front door was open today.



It's a small church and the interior is rustic but I thought quite charming.  The white washed walls and wood beam rafters gave it a very Spanish colonial feel.



At midday, San Pedro is pretty much dead as people are either out on tour or in their hotels, escaping the heat.  It really gets unbearably hot here with the noon time sun and little tree shade to take refuge under.  It would have been nice to explore some of the neighborhood streets but it was just too hot to be wandering about so my vote was to head back to our room at the hostal and Bro did not object.


The sun blazes down strongly.  Notice everyone with hats on.

By early evening, it was time to venture back out.  It's amazing but by about 5p, the temperature has dropped so much that you need a jacket to be comfortable.  That's when we headed back out.  I was still full from lunch but Bro wanted a bite so we wandered away from the touristy part of the town to a more local neighborhood. There, we found a small restaurant with its main offering painted on the door.   The smell of the rotisserie chicken was enough to entice Bro to go in and place his order.  At his sister's request, he ordered the potatoes.  You really can't go wrong with rotisserie chicken and I was hoping for potatoes that had been cooked by the fat dripping off the chickens, like they have in France but these were just fried.  Not bad actually.  




We munched on the fries while we walked around a bit.   I was right in thinking that this is the part of town where all the bars out.  People were all around them with drinks in hand.  To escape the possibly rowdy crowds, we headed back to Plaza de Armas where we could find a spot for Bro to sit and nibble on his chicken.

As we arrived back into the plaza, we heard the sound of music and it wasn't just coming from one source.  It was a cacophony of noise.  Accompanying the music were dancers.  We had no idea what was going on but we had to check it out.  The first group we came across were performing just outside the entrance to the handicrafts market.   It was group of men and women dressed in very colorful costumes performing to music being played by musicians standing nearby.







The next group was doing their thing right next to the church. 


They too were also dressed in very colorful and dancing their routine to live music.  These costumes, with beading, fringed and feather headpieces, look very inspired by native India culture.




After the girls finished their routine, then came these performers who were dressed in fantastical costumes - a mix of human and animal is best I can describe them.  It takes a lot of imagination to come up with dress like this!



In another area of the plaza was a larger troupe doing their performance.  More incredible costumes. 





This guy as probably wearing the most bizarre looking outfit - he had animal heads draped all around his body.  I don't really even know how to describe what I saw.







I waited for this costume to swing by.  Even in my boldest and darkest of imaginations, I could never come up with a costume like the one this performer was wearing.


The plaza was crowded with both performers and spectators but we managed to find a bench to sit on and have a front row view of a performance.  These dancers had the most uniquely beautiful costumes on. 




Here's a snippet of their routine, which I enjoyed.



Yet another group.



And another group.




And one more.  This last group was wearing costumes that I thought had a very Incan feel to them.  We passed by them on our way back to our hostal.   While we enjoyed all the performances, we were curious what they were all about so we asked one of the shopkeepers.  We learned that by sheer coincidence, our visit to San Pedro de Atacama coincided with the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria (Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria). The veneration of Our Lady of Candelaria originated on the island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands of Spain.  The groups, performing tonight, represent different towns, cities and villages in the region and even beyond as far as Peru, Chile and Bolivia. In fact she is the patron saint of the city of Puno, Peru. Throughout the world, her feast is celebrated on February 2 which is tomorrow!



We'll be on tour tomorrow morning, returning to San Pedro around noon and we have nothing planned for the rest of the day.  Hopefully, we'll be able to catch some more of the festivities!

Goodnight from San Pedro de Atacama!