Regeneration in San Pedro

Good food, Chilean healthcare system, rest, sleep and floating in salty water

We stop in front of the Chilean immigration office and the first thing we do is reducing the layers of clothes – from a sweatshirt with jacket to just T-shirt :).

Our panniers are really empty and we look enough destroyed that we don’t need to unload the things from bicycles and put them to the scanner.

The camping advised by Polish we find easily and even our dream to have a rest on a bed is fulfilled because we can put a big mattress under our tent.

Right away we go to the medical center. It is Saturday and we need to knock on the door. We explain to the doctor that our immunity system got too weak because of bad food and exhausting last 12 days but we don’t know what appeared on Jan’s skin and in his mouth and why he’s got fever. Her diagnosis: “I don’t know what it is, but it is caused by your weak immunity system, not good nutrition and big exhaustion in the last days. You need to have a rest, eat vitamins, drink enough water and take ibuprofen with paracetamol pills together and better if you’ll go to a hospital to a city 100km away from here”. She asks for this professional advice 10 dollars and we don’t know if we should laugh or cry. To be that “helpful” and ask money for it – that is big lack of self reflection.

We buy the advised amount of medicaments and walk the streets of San Pedro de Atacama which is like a different world here – everywhere around is desert and here it is full of trees and green plants, many people (tourists) are walking around, shops are full of goods, there are many souvenir shops, and agencies offering trips to local attractions and many bicycles in the streets.

Like a good woman I prepare dinner for my sick husband full of vitamins and natural antibiotics – lots of garlic and vegetables … not very clever! Jan suffers with every bite and I with every touch of the food with my lips.

We get up before the sunrise to catch the first bus to Calama (the city with the hospital) but at the end we are later than the other buses (1.5hour) because the driver over slept.

On Sunday is only urgent available in this new modern hospital. We feel like in USA – same dealing with patients, same prices, same capitalism … we need to pay 100USD before we even see the doctor and we cannot call our insurance from here because international calls are not possible (really, for 100usd?!). The last drop is that if they will need to call the skin specialist we’ll need to pay his hours but she doesn’t know how much it is, that he will say when he comes … but it doesn’t matter now, first we have to absolve the normal examination.

We pay, we wait, wait, wait … finally Jan is called but exactly like in USA, just to measure the blood pressure, temperature and other “really important” facts. Another waiting. Finally meeting the doctor and fortunately she knows right away – despite Jan has never had herpes, everybody has some of the virus in his body and it can appear when the immunity system is too weak. He got two different ones at one time – one in the mouth which attacked half of the palate and now it hurts when he’s eating and second which appeared on his right leg which causes pain and the fever. We buy double dose of the medicaments for 50USD in the pharmacy. In the bus we realize that we got two different creams – one correct one and second for some fungi?!

The following three days we rest a lot, eat creamy food, socialize with another travelers, sort photos and realize that it was quite nice in Bolivia and we meet Ana in the town right after she came from the ruta de lagunas – allright and fresh … she was expecting something worse – respect girl!

We arrived in Saturday, today is Thursday. Finally we feel better enough to see something from the tourist attractions. With another cyclist – Stephanie from Canada – we first go to the the salty lagoons. It takes some time to get into the cold water but then the feeling … it’s strange – we are floating! We can just stand or lay and the body is like without gravitation. Only problem is that the salty water discovers all scratches on the skin.

After walking also to another lagoons we continue to Valle de Luna (moon valley). After the entrance to the park we leave the bicycles and go for a walk in salt caves. We don’t have energy to bicycle another 20km through the valley and we rather stop a car with nice older couple from Santiago and enjoy it here like normal tourists. There are some sand dunes, shaped rocks with different colors and some crystallized salt. At the end is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the baby – or a stone which should look like her. At the viewpoint are another 250 people waiting for the sunset but nobody of us took a light so we need to leave this theater and we enjoy the vividly colored sky from the road before the town.

After today’s 70km we deserve a good dinner – together with Ana and Cristian (the night guard of the camp who took care of us and was nice from the beginning) … lot of meat, vegetables, pasta, fresh bread – yummy! Just Jan is again suffering with every bite.

Laundry in the morning, packing the stuff and there is not enough time left for sandboarding :( (snowboarding on sand). We leave at noon, get to the crossroad after the town with the plan to be tomorrow at 2pm at the Paranal astronomical observatory – 420km away more or less in the middle of the dessert :D.


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