64. Hotel Explora – San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Cocktail – Atacama Pisco Sour
Chilean pisco, scotch, lemon juice

Date Visited – Jan 2017

Well this one came with a few challenges. First the hotel burnt down in 2015 and I had to wait for it to be re-built. Second as a non-guest I had to request permission from the hotel to visit, third the Chilean border was closed on the day we were scheduled to cross and finally on the night of my visit a thunderstorm decided to hit the driest place on Earth! The weather was the cause of most of my issues as the border was closed due to a mudslide forcing our Bolivian drivers to illegally cross the border and then deposit us and our luggage 3km from the road block. Took quite some explaining at immigration as there was no convincing them we’d walked the full 20km from Bolivia!

The weather of course also interfered with the wifi signal but when I eventually got online I was rewarded with a response from Maureen at Explora accepting my request to visit. In this small town the taxi drivers finish work at about 8pm so the next challenge was how i would get to the hotel. Having enquired at many bike rental agencies I finally found one who was willing to rent me a bike overnight and so I booked to collect it at 6pm. However, here comes the rain again, just as I’m walking to the bike shop and so I decide to sit it out at the shop for an hour in the most flooded part of town. As my 7 o’clock reservation came and went the situation was becoming more urgent and I asked the guy at the tour agency if it was safe to cycle during a thunderstorm. He told me that lightening will always go for the highest thing so as long as I was surrounded by buildings I would be ok, but it wouldn’t be advised in the middle of the desert! Not the most reassuring answer, which he then followed up with, “Do you feel like this is your last day on earth?” At this point I started to question my sanity a little, and how important it was for me to visit this bar, before jumping on the bike!

I dislodged my flip flops several times in the puddles on the way there and arrived looking like a drowned rat to be greeted by Maureen who had started to give up on me. Fortunately I had come prepared with a change of clothes so my first port of call was the bathroom to freshen up and then arrived at the bar where Maureen was waiting for me. She offered me a Pisco Sour and I showed her the print out from the book so she asked the bartender to make me one of those instead (being a Scotch fan he fully approved). Then she hosted me for the evening as we sat at the bar chatting about Chile and other places I’d visited while she lined up more Pisco Sour variations for me to try as well as a cheese and fruit platter. Using local ingredients I tried ones with rica rica, coca leaves and chenar, triple parking until 1am, long past the taxi curfew. Changing back into my waterproofs I said my goodbyes and then jumped back on the bike to ride home in the dark with only the stars to light my way.

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