"I can only eat organic and he does not respect this so I am fed these terrible vegetables with the cancer all over them."
Tomas was a young Frenchman who was managing the hostel we were staying at in exchange for food and a place to put his tent. Although overreacting, he had a bit of a point. The produce in San Pedro is appalling. Both in quality and price. A rotten banana covered in flies is fifty cents. The mangoes have no flavor and are full of stringy flesh which gets stuck between your teeth. A dollar each. Bruised apples, seventy five cents. I suppose though, that if somebody wants to eat a mango in the middle of one of the planet’s driest deserts, then an adjustment in one’s expectations of quality might be in order.
The town is the Atacama Desert’s Mecca for young travelers wearing expansive flower hats though and they will pay it. They can't resist avocado toast any more than a suburban boomer can restrain his or her self from power washing the driveway in the middle of a draught. I didn't understand power washing in my youth. We weren't a power washing sort of family. I'd visit friends though and their mothers might ask them to sweep the garage after we came tromping in from the swamps.
"Don't worry about it boy," I'd hear a father yell from the bathroom, "I'll get the power washer on it later."
It's one of those tools that is almost completely pointless, yet the breadth of its applications is boundless. I power washed for the first time just a few years ago. I was told that it would extend the useful life of a deck. I obliterated decades of dirt and restored it to its original formaldehyde green sheen. I had to restrain myself from stripping the soot off the masonry on our building next. Even just spraying dirt off of concrete offers a strange degree of satisfaction.
Notable is that everyone here has a bike. It is a nice site, although it also offers a strange way to separate the locals from the travelers. The locals tend to have older bikes with rusty chains and blown out suspension. They also ride their bikes. The travelers in contrast, generally have nice new bikes that they don’t seem to ride. They just walk around town and talk to other people that are pushing their bikes around as well. They all have yoga mats strapped to the rear rack, but aside from the guy that appeared to have been doing a head stand on a piece of cardboard in the plaza for the better part of a week, nobody seemed to be doing any yoga.
Joe and Louise, who we had met in Putre, were also in town. We got together at their hostel to make what was described to me as a proper English Christmas feast. This was bounteous with boiled root vegetables.
At this point Soph had had enough of high desert riding and took a bus several hundred kilometers ahead to Argentina. My plan was to leave early on the first of January to cycle the rest of the desert alone. This plan was thwarted by a woman staying at the hostel who invited me to join her and some friends for a New Year ’s Eve celebration. It began with dinner; during which a man named Raul was explaining to me the Latin American numbers based approach to wooing women.
“I can ask ten women to marry me while you are still thinking about how you will say hello to the first.”
Later we began playing drinking games. They were all in Spanish and I lost almost every round and quickly found myself drowning in pisco and red wine. This led to me attempting Spanish karaoke and then wandering the streets barefoot and repeatedly being offered champagne by strangers. I had a crushing headache the next day and rather than leaving town as expected I sat outside and watched dust devils swirling through the sand on the outskirts of town. In the distance, in the direction I was heading, I watched a storm move across the mountains. Once it passed, they were left covered in snow.
Like what we're doing here? Throw us some bread. It keeps tires on the bikes and food in our bellies! Better yet, share us on social media or send a link to a friend with a message that says something like "Hey, I consider you a person of refined taste and culture and think that you would enjoy this."