YA LEUM.59 — Arriving to Atacama Desert by bus…

Patricia Assis
4 min readJun 2, 2021

In the last post we traveled all the north of Argentina by car…a beautiful trip through the Jujuy, Pumamarca, Garganta Del Diablo, Salta…

We left Argentina behind!

We said goodbye to Pierre in Salta to continue with our travels separately. Pierre followed directly to Peru, but we still wanted to visit the famous Atacama desert.

There was a bus riding directly from Salta, Argentina, to the Desert of Atacama, in Chile. The trip lasted for 10 hours, so we decided to do it during the night. If I knew then what I know now, we would have done it during the day…

We left Salta, went through the Jujuy mountains, covered in ochre colors, gray, and even the greens from the vegetations. This landscape was now familiar to us but always beautiful. We traveled through La Cuesta de Lipan or Lipan Slope, which is known for its serpent-shaped road, on an elevation of 4710 meters. The steep curves made me feel naturally motion sickness but, on the other hand, showed us with magnificent panoramic views over the mountains and the altiplanos, a word I only learned at that moment.

The altiplanos are extensive high-elevation plateau that stretches across large parts of Andean regions.

There is a constant feel of immensity, but I still, the best was still yet to come

While we were still in Argentina, we crossed Salinas Grandes, a salty dry lake that covers the landscape with an extensive white area. We had visited Salinas Grandes in the previous week while traveling by car.

Slowly, we started to climb the mountains to get closer to the border between Argentina and Chile, where Paso de Jama is located. This point is 5000 m high, and this is a unique experience on its own. The air is heavier and breathing becomes a mindful action. The head became heavy, and we felt slightly spaced out, but the view was always what really took our breath away.

We are at the Andes! Here, at the top of the Andes, one of the biggest mountain chains in the world, which height varies between 4000 m and 6962 m and where nature shows itself without never being shy.

Before my eyes, a sea of monumental mountains that preserve the Inca secrets and stories, condors, alpacas, and even active volcanos. The difficulty breathing makes everything even more mystical and the immensity of the beauty made me sure that something happened here that had supernatural power.

The sundown came by, we could not see the path.

The other travelers in the bus were like us, filled with the same brightness in their eyes and the same desire to experience life. We heard all the languages, a diverse of broken Spanish, German spoken between peers, English in many tones, and even that Mandarin that no one understands.

The lights of the bus decreased, the trip continued through the mountains, and we all fell asleep.

The day starts quite early in South America. At 6 in the morning, the sun shines without hiding!

I woke up with the noise of my bus partners, however Mathieu was still fairly asleep.

No one was talking loudly but there was a certain hustle and turmoil. I woke up but it felt like my head was on another dimension. I had trouble sleeping like I always do on buses. The height had not changed much, we were always 4500 m high, but it felt like I had reached at the underneath side of the Earth.

I looked around me and everyone was astonished, looking outside the window. I was not understanding where I was but, lucky me, I was sitting on the front seats and the landscape that was in front of us belonged to a world in which I had never been.

Dry, sublime, unreal, vast, and wonderful.

I awakened up Mathieu with some much enthusiasm and my eyes filled with tears.

I had never seen anything like this! The beauty was so unreal that I could not hold my joy!

“Mathieu, I want to stay here! This is so beautiful! So, so beautiful! Let us go back!! Where are we? Mark it on the map! I can never again forget this place!”.

When you see such beauty, the soul vibrates. Our inner world transforms in something else.

And we can never be the same again.

Nature, its beauty, its details, the immensity, the emptiness, made me a new person.

Patrícia Assis,

February 2019

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Patricia Assis

I am traveler, wanderer, believer who have a deep connection with the inner world.