The Atacama desert is very dry. San Pedro de Atacama is a little less dry as water runs beneath it and trees grow oasis style. The houses are mud brick and the roofs are less well constructed than would occur in a rainy place.
It is here that we spent four days over Christmas.
We usually drive around Inverloch on Christmas Eve looking at how people have decorated their houses with lights and nativity scenes. This is low cost entertainment and I approve of low cost entertainment. Some years are more entertaining than others. This year we booked a tour from 4-00pm until 9-00pm to look at Death Valley and Valley of the Moon and watch the sun set over the Valley of the Moon.
The sun begins to fall and we, and a hundred of our best friends, crowd the ridge of a hill with a sickeningly large drop on the other side.
The shadows get longer
And the colours across the salt flats change in a pleasing manner.
This was a most fabulous and worthy replacement activity to driving around Inverloch.
When we arrived back at San Pedro de Atacama it was 9 pm and dark and the guide warned that restaurants may be full as many would be closed. As we walked back to our house, we did see many full restaurants, some stating reservations only, and some closed. Our house was, is next door to a restaurant that was open. We dropped off our daypacks and went to investigate. It turned out to be a Fawlty Towers experience delivered by a cast who had terrifically good intentions that far outstripped their ability to deliver upon them. In positive Christmas mood we enjoyed a chaotic dinner.
At the entrance to the restaurant we reviewed the menu neatly printed on chalk boards. Quite a selection, and there was something everyone wanted. So we went in and we sat down. The waitress arrived and explained we could have shrimp salad or palta salad for entree and turkey or pig for mains. The large variety on the chalk board outside had suddenly shrunk to a choice of two, summarised as el menu del dia. What is palta? we asked. We knew it was a Chilean word as we had seen it before but had not understood it. Our waitress spoke no english. After attempts to describe in Spanish….which generally went….” well it’s palta ” she turned to the whole restaurant and shouted out ” What’s palta in english?” A helpful soul on a table shouted back….”aguacate” ………which is not actually an english word. It is the spanish for avocado that is used in most other South American countries.
“Two camarones and two paltas we said. And follow it up with four turkey dinners”
We tried to order drinks. We ordered a bottle of wine and a water and the waitress shot off. The children had wanted a beer and a coke. No one cared much what they wanted, certainly not our waitress.
Eventually, the waitress returned carrying two bottles of wine, neither of which were the one I had ordered. I asked her which was the best and we went with that recommendation. It was awful, but it was organic.
The children at this point managed to ask the waitress for coke and a Cristal beer. Some time later the waitress returned to tell us there is no Cristal beer, only Corona. We were a little confused as we could see a large fridge decked with Cristal signage. Through its glass doors we could count around twenty cans of Cristal beer……but it was to be Corona. We went with the flow and the Corona beer and Coke arrived. The wine was opened and the waitress disappeared once more. This left the children with the difficult task of removing the crown seal from their respective bottles. Eventually, Alex picked them up (bottles not children) and took them to the bar to be opened.
Two palta salads arrived from the kitchen, which were consumed by Alex and Lucas. Myself and Lauren looked around hoping two shrimp salads would arrive. And then one did. It was placed in front of Lauren and the waitress again disappeared. We thought she was going to get the other salad. Lauren very politely waited for my salad to be delivered, before she started eating. Mistake. The waitress returned, not with the second salad, but to remove Lauren’s salad. We were becoming accustomed to all this and watched with bemusement. Five minutes later, two shrimp salads arrived. We held onto them, ate them speedily and they were lovely.
The main course. Turkey. It arrived on four plates at roughly the same time. The waitressing was improving as the meal progressed. The portions were enormous. We could have ordered one meal and shared it between us. An eight kilo turkey (my exaggeration) had been roasted, quartered and placed upon four plates. We tried hard, we ate as much as was possible, it was very nice, but very big and defeated each of us.
The waitress expressed surprise when we declined our desserts, included in the price.
Getting the bill was a lengthy process, that was very good natured. A ten percent tip had been added that was not justified on grounds of the professionalism of the front of house staff. Overwhelmed with Christmas bon homie we paid it. We considered it worth the money for the unexpected treat of receiving traditional xmas fare, in fact, very large volumes of traditional xmas fare. And well worth paying for the entertainment value of this theatrical restaurant.
Christmas Eve had been a most satisfactory experience.