The Bolivian border control had been a hut in the middle of nowhere. The Chilean one was on the edge of a town called San Pedro de Atacama, was equipped with three times the staff and a huge bag scanner - handy for catching out people carrying Earl Grey tea bags or olive oil, for example. Yes, Chile are very particular about what is brought in, unlike their South American neighbours.
San Pedro de Atacama didn't look all that impressive at first sight. It was lovely and warm in the bright sunshine, but everything looked rather brown. The streets are unpaved and dusty, and all the buildings look the same. But you can forgive these things given that the town has been built in the middle of a desert. On closer inspection it became clear that the place is actually pretty sophisticated. The streets are lined with tour operators and restaurants and places that provide Internet. It is a tourist town but it had something we hadn't encountered for a long time... cuisine. There was no place on set menu's for fried chicken, fried banana and a ton of rice. No, here the restaurants served up lamb cutlets, grilled salmon or seafood risotto for example, all elegantly presented.
All this sophistication comes at a cost however. There is a significant financial shock in arriving in Chile from Bolivia, but at least you are left with a feeling that you're getting something for your money.
We may have just come from the amazingly diverse treasures of the nearby Bolivian salt flats, but Chile has some wonders of its own to offer. Near San Pedro de Atacama, the Valle de la Luna is where you can visit mountainous sand dunes and rock formations that are said to resemble the surface of the moon. Perhaps it wasn't quite the right shade for the moon, but it was a wonderfully unique landscape to see and, with with the sun setting, it looked more like Mars.