Who’s up for a little time travel? I skipped over part of Chile and all of Bolivia and Peru to share my crazy Ecuador adventures. Since then Mary has come to visit me so of course, I have lots more stories to share. For now though I’m going back in time and reliving my amazing adventures in Northern Chile.
I was really reluctant to leave Santiago because I had made such good friends. Alice & Eduardo – I miss you! But.. it had to be done. So I got on a 24 hour bus to San Pedro de Atacama. SPA is the world’s driest desert and I didn’t know much about what to expect. The drive up was beautiful. At one of our roadside rest stops about 14 or so hours in I realized that I had a friend on the bus, another person I had met in Mendoza! Mads and I would randomly run into each other about 15 times in the next 8 days or so.
When I arrived it was about 6 am and I was exhausted. Every other bus trip I had taken ended with me getting in a cab and be driven to my hostel. Driest desert in the world? Not an option. No cabs. Ughhh. I go inside and find a very, very old man to ask for directions. He draws me a map. I can’t tell you how many hand drawn maps I have been given in my lifetime (thank you, Dad) and never seem to be much good at following them. So, I strap on bag, take my very shakly hand drawn map and head out. I legit walk for an hour. I have stopped 4 people for directions. I am nearly in tears. I see I very sketchy looking dirt road and decide to walk down it. OMGGGGGGG I found it! I found it! My hostel is on the sketchy dirt road!!!
San Pedro de Atacama is not very big. There is one main road with a few off shoots. My hostel is a good 20 minute walk from town and on mostly dirt road so I get real comfortable with being dusty. There are tons of tour agencies and tons of activities to do in SPA. I find a tour operator that speaks English and seems nice so I book a bunch of excursions.
My first excursion comes with a 4am pick-up. Oy, that is an early and freezing morning. A geyser tour. This is one of the biggest geyser fields in the world – or something like that, I don’t really remember. I’m not great with early. So we walk around the geysers while our hilarious guide, Enrique, goes into tons of geological detail. Basically the volcanic water builds up pressure and erupts. Similar to Ole Faithful it can be timed almost exactly. It’s beautiful. From the geysers we drive around the desert and end up at a pretty little desert town. The town use to be self-sustaining but now clearly exists for the tourists. Lots of pretty photo opportunities and my new French friend, Joel and I shared a llama kabob. Delish! I also met some really nice Spanish girls and two super fun Brazilians. Great morning.
That afternoon I came back and took a short nap. The nap was particularly short because I was woken up by a goat jumping on my bed. On my bed with me in it. A goat! I felt something jump on me, freaked out and flung the goat off me. I then had to chase the goat out my room using only a small towel and screaming while the goat jumped bed to bed. The goat’s name is Princess. It is the owner’s kid’s pet goat. It has to live at the hostel because it is a terrible pet and keeps breaking into the house, eating the food and knocking things over. Damn Princess.
So, I’m up. Time for some more exploring. Even though it’s the driest desert in the world it is full of super salty lakes. The first lake we went to was called mirror lake becuase the reflection off the water was amazing. Just walking around and seeing all the salt was crazy! Then we drove a bit more and got to eyes lake because there were two and apparently that made them eyes. Those were kinda boring. Lastly we ended up at the saltiest lake in the desert. Its so salty that you can’t sink. Everyone floats. It was a neat feeling. Its not as salty as the Dead Sea but still very cool. Enrique, Joel and the Brazilians were there for the afternoon trip so that was fun again. It was FREEZING as we got out but still worth it. That night we went out for a few drinks with Enrique and had a great night.
New day, new excursion! Unfortunately also new tour guide. This time it was a cranky bitch and we did not get along. Joel, the Spaniards and I were together again. We got yelled at for talking. Yelled at for lagging behind. She also had mean things to say about Enrique. I was not a fan and I let her know that. She seemed surprised but I am not paying you to yell at me crazy lady! We toured Valley de la Luna and Valley de la Muerte – Moon Valley and Death Valley. Both were beautiful. I loved walking around. We also did a bit of caving which was unexpected but fun.
I wish I had even more time in SPA. There was so much to do and so many nice people (except dragon lady the tour guide.) I would love to go back sometime! The stars alone are worth the visit!