San Pedro de Atacama
Whoa dere. More like San Pedro de Awesome. On a scale of favorite places, this one almost takes the cake. As a whole the trip was so much better than Machu Picchu, but come on, it’s Machu Picchu; thus my 2nd Favorite Trip! The desert is the place for me. I love love love love the sea, but funnily enough my second home would have to be the desert. I love the dry air and the feeling of perpetual summer, but the cold snuggly nights.
San Pedro de Atacama is one of the driest places on the planet but SO diverse. It’s also becoming more and more popular=money, money, money. The location tends to be more expensive because unlike other cool places in Chile where you can take public (cheap) transport to the different sites, you HAVE to take tours to the places around the desert. They’re either high up in the mountains or really far away from the town. There are some that you can take a bike to though.
- Valle de la Muerte
- Valle de la Luna
- Pukara de Quitor
So what do a couple of enterprising *cough*cough* broke college students do? Well they rent bicycles for half a day at $8 each and see those three sites duh. Let’s not mention that the bicycle rental man tells us there’s no way we can do all three in one day because they’re too far away from each other. We like a challenge.
3.5 kms NW to Pukara
3.5 kms BACK then 3 kms to Valle de la Muerte
17 kms to Valle de la Luna (there and back, so make that 34 kms)
=around 28 miles on bike
My booty hurt a lot. So much riding in sand. So much riding uphill. Seat so hard. SO worth it. We saved around $40 doing it ourselves, and we met a really cool Italian guy that took nice pictures of me.
Memo to self: email said Italian for pictures.
Valle de la Luna was by far my favorite. Fantastic views from everyside. And because there’s no cloud cover you can even see the moon in the day time pretty much. When it got a bit later, we biked UPHILL to the Mirador to watch the sunset. People I took a panoramic with 30 pictures. IMMENSE, but gorgeous. Be jealous. However, because we biked, by the time the sunset was over….well it was dark…..really really really desert-y dark. The darkest night ever. Riding a bike downhill in the desert in the dark is slightly terrifying. Again, WORTH IT. I could see every single star in the sky.
SN for my father: I was wearing shorts again. The temp plummets in the night. We’re talking freezing temps people. To my defense I did have pants with me just in case, and I was wearing a jacket. Biking produces too much heat for proper keep warm attire, but not enough to keep me warm. I chose to be a little chilly :)
The next day we toured! We went to the Laguna Cejar where the salt content in the water is so high that you float—on par with the Dead Sea! I didn’t go in because though I love salt, I prefer to eat it not be coated in it. We took reflection-y pictures in the Ojos de Salar, two small REALLY deep lakes side by side that look like eyes from space. And we ended our day eating Potato Chips, Peanuts, and drinking Pisco Sour while watching the Sunset over Lake Tebenquinche. The lake perfectly reflects the Volcano Licancabur and the surrounding mountains. Beautiful. Insert funny story.
I totally hadn’t eaten in hours when we had the Pisco Sour [which the tour included] (Chilean liquor type stuff-more on that later), so I got a little tipsy off of one glass. Lightweight…ding ding ding.
Sunday, we did another tour to the Lagunas Altiplanicas-Miscanti y Mineques—two stunning cobalt blue lakes about 4000 m up in the mountains. So so so peaceful. Some little girl even befriended me on the tour and proceeded to gift me salted peanuts because “she thought I was cool” WINNING. Oh and I stood on the Tropic of Capricorn
Monday, I went to Bolivia…..on a tour so it was TOTALLY safe….for a couple of hours. Yes people I went to Bolivia for a matter of hours. I didn’t even get a stamp in my passport bc as an American citizen that would require me to pay around $100 fee. For a couple of hours? No gracias. So, I went in as a Chilean. Totally legal I promise, and the couple of hours of Bolivia that I saw were very agreeable. The driver even shared his Mandarina with me. Nom.
I would go into our phenomenal hostal owners that gifted me with cake, pork, and hot chocolate…not in that order…but there aren’t enough words. Matilde and Jose were substitute parents. They checked on us everyday and even bought me a gift the day we left.
SN: THIS IS NOT COMMON.
I was paying to stay there, and they went out of their way to make me feel like I mattered. They even learned my name and called me by it EVERYDAY. Take that Hilton staff.
This being my last trip out of Vina before I go home next month, it was perfection. I really couldn’t have asked for anything better……oh except I would like to not be broker than I ever have before in my life. Please see the post where my bank account makes me want to die.