And now, the update about Atacama:
We had so much fun in the desert! Who knew that a dry, dusty location would have so much to do! On Friday morning we woke up at 8 and walked into town to Todo Tierra Natural (a recommendation from Kristin’s guide book) for breakfast. It was so good! I had yogurt, fruit, and granola with honey as well as a tea called mate de cocoa (made from cocoa leaves and supposedly illegal to see in the US because of its relationship to cocaine). The other girls had really good omelettes as well. Then we headed back to Backpackers where we were picked up for sandboarding. It was so much fun! It’s kind of like snowboarding except that it doesn’t hurt to fall, its harder to turn, and its a lot hotter. Plus you have to walk up the sand dune before you can go down, which is actually really exhausting. There wasn’t anyone else there except for the four of us and our guide and it was really tucked away (you definitely need to have a manual car that can handle off roading to get there)- it was so quiet and beautiful.
Afterwards we went back to the hostel to change clothes for our trip to Valle de la Luna (ie Moon Valley). Before it started we ran into a cafe and had some quiche- yum! The tour group, Layama, took about 20 people in a bus to the valley, which is said to not only be one of the driest places on earth, but is also said to have a strong resemblance to the surface of the moon. I’ll post some pictures up, but it was a really interesting tour and we got to watch the sun set over the valley- muy linda. Plus I discovered a new trick in which I take photographs through the lens of my sunglasses- the extra filter makes the reds appear much more strongly. Gabrielle and I also discovered that if you move just right you can appear multiple times in the shot. Hahaha- fooled you camera!
That night we ate a great dinner at Adobe and then hit the sack early because Saturday morning we had to wake up at 4:00 for a tour of the Tatio Geysers. They are in a valley/basin between mountains at around 14,000 feet. It takes about 2 hours to get there, so you arrive at the site just before sunrise. It was beautiful but FREEZING! I feel like a sausage wearing all of my clothing. But there were about 100 geysers there and the guide explained to us how they formed, etc.
Then we had breakfast at the site before hopping back in the van to go to the hot springs. Because it was still so cold and we were all wearing so many layers, none of us got in- though Gabrielle did stick her feet in. We drove around a few other places to take some pictures of vicuña (like llamas) before stopping in an old town that had been abandoned but was reopened about 10 years ago for tourism purposes. There we had the BEST cheese empanadas- they were so fresh and warm and delicious. We also tried some llama- it was fine, but tasted like most other meats- but at least now I’ll have a new fun fact. That afternoon, after getting back to backpackers, we rested for a while in the sun, took a shower, etc. Then we walked into town where we grabbed a bite at Todo Tierra Natural once again (I had some great tacos) and picked up our photos from sandboarding (they take them for you!). We also did some souvenir shopping in town (I got you a little something, Jonathan). Around 5 we decided to go back to the hostel to start working on our final project for Católica, but eventually got hungry, so we took another suggestion from Kristin’s guide and went to Ckunna where they had a pre-fixe dinner. I had tomato soup (nothing special), GREAT risotto, and mango ice cream. Yum. For some reason, we were all somewhat giddy/delusional from the heat and being tiredness so we were laughing all of dinner. The waitstaff were definitely staring at us, but there really wasn’t anyone else in the restaurant, so we didn’t feel that bad about it. I think I laughed more this weekend than I have during the rest of my time in Chile combined. It was great! We then picked up our breakfast for Sunday (we left early for the airport) at a convenience store and went back to the hostel where we pulled our bunkbeds together to watch Tangled.
Sunday morning we woke up early to catch out ride back to Calama for the flight to Santiago. I just love security at the airports here! Not only was it so easy to get through (you keep all of your clothes on and you can bring as many liquids as you want), but they also let us leave the “secure” area to get a snack from the outside area- unheard of in the US. Plus I don’t think anyone ever checked my ID… despite all of that the flights still feel very safe. Anyways, on Sunday, July 3, the gringo bar- California Cantina- was having a 4th of July celebration, complete with hamburgers, “freedom fries”, and apple pie. So we obviously had to go. Gabrielle and I dropped our stuff off at my house before hitting up the “family friendly” event. The food was SO good. It is funny, though, that the “gringo burger” still has palta (avocado) on it and that the fries had parmesan on them— oh well. Also, on the actual 4th their celebration was watching the Chile vs. Mexico Copa America game (which Chile won 2-1, sorry John Bruno). Gabrielle and I were very ambitious that day, because we decided to then head over to San Cristobal to see the sun set from the top. Because of the smog, you really need to take advantage of any semi-clear day there is- and since its not going to rain for a while, we decided to take advantage of the partially clear sky. We quickly went over to the “mountain” and took the funicular up (yes, you can walk up too, but we were running late and didn’t want to miss the sunset). The view from the top really is beautiful, but the smog definitely detracts from it, but I’m glad we did it.
After all of that, I finally made it back home for dinner. Whew, such a busy weekend, but so much fun. I’ll keep updating on the latest activities, but we have a lot of work, so it will likely be delayed.
P.S. Sasha Davis: Check your facebook- we have to start practicing for the no-talent-talent show ASAP :)