Thursday, June 4, 2009

May 20-May 26: San Pedro, Atacama Desert

What was originally supposed to be a weekend excursion turned into a week-long vacation. We made a mistake buying our airline tickets online, but a great mistake none the less! Since my birthday was Monday, I used that as an excuse to skip my classes and off we went to the desert in the northern part of Chile for a week. It might have been the best week yet in Chile for me. The weather was brilliant with sun and warmth, and the sights we saw were unbelievable. I honestly can’t describe most of the places we had visited, as they seemed surreal to me. As far as I can remember, I had never been to the desert before and was amazed to experience the desert of Chile for the first time.

We left Viña on Tuesday night, May 19, to travel to Santiago, as our flight left bright and early the next morning (Wed). We pulled another “sleep in the airport overnight”, though none of us actually slept. Our flight arrived in Calama, which happens to be the nearest airport. We then had to take an hour-long taxi ride to San Pedro de Atacama. After hours of no sleep and traveling, we arrived to our hostel in San Pedro. Of course, we had to stop and ask for directions a long the way as our taxi-driver (this cute little old man) didn’t know where our hostel was in San Pedro. San Pedro was so small, I’m sure we drove by the place a few times while trying to find someone to ask for directions. As we crawled into the hostel premises with our pack backs, we spotted hammocks and passed out for the day. We had found it necessary to rest before we decided to conquer the great Atacama Desert and naps in the hammocks were only appropriate at this time. This first day was mainly spent sleeping, being lazy and aimlessly wandering. Our next four days were then spent exploring the desert through a variety of excursions. I don’t really know how to describe all of the places that we had visited, other than the fact that they were ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. I suggest you look at my photos to see for yourself because no words can describe the places I saw and even perhaps consider booking a trip to northern Chile in the near future =) I saw lagoons of all sorts, an abundant of rock formations and salt flats, geysers, small ancient towns, as well as unusual (for me) wildlife. We were able to experience most of the sights at their best; either sunrise or sunset. After 4 full-packed days, we spent our last day wandering around San Pedro and lazing around to soak up what last bit of sun we could. The entire “vacation” was ideal and beyond anything I had thought of doing previously.

Aside from the mystery and beauty of the Atacama Desert, one of the most interesting aspects was the loss of electricity and lack of heat at night. The town would become entirely black and the only thing we could do was crawl into our beds under the covers to keep warm. And to look into the darkness… hear the silence of the desolate desert was the strangest feeling. (Especially, as I am used to the sound of dogs barking and car alarms going off all night in Viña) If you walked outside, you could look up and witness the clearest skies filled with a billion stars. Amazing!

I didn’t want to leave...