Posted on May 25th, 2010 at 4:59 PM by admin

          Well folks, this past weekend I just had to take advantage of another saturday holiday here in Chile and after much effort to find a way to make the best of the mountain bike I bought, I finally found a group and a lovely excursion to 7 Tazas for 3 days covering aproximately 120 kilometers.  I will forewarn that the recent earthquake definitely has changed the landscape of this area a bit since it’s so close to where the epicenter was, but all in all it was still breath-takingly beautiful.

          Day 1 was a rude awakening for ‘lil ‘ole Julie.  I think we did some 50-60 kilometers and at one point I was so tired that I had to hull the bike up by foot – sheesh!  That night we built a campfire and I became so enthralled with keeping it going that everyone in the group was convinced I was a pyro!  It was pretty cold but the campfire kept us warm and we all slept in tents that night trying desperately to get the rest we needed before another big day of riding!

Good times by the campfire

          With day 2 came the rain.  The thing is I don’t mind cold and I don’t mind rain but I HATE cold rain and this is pretty much what we got.  Furthermore I felt as weak as a house made of cards wondering at what moment the whole deck was going to collapse.  I struggled more this day than the first and wondered how I could really be THAT out of shape.  I was no longer riding with the group but well behind them.  I finally stopped on a bridge above the rocky river, took some pictures, looked up at the steeeeep slope ahead of me and decided I better get in the van and take the ride up a few kilometers!

Nothing like taking a break here!

          Finally we reached 7 Tazas and I was loving the waterfalls that I saw. We walked up and down and through the park. Unfortunately at this point I didn’t have my camera but it was interesting to see how the park had changed, or so I was told, due to the earthquake.  There used to be several cascading waterfalls and now there were considerably less. The remains just looked like little pools of stagnant rain water, but the cascades that remained, the rock formations and the plant life were still something to see.

The most beautiful view at 7 Tazas

          After dinner we played silly games that made us all feel like idiots at some point or another but we defintely had some good laughs.  Since there was no heat in these cabins, the gas stove we had previously used to cook food doubled nicely as a space heater. The cabin coziness was so inviting that some of us decided to ditch the tents and sleep there the second night. And you guessed it – I was one of those people!

          The 3rd day was objectively the easiest but still challenging.  The day started out beautiful and sunny but soon became cloudy, cold and rainy.  During the climax of the sun’s heat I regretably took off my fleece and nearly froze my &$# off later. And it wasn’t until this day that one of the friendly guides told me that the seat on my bike was set too high for me.  Finally the mystery was solved as to why I couldn’t make it up the hills and truth be told I wasn’t in THAT bad of shape after all!  THANK GOD for that!

          After about 40 kilometers we reached the town of Molina and had a very tasty and large meal at a restaurant. We reminisced about the trip – laughing and joking with each other over our meals.  After 3 days I felt like I was just getting to know these people and feeling comfortable and then POOF the trip is over.  Until we meet again my friends!  Thanks for the good times and not calling me a niñita for getting in the van! *smile*

Posted on May 9th, 2010 at 5:12 PM by admin

          Waking up on day 2 was not easy and taking a shower outdoors was even less enjoyable but getting the sand out of every crevice of my body was quite necessary. Having such a late start I decided to not to a tour and instead asked the locals what I should do. I was told there was a beautiful green valley called Cartape about 7-10 km from the city. Excited, I rented a bike, bought some snacks and headed out with a homemade map the guy at the bike rental store gave me.

The view on the bike path

          The path there was remarkable. I stopped near a tree for my snack and took many pictures of the landscape and the pretty nice looking bike I had rented. The only sounds I could hear were the wind and my own body movements. I felt very at peace.

The tree that provided me a shaded lunch 🙂

          After about an hour or so on the bike I veared left at a fork in the road as my map had indicated and started to head through some very interesting rock formations. Carrying my camera and 1.5 liters of water quickly became tiring as the slope gradually became steeper and steeper. Where I ended up was certainly not the luscious green valley of Catarpe -I eventually arrived at at a small tunnel about half way up a some very large mountainous rock formations. I could see Cartarpe in the distance along with San Pedro’s most magestic volcano – Licancabur. It was one of those times when getting lost really paid off !

Rock formations and the beginning of slope inclination

San Pedro de Atacama - View from tunnel

The view outside the tunnel of the dunes and the Licancabur Volcano

Posted on May 8th, 2010 at 4:35 PM by admin

          My roomie/friend Christina and I decided about a month ago that we needed to do so more traveling before our time here in South America runs out!  Unfortunately Christina elected not to go due to spontaneous health concerns so I got on the 1600km domestic flight from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama alone.  It felt like being in the states – traveling that far in one direction and still ending up in the same country!

          The first night was a bit rough since my room shared a wall with what must have been a really popular night club. I tried to drown the music out with my iPod, which would’ve worked if it were just the noise that was keeping me awake.  It turns out the vibration from the excessive volume was just as troublesome as the volume itself. Oh well – what can you do?!? 

Atop Pukara de Quitor

          To begin my first day I decided to hike to a popular point about 3km from downtown called Pukara de Quitor. Once I arrived, I paid about $4 to get in. After eating a $2 box of diced peaches (expensive town – ahem!), I read some of the informational signs about the native peoples (the Atacamens)  and then headed up the trail to the lookout. I saw lots of rocks and sand, took numerous pictures and met some friendly chileans from Antofagasta who graciously offered me a ride back to town in their truck and afterwards invited me to lunch.

         Later that day I had scheduled a sandboarding tour in Death Valley which was followed by a short hike to aDeath Valley - Sandboarding lookout of Moon Valley at sunset. As avid as a snowboarder as I am, I had trouble with the sandboarding at first. There are some basic concepts that are completely the opposite in one versus the other. But in the end it was a faulty binding set up that inhibited my progress. For the last run I requested a screwdriver and fixed the bindings up how I like ’em and conesquently the last run was, well i’ll brag – prolike. Too bad the bus driver shot pictures of me the second to last run! After a few hours of riding, well a few minutes of riding and almost 2 hours of hiking up and down the dunes, we were off to catch the sunset. Moon Valley was stunning – it really did live up to its name. I felt like I was on the moon. The rock formations were random and numerous with huge valleys of sand in between them. The icing on the cake, quite literally, was the evaporated salt at the surface.  At this point in the tour we were each given a glass of pisco sour. I had 4 and then took my good sweet time trying to get down from the off-trail lookout point.

Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna)

          That night the tour group went out to feast, drink and tell our travel stories. Oh and I remember fixing a pair of glasses with duct tape for a fellow traveler. The group was fascinated by my idea to cut the tape thin and wrap the frames in a figure 8. What can I say- former engineer = genious!