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?!?
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 a 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.
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!