Published: March 3rd 2007March 2nd 2007
I really don't know where to begin. Since last you heard from us we were in Santiago. We left Santiago for the driest place in the world, the Atacama desert. Being experienced travelers we thought nothing of the 24 hour bus ride. Shortly after the ride began and I was sidled up next to the window I realized that there was no air circulation. I asked Moria to ask the bus driver if he could either turn on the air conditioning or let me take off my jeans but she would not. I was left to endure the heat and have a very uncomfortable bus riding full of vomiting and night sweats. When I awoke in the morning I thought there would be some relief. Maybe a new bus would be brought in or they might have a policy to only use air conditioning during the day when they are driving through the desert. I was not lucky and the final 8 hours of the journey were miserable full of desert heat, a vomiting child, and a creepy little girl that would not stop staring at us. At long last we arrived in Calama where we had the privelege of taking
another bus that had no air conditioning to our final destination San Pedro in Atacama. That bus ride was a little less painful as the driver opened the emergency exits so that some air would pass through the cabin. Then we walked to our gorgeous hostal, had dinner and slept a sleep that people dream about.
The next morning we tried to book our tickets for Salta, Argentina. It was then that we learned that one of us had to go back to Calama to book the tickets because the bus company in town only had one ticket and the other company doesn't sell tickets in San Pedro it only picks you up. Moria was the lucky winner that got to go. I had a lovely day in San Pedro. Went to the Archeological Museum and learned about the life of the desert people, how they survived the harsh climate and that the only change in the environment in the last 10,000 years was that they get half of the rainfall they used to. I ate a gorgeous lunch, journaled, read my book and had an altogether experience until Moria called and said she could not book my ticket
because she did not have my passport. We then determined that I should get the solo ticket at the bus company in town, Geminis, and she would go with Pullman. Moria's day was a nightmare though. First her bus to Calama was cancelled. Then she had to deal with rude customer service people from Pullman whom she did not want to buy a ticket from and had to because that was her only option. After that her bus that she already had a ticket to was overbooked. She moved to another company that was of terrible quality, she had no lunch, was harrassed by two drunk Chilean men, and to boot the bus broke down in the middle of the desert. During her time in the desert she grappled with the idea of what she could barter for food thinking that she would be spending quite a bit of time out there. A half hour to an hour went by and the bus was back in action. Moria survived the harrowing experience and we celebrated with wine and pasta.
Next day we tried to go to the Oasis to go swimming. We thought we would walk. Within ten minutes
of our journey we got lost. Then a couple pulled over and offered us a ride. Minutes later we found out that Moria had taken their picture in the plaza that morning. A few more minutes later we still could not find the Oasis so we went with our new friends, Marisol and Ossman, to the one horse town of Toconao. The drive was gorgeous with vast nothingness and the snow-capped Andes in the background. It was really trippy to see the aridness of the desert and then snow on the tops of the mountain. Just didn't seem to fit. When we got to Toconao we saw the square in maybe 1.5 minutes, the town church in 1 minute and then did not know what to do next. The only thing left were the tourist shops. We purused the many wears from llamas, alpacas, vicunyas and potters. It was a nice way to spend 15 minutes. Then we headed back. Because Marisol and Ossman rock we listened to monster hits of the 80s. I'm talking: Love is a Battlefield, Eternal Flame, Heaven is a Place on Earth, Bette Davis Eyes, etc. We jammed. It was amazing.
Once we got
back to town we were coerced to a lunch with a man named Pegasus, who I disliked immediately because he said Chris Martin's lyrics are complex, and had to listen to him trying to sell us on a sketchy party in the desert and a trip to the hot springs with him. I really have not had good experiences with Chilean men and I was not excited to go with him to a party in a desert where everyone would most likely be on hallucinagens. We avoided him for the rest of our stay.
After lunch we went to the Valley of the Moon. It was incredible. We saw a dried up salt lake and the crevices in it were so deep and layered and I do not have the vocabulary to describe it the way it deserves. Sorry. Next we went to Death Valley. Again, gorgeous. It was here that a man named Roberto remembered me from the bus and started chatting away with me. Because my Spanish was non-existent I looked at him blankly and nodded most of the time. Then I let Moria take over while I was awed by the huge dunes and the crazy
sand/rock formations. Then it was time for the big guns, the Valley of the Moon. This was truly spectacular. The surface was how you would imagine the moon. You could hear the salt surface break underneath your feet. The area looked like a sand field that had been hit by freezing rain. All the sand broke in pentagonal shapes as well. I was amazed. Moria licked the salt patches and while she was doing it a gentleman came up to us and told us it was poison. We both gasped, being gullible, and were relieved to find out it was a joke in poor taste. And then we came to my favorite part: the Three Marias. I cannot express how the sight of this just kind of moved me. The three figures made of salt and sand seemed to have the appearance of someone weeping or being too overwhelmed with sorrow that they were collapsing. That sight had me mesmerized for quite a few moments and I highly recommend that you go see them for yourself. They are 1 million years old. Pretty neat. Then we licked a salt house and headed for the main event the sunset over the
Atacama desert. To get the view we had to climb quite some way to the top of a sand dune, then up a salt mountain til the final peak. I am glad we did it because it was breathtaking. The colors of the sand, skies, Andes, ravines, canyons and basically anything that was in a 100 mile radius were unreal. Every color imaginable was somewhere and with a 360 degree turn you could see them all. I am getting chills just thinking about it.
When we got back we went to bed immediately because we had to get up at 3:30 for our big day at the highest geysers in the world. We woke up no problem and headed out for our transporation pick up. Within seconds a very drunk Chilean man with his fly down who had clearly fallen 15 or 16 times on his way home took money out of his pocket and offered it to Moria in exchange for her services. What he tried to give her was maybe work $30USD. After 4 minutes of his swaying side to side with the money in hand we told him to get lost and thankfully he did. Besides
mildly frightening us in the pitch black night he did provide us with quite a chuckle. Then we hopped in our van and headed to the Tatio Geysers. We arrived before the sunset to walk around the steaming and spitting geysers. We were able to see all the geysers at ever different stage and soak in the delicious sulfur smells. We had to because it was freezing and we only have clothes for warm weather. Our only way to keep warm was to bask in the warm sulfur steam. My favorite part of the geysers were their runoffs. I guess with all the chemicals in the water that they are spitting out they erode the ground itself and the streams have created beautiful ribbons from the rocks. I don't know how else to describe it. Then we had breakfast waiting for the sunrise. The sun did not come up on cue so we had to head back in the van to go to the hot springs. When we reversed out of the spot I looked out the window and saw that the sun had just risen. I was very disappointed that we got up that early and did not see
the sunrise. Next up, hot springs. Because Moria has a seriously infected ankle she did not go into the pool. However, I am an idiot and went in straight away. The water was tepid at best. I tried to stay in as long as I could but I am too used to warm water in warm weather at this point and lasted as long as it took to get the photo. Then we chatted with the French boys that were on our trip and Moria made fast friends with Adrien. Moria would date Adrian if he did not have calcium deposits on his teeth, did not wear Euro jeans, did not have an ugly orange ribbed sweater and had a better haircut. Other than that he was her type. We got back in the van saw the most disappointing display of flamingoes ever, then had vicunya (weird camel/deer animals) and llama visit and finally went to the town of Tatio. If Toconao was a one horse town this was a no horse town. I wonder how the people their find their spouses. I really liked it though. They had gorgeous views and a lovely church. Moria liked the cheese empanadas
that were made to order. Then we headed back and spent the rest of the day fighting to stay awake long enough so that we would not wake up at three in the morning. We also had a new Japanese roommate that Moria was forbidden to talk to because everything the girl said with her accent had Moria in stitches. Moria actually wanted to ask her if she would be her roommate in NYC. I eventually talked her out of it.
On Sunday we said our goodbyes and Moria headed for her bus and I to mine. I sat next to Tom from San Diego and the old women on Moria's bus played matchmaker and put her with some man from Morocco whose name begins with an M. That is all the details I have about his identity. I do know that he speaks 5 languages, wants to be a diplomat, lived in Paris, is getting his PhD in Argentina and doesn't eat pork. When we were reunited Moria filled me in on all the details. She claims she does not fancy him...
Then the next day we began our Spanish lessons. We have had a lot of
fun. We were in separate classes, I beginner, Moria intermediate and are now basically fluent. Not really but I can get around and Moria can have real conversations. It is fantastic. Haven't really done much in Salta besides learn. Salta is a beautiful little city in a verdant valley tucked between massive mountians with a desert on the other side of them. Basically it has every geographers dream. We rode the teleferico and enjoyed the view, went to the archeological museum and saw a little girl that was buried alive in an Incan ceremony and have found all the best places to eat empanadas. We were supposed to have a hot night out on the town with two strapping Argentines but Moria's ankle opened up with puss and blood and we thought it best to have a rest. We are lame and I apologize to you for no crazy party stories. We are also broke and do not want to spend our money on partying.
Tonight we had an amazing dinner at a classic Parradillo. We had a gorgeous meal with some of the staff from Bien Argentina and the best part of the evening was that we only
spoke in Spanish. We were even presented with certificates because we are so fluent. Going to bed late tonight and have to be up at 4:30 to get a bus to the northern Argentina to then go on a 23 hour bus ride or train ride to La Paz. The next two days should be a hoot. Moria isn't packed. Lucy can you please say that this is a first. Thanks.
There are more photos below