Published: April 19th 2012April 13th 2012
We were able to take our first vacation over the Easter break. We visited a gem of a place called San Pedro de Atacama--the desert!
Kurt, Kelly and I took a bus there directly after school on Thursday as we were quite eager and wanted to get there first! Prisclia and Catherine took a later bus that night, and Alison and Miguel drove in with Marc as their passenger. Sam and Nico drove in the next day to meet us.
Since we were the first to arrive, we were charged with finding our cabanas that had been booked prior to our arrival. After the 4 and a half hour bus ride, we were excited to see the place and to unload our belongings. We brought a ton of stuff as we were warned that it was very expensive in San Pedro so we should bring all the food, booze, etc. that we would want for the weekend. So--we got off the bus and followed the mass of people to figure out where the town center was. Once we reached what seemed to be the main road, we hear some people yelling, "Ms. Kelly!" and as we got nearer, "Ms.
Amy!" Turns out that it is one of the families from our school. They have little Clemente, who is in my class, and 2 other kids--one in Sam's class, and one in Catherine's. Luckily, they are one of my favorite families and they speak perfect English, which is helpful! So we give them the address to where we are going and they point us in the right direction. We begin to walk in the direction we are supposed to follow and as we are walking, it gets darker and darker. The only lights are in the main part of town. As we travel down the dirt road in the dark, we stop at another hostel where the owner of the cabana left the keys for us. We ask if they know where ours is. And they don't. So we go to where we think it is, and there is nothing. We go down the dark road a bit more where we see a lady to ask her, and she knows nothing of this place. So we walk and walk, up and down the same few dark roads, until finally this couple passes by and we figure out to just try
the keys in random doors. It worked! We get into the main courtyard (which is all dark) and see a little cabana and more doors. So we find a light switch and continue trying doors. Finally, we had figured it all out and were happily surprised by beautiful accomodations! We had 3 separate cabanas--one with a double bed, a room with bunk beds, a kitchen, and a full bathroom. Another had just a small bed and a kitchen (and a tree growing in the middle of it, so cool!), and the one we had was a double bed with a full bathroom. In the middle of all the rooms was a nice courtyard with tables and chairs and a grill pit where we all hung out at night and talked about world matters :).
After we figured it all out, the other chicas arrived so Kurt went to meet them to walk them back to our fort. Shortly after (around 2 am), Alison, Miguel, and Marc came to give us our second wind. We all hung out and had some cocktails and finally went to bed around 5 am.
The go-getters woke up early and went to breakfast.
I got up a bit after them, but wasn't quite ready to venture out, and we had brought a ton of food, so I made some coffee, ate an egg and some fruit and began to clean the courtyard from the night before so it wouldn't look like a disaster when Sam and Nico arrived. Then Kurt and I hit the town. As we strolled down the dirt roads, we popped into cool shop after cool shop. There were a couple of large markets where I got some great earrings and knit socks and such, and Kurt bought a cool Bolivian-made hat. Fit for a child. I think one of the Lawler boys will certainly be the recipient as it is too tiny for anyone else I can think of :). It was just so neat that he couldn't refuse. He remarked that if "13-year-old Kurt" would have visited this place, that he may have never left. I could also see my aunt Patty and sister Jordan being very happy spending the rest of their days in this little hippie town!
After strolling for a few hours (which was quite enough to see almost the whole tiny town), we
headed back to the cabanas to regroup and get ready our trek to the Valley de la Luna (VDLL). I, of course, needed to make snacks for the group and make sure we had everything anyone could possibly need in the backpacks! After everyone changed into warmer clothes (the swing in temperature was quite drastic--I was sweating during the day in a sundress and flip-flops, and cold at night in my Uggs and scarf and big wool sweater--we loved it!), we were off.
We piled into 3 cars and had such a fun ride with friends that I wouldn't have even noticed if we had just turned back to the cabanas! :) Which was a good thing because when we got to where we thought we were supposed to be going, it wasn't the right place--or was closed--or something that I am not sure of because Nico and Miguel were communicating between their cars in really fast Spanish...so, we headed back. But--on the way, we saw a cool looking turn-off with lots of people and tour busses, so we decided to detour without being able to tell the cars in front of us. I was so glad we stopped
as we were literally overlooking the VDLL via cliffs. It was a spectacular, truly breath-taking view. I find that the photos really do not do it justice (probably should have invested in a little better than a $120 camera:).
So we were taking in the view and taking photos, when--low and behold--our other friends walked up! Turns out, they had the same thought and turned back to see what all the crowds were about. So here we all were--reuinted in a kismet sort of way.
Once the sun set (which we caught the end of), the earth around us was transformed into something I could not have imagined. It literally looked like we were on the surface of the moon. This was one of those "pictures can't do it justice" sort of moment because we couldn't get the right light to convey what we were seeing. I guess our loved ones will just have to come see for themselves!!! It is only a 4.5ish hour bus ride that cost us 20$ U.S. from Antofa! We will definitely go back! After this fun time, we headed back to the cabana for a fish grill (it was Good Friday, after
all:). After Kurt had lended a hand in starting the fire, the 2 of us decided to go out for a drink. We stumbled across a cool solar kitchen place with a great fire pit. We had actually walked by the place earlier in the day and almost stopped because the music and the vibe was so cool, but we weren't quite ready for a drink at that point:).
So we sat around the fire put and enjoyed time away from the big group. After that, we stopped to meet Priscila and Catherine, who had also taken some time away from the big group. They were at another awesome place with a big fire pit. When we finished there, we headed back and I quietly disappeared to bed! As Kurt calls it, I did an "Irish good-bye."
Saturday morning we all hung out in the courtyard and had breakfast, and cleaned up from the night before. The we decided that we really wanted to eat at the solar kitchen because there aren't many like it in the world. At first, it was just me, Kelly, Priscila, and Catherine. Shortly after we ordered, Sam, Nico, and Marc joined us--and
then, Kurt. So we were a big group pf gringos (except Nico, who is from Antofa--Marc, who is German, and the Canadians, but they are still considered gringas here:)!
After thet, we went to the salt pond! What a fun experience! There is so much salt concentrated in the water that your body FLOATS. It was very crazy and took a while to adjust to. After floating for a bit, I decided to get out and prepare snacks for everyone again. You will see in the photo after I got out how the salt dried in big clumps on our skin. Kurt's swim trunks felt like cardboard when they dried! The little Bohemian picnic at the salt pond with the mountains in the background with the setting sun may have been one of the coolest places in which I have had a picnic (not counting Loose park!:). Once the sun was down enough that we knew we were going to have a hard time getting out of there with no light, we headed to the car, took some good-bye photos, and headed back. We decided to go get some drinks and appetizers in town and then grill afterwards. We
walked around for quite a while before settling on e place that we were all happy to go. The dinner company was great! We laughed and laughed and had a great time.
It's hard to choose, but Saturday night was probably my favorite in terms of cabana parties! We sat around the table/fire--chatting and laughing, and, at one point, I felt so happy that I had to pause for a moment of self-reflection and appreciation. Sounds cheesy, but it's true! We are very fortunate to have such cool friends here. Some of them I feel like I have known my entire life after only a couple of months...pretty amazing! That lasted pretty late again. We were still up when Priscila and Catherine were leaving for their geyser tour at 4:30 am! Some of the crew went to what they said was a pretty cool after party, but we were more than fine where we were so we stayed and hung out with Sam and Nico until we couldn't stay awake anymore.
After more cleaning and another lovely courtyard breakfast, Kurt and I hit the town again. We were curious to check out the church and the following processional
(since it was Easter), but, in true Chilean fashion, it was running late, so we hit another cool restaurant. And then, it was time for our final group lunch, so we headed to another restaurant to meet up with everyone. We had a super-long table and mucho friends! Alison and Miguel had their friends there with their kids, a couple of other Antofa people who had been with us at random times of the weekend were there, and then the 10 regulars. We shared great food and lovely conversation. And I think some people were still feeling the booze from the night before, so it was pretty hilarious at times--especially the boys! Then it was time to pack up and head home.
Couldn't have been more satisfied with vacay number 1 in Chile! Looking forward to the next...Argentina...Peru!!! All of South America, I hope! :)
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