Hot Hot Heat


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Published: February 6th 2006
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San Pedro de Atacama, hot spot for the driest desert in the world. I arrived in the morning of January 29, and was fortunate enough to meet up with three great people. First, I met an American couple, Chris and Jess, who are professional climbers here in South America for three months, climbing rock and ice. Maniacs. But very cool. We then met up with Rachel, an English astronomer (she hates when I tell people) who has been working in La Serena, Chile, but is moving to Hawaii this coming Tuesday. I don´t think I mentioned Rachel before, but I had seen her twice. When I was on my two day tour to NP Lauca, I saw her riding her bike through the mountains with the intention of crossing into Bolivia. Turned out the altitide and weather conditions were proving difficult, and she turned around and came back to Arica. She had come to the hostel but it was full, so she found other accomodation. I was so impressed with her ambition, and it was such a treat to meet up with her (and her bike) upon arriving in San Pedro. We ended up sharing a room for several nights and staying at the same hostel with Chris and Jess before they took off to scale something the next morning. Can you even imagine how out of shape and inadequate I felt next to these three?

Oh - it rained! Well, it sprinkled a little on my first day in the driest desert. It was the rainy season, after all.

Over the next few days I saw some of the sites with Rachel. We took an evening tour of the Valley of the Moon in the desert. It is really a beautiful place with landscapes I had never seen before. And it is high up in altitude, so that the desert is tall around you, not flat like I had imagined. The tour ended at a sand dune that we climbed to watch the sunset. Rachel and I then dashed down the side of this thing, barefoot, hair flying. I couldn´t get the grin off my face the whole way down. I have never run down something so quickly, yet safely.

Earlier that day, Rachel decided to take her bike for a spin in the desert. Instead of just letting her go, I decided to rent a bike and join her. So not a good idea. It was a freaking desert, at altitude. Steaming hot and no oxygen. Not for the unathletic, I can assure you. Rachel was very patient and stopped with me twice. Within a very short distance. The seond time was under a wonderful tree, so I decided to stay and let her continue without me. Meanwhile I wrote in my journal and then found my way back to town. I found the going back to me much easier - maybe I just needed some getting used to it. Or a better bike. I was bruised for days.

The following day, we took a day trip to Bolivia via another tour. Another blog page I think.

My last day in San Pedro was mostly relaxing. Rachel and I went to the museum in town to see the history of the people in ths area, including some more mummies, this time intentional. It was well done. The we had some pizza - my third at the same restaurant. Not bad for Chilean pizza. I then had some mad dashes around with email and phone calls home that went awry. I had just enough time to change, buy some junk food for the bus, and say good bye indecently quickly to Rachel before my 24 bus ride to Santiago.

Thanks again to Rachel, Chris, and Jess to making what was a stressful and emotional time quite a bit nicer.

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