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Published: December 13th 2019
Once we crossed into Chile, the bus descended, down and down, losing elevation quickly until we reached 2500m. This is the lowest I'd been at in about two and a half weeks. I could breathe a lot easier. We were now in the Atacama desert, one of the driest places on the planet. We soon found ourselves in the (tourist) town of San Pedro de Atacama which seemed like something out of a western movie with its dusty unpaved roads. We quickly found the main street and checked into a random hostel. Such a change from where we were! People looked different, the food was different, and the currency was now the Chilean Peso. We took a snooze and then walked around a bit trying to get our bearings. We went to a small restaurant and had some awesome chicken. We spent the rest of the evening just chilling out.
We checked out of the private room and into a dorm room, not realizing that we were actually one hour ahead in a different timezone. We went back to the chicken restaurant and then rented some mountain bikes to check out some sites outside of town. Initially
we were going to ride to the valley of the moon but as we rode out of town through the Atacama desert, Bev began coughing a lot and doubted if she'd be able to make the distance. Instead we headed to the much closer Valley de la Muerte. As we entered the canyon, the scenery became exquisite. We saw some people sandboarding down sand dunes. Then we locked our bikes and hiked the rest of the way up and got to see an awesome view of the Atacama with the Andes in the background. We cycled back and then went around San Pedro, stopping for ice cream and groceries. That evening we cooked a pasta dinner before going on a nice walk around town. Bev fell asleep early while I read. The two (older) people in the bottom bunks hooked up with the man getting into the woman's bed, right below mine. Nasty kissing noises ensued. Some things never change in hostels!
We went out for a late breakfast and then hung out at the hostel for a bit. I had to call my bank because I was having trouble with my credit card. Turned out
they had restricted it due to suspicious activity, but I confirmed that all the transactions attempted were indeed mine and they enabled it again. By mid afternoon we walked to the bus station. We had a long journey ahead of us. First we took an hour and a half bus ride to the desert city of Calama, then a cab there to the airport. That evening we took Sky airlines 1600 km down to the capital of Santiago. We slept in the airport near the baggage claim area.
In the morning we took a shuttle bus to the central bus station and then grabbed another bus to the port city of Valparaiso, an hour and a half away. We arrived at the bus station and walked over to the hostel we booked. After some confusion trying to get in we met Bura, the hostel owner. Since it was still early we dropped off our gear and headed out into town. The Muffin hostel was located in a bit of a rundown part of town, in an 18th century building with 14 foot high ceilings. At one point it had served as a brothel. Despite how rundown
it was, with some suspect smells emanating from the market below, there was something about the place that was homey. The neighborhood we were in was bustling with people and street vendors and the side streets were effectively a giant market during the day. Mostly fruits and vegetables but a plethora of other things. We walked deeper into town, and found a hip restaurant serving breakfast. We relaxed there for a bit before continuing our walk along the hilly streets filled with interesting street art. The clouds had finally cleared, and it had become a sunny day. We explored some old cemeteries and interacted with some cats. It was late afternoon when we walked back to the hostel. We then went back out to grab something for dinner, settling for a fast food hot dog joint. Once back at the hostel, Bev went to the room while I hung out with a few other travelers on the balcony. The hostel cat found a comfortable spot in my poncho and cuddled up for about three hours. A few of us played guitar, so for the next few hours we passed the guitar around and sang different songs together. I finally went
to sleep at 0400 having had one of my favourite hostel nights yet, it was really a blast.
I spent the first half of the day just chilling and lazing about in the hostel, organizing a bunch of future things that had to get done. Then we stepped out into the chaotic streets and hunted for an ATM for a while. We then went to the market. On the second floor was a variety of restaurants that served fresh fish for the day for a bargain. We chose one and it turned out great. Then we walked to the windy waterfront and sat on some rocks, watching the numerous seals jumping on and off the pier. Soon after there was a nice sunset. As darkness came we walked a few blocks to Lider, Chile's version of Walmart. We bought a ton of mostly non-perishable supplies for the next segment of our trip, hoping this would save us some money over the long run. Back at the hostel we cooked up a frozen cheese lasagna, drank some good Chilean wine. I got decently tipsy.
The next morning we did more walking and went
back to the market for lunch. At the hostel we constructed a box and loaded our grocery supplies within. I played some more guitar and we hung out with some cats. We went back to the beachfront by evening before catching a bus to Santiago. We headed straight to the airport where we would be spending the night yet again.
Sept 17-24th - See Easter Island blog entry
Our flight back to Santiago was uneventful. We took a shuttle bus to the center of town and then rode a few stops on the metro to reach Backpacker Santiago Hostel. It seemed really cool and was set in an awesome location. We sprung for a private room after a week of camping.
We got up in time to make it to breakfast, and it was passed noon by the time we made it outside. I didn't really care as I just wanted to roam around and see where we ended up. It was a stifling day with dangerously high levels of smog. We walked to Plaza de Armas and visited a gaudy old church, then walked to the market where Bev bought a few items
like a poncho and some cheap mementos. We ate some hot dogs at a Chilean fast food chain and then it was time to walk up Santa Lucia for some views. Santiago sits in a valley and is surrounded by mountains but sadly the smog obscured just about everything. We walked along some parks and then reached the hip Bellavista neighborhood. We then ascended San Cristobal mountain, using the funicular. Smog surrounded the city, and at the top was various religious statues and chapels. On the way back we got empanadas and Chilean wine for our dinner at the hostel. We played cards and enjoyed our final night hanging out together on this trip.
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