Week 3 Chillen in Chile
Dale, a Valparaíso! A really interesting hippie city. The streets are packed with street performers. A long staircase brought us to the hostel, great street art all around. Have a proper completo (hot dog with guac and mayo) for about $1.50.

The next day we visited the neighboring Viña del Mar. Pretty location on the beach but not much to do. Most of the afternoon was spent exploring the neighborhoods of Valparaiso and its incredible street art. While I have seen lots of impressive street art in my travels so far, I have not seen such a high concentration of quality work as I did in Valparaiso.

What are you looking at?

Unfortunately, after checking the bus schedule to our next destination, we discovered that buses starting Sunday (it was Saturday at the time) and until Wednesday were for some reason double price. As much as I enjoyed the Valparaiso vibe, in the end we decided to leave for San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile the same night.

The road to San Pedro was not without hardships. On a local bus on our way to the bus station, I saw someone steal my friend's bag. I ran off the bus after him. Fortunately, the thief dropped the bag after about 100 meters and nothing was missing. 18 hours later we had a break for dinner in Antofagasta, a coastal city about 5 hours from San Pedro. We were shocked to discover that the bus had left without us. The last bus for the night to San Pedro had left minutes before. Perhaps Matan's sobbing helped make sure the bus company made sure they would take care of our bags in San Pedro. For now we were stuck for a night in Antofagasta with just the clothes on our backs. Fortunately my wallet was on me. There was a nice sunset, but there isn't much for travellers in Antofagasta.

We arrived the following afternoon to San Pedro. Fortunately all of our belongings we waiting for us in the bus terminal. San Pedro is located in the Atacama desert, the driest desert in the world. Some parts of the desert have not seen rain for hundreds of years! On our first full day became quick friends with Edgar, the guide. That day we visited Piedras rojas (red rocks) as well as some salty lagoons.

Matan is a hat thief

It was quite windy, but the beauty was unlike any I have seen before. Very different from the forests surrounding Rio or Patagonia. One of our stops included a volcano that was once the tallest mountain in South America. On the way back we passed the Tropic of Capricorn.

Vacuñas are beginning to show up everywhere. My buddy Tom from Torres del Paine joined for the trip. We ended up moving into Edgar’s hostel to save a bit of money. Unfortunately the room was too small for a pajama party.

The next day we were (a little too) ambitious and did two tours. The first one was geysers. They were nice, but I have to say after all of the hype I was a bit disappointed. There were thermal baths nearby. Warm water was definitely welcome with an outside temperature of 2°C but the water was not mixing very well resulting in a small stream of scalding water surrounded by some lukewarm water.

Our afternoon tour was to the perhaps mistakenly named Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). While it doesn't look like anything on this planet, it is much closer to the surface of Mars (according to NASA). Truly otherworldly beauty, possibly the most beautiful place I have seen so far, if nothing less for never seeing a place quite like it before.

Got my mind on my mate and my mate on my mind

This has been the first place in my trip so far where I began to feel the effects of high altitude. A bit winded now but I’ll be able to run marathons by the time I go back to sea level.

San Pedro is known for its star gazing. Nearby is the biggest telescope in the world! Unfortunately, we were there during the fullest stages of the moon resulting in less than spectacular stars.

The Spanish word of the week is secar (dry). Atacama is very dry, don’t forget chapstick. It also has one of the highest uv radiation rates in the world, so bring protector de Sol (sunscreen).

Rebellious

The travel tip of the week is to be alert while traveling! Both the attempt of stealing a backpack and missing the bus mentioned above could have been prevented if we had stayed more alert and cautious. Perhaps if we had been less alert the bag would have been stolen.

Well I am off now to the Bolivian Salt flats. It will be an interesting transition with me previously traveling in developed countries and Bolivia being possibly the least developed country during my travels. Adios!

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