Hey, how about we take a 23 hour road trip in the desert?

I know what your thinking… Sounds crazy right? Maybe a little. But why not?!

This weekend I visited San Pedro de Atacama with four of my friends. Ayn, Amaury, Ben, Bryan and I took a bus 23 hours north. The views were just spectacular during the bus ride. Looking out one side of the bus we could see the waves coming in on the coastline. Peering out the other side our eyes met a never-ending line of mountains.

Our first tour in the morning was to the thermal springs of Puritama. Now this was a little hard to wrap my brain around. We were driving for about a half an hour on a bumpy bus in the middle of the desert. When the bus stopped we got out and in the distance there was a little patch of reed-like plants in the middle of the rocks and sand.

We walked down a big hill and then right in front of us were the springs. The water was around 87˚ and very welcoming since the morning was a little chilly. There was a couple from Santiago in our pool who were very friendly. We spent much of the morning talking with them and relaxing before our return to town.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat back at the hostel we returned to town for another bumpy bus ride through the desert to see some lagoons. This particular lagoon we went to was a salt lagoon. It was 70% salt and just walking through it turned your legs ashy white. My camera decided to test the water out, much to my dismay. Fortunately it still works, but it did take some elbow grease to get all of the salt off the screen!

To rinse off all of the salt water, we went to a “sweet water” spot. Our guide explained that there were two sink holes in the middle of the desert here. Each of them were 2 kilometers deep! Jumping into a sink hole doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me, but the guys jumped right in. The Chilean man standing next to me actually clapped when they jumped in because nobody was adventurous enough to take the leap. Apparently the water was freezing because they didn’t stay in for long. I  later found out that they didn’t hear the guide say that they were sink holes or that they were 2 km deep, else they would have never ventured in. Sure makes for a good story.

Our last stop was at another salt lagoon. We arrived at just the right time, because as the sun was setting you could see the mountains reflecting back into the water. Incidentally, all of the mountains in the background are semi-active and active volcanos. Happy to report no activity while we were there.

The next day we biked to the Valley of the Moon. It was nine miles there, which may not sound like much, but boy was I slow! Nine miles was ALOT for me. I realized three things as I pedaled my way there:
#1 Never bicycle in jeans.
#2 Bicycling uphill, in the desert, in the sun is exhausting.
#3 I’m not a huge fan of bicycling.

Once I finally caught up with the group, we explore the area. Valle de la Luna is a basin of rocks, salt and sand. The odd formations created by wind and water span over valley. There was a semi outlined path and we tried to follow it as best we could through the numerous caverns and peaks. I was simply speechless at the spectacular view. Honestly I spent so much time gawking that I didn’t realize how high up we were. We’d work our way up perch to perch and it felt just like hopscotch.
I read somewhere that they tested a Mars rover here because the terrain is so similar to Mars. The Valle de la Luna is supposed to be one of the driest places on the earth because some areas have no recorded rainfall.
Trying to make our way back was easier said then done. We got kind of lost.Well, not exactly lost, we just wanted to try to avoid the 60 ft rocky drop off. We finally made it back to the main way, with shoes full of sand. It never ceases to amaze me how sand can get EVERYWHERE when you’re near it.
Since our bus was leaving in the afternoon, we had to zoom back to the hostel. (Some of us slower than others…) This trip only took an hour and twenty minutes, but I realized three things on the way back:
#1 Bicycling downhill is a whole lot easier than going uphill.
#2 I’m not so much interested in participating in a triathalon anymore.
#3 The next time I have to ride a bike will be too soon.
I definitely don’t suggest going from a steady 0 miles a day on a bike to a sudden 18 miles at the drop of a hat. Especially if the last time you can remember riding a bike was when you were 13 years old…

2 Comments to “Hey, how about we take a 23 hour road trip in the desert?”

  1. What an adventure! It makes Kenya look pretty tame. Your pictures are great! And I think I like biking about as much as you do.

  2. Imagine–this happened a month ago!

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