In what is easily my biggest news of the semester, my dad made the 5,000-mile journey to come visit me last week (favorite child status, anyone??)! Since, in my opinion, Santiago is a better city to live in than to visit, we decided to spend the greater part of his visit adventuring in a different part of Chile where neither of us had been: San Pedro de Atacama!
I went to fetch dear ol’ Dad from the SCL airport on Wednesday morning (late, as I miscalculated how bad morning traffic would be…whoops) and from there we came back to my host family’s house. My familia anfitriona once again proved that they are la raja by telling me that my dad should stay at the house with us during his stay, almost taking offense when I asked if they had hotel suggestions. Once we arrived from the airport, Gloria had breakfast ready and towels laid out. We ate, showered, napped, repacked, ate lunch, and took a quick walk around my neighborhood before heading back to the airport to catch a flight to Calama. Our flight ended up being delayed nearly two hours, but we passed the time catching up and snacking on some Cinnabons and smoothies. Unfortunately, the delay meant that there were no more buses running to San Pedro when we finally arrived in the Calama airport, and we had to resort to a shuttle van that was a little more caro than I had anticipated. However, all was well as this way we were dropped off right at the door of our hostel and didn’t have to wander around aimlessly at midnight.
Atacama is the driest desert in the world, so we wanted to do all the standard tours in order to take pictures to prove that we were there (and because my little brother requested them). On our first tour, we climbed through salt caves and salt flats, and continued on to La Gran Duna (The Great Dune) and Valle de la Luna(Valley of the Moon), which was a new experience for both of us. We both said that my older brother, a big fitness buff, would definitely have been impressed with us monkeying around all over as we did! Even better, we got some great photos!
Valle de la Luna
After Valle de la Luna, we went to Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) which was very impresionante…and windy! Here are pictures of us trying not to blow away (my water bottle was not so successful in this endeavor):
Don’t blow away!
Valle de la Muerte
Then we continued on to Mirador de Cari (…I don’t know what that translates to) to watch the sunset. This site boasts a “hanging rock” that is basically spot-on of the rock from the Roadrunner cartoon that always falls on Wiley Coyote, and beautiful colors reflected on the mountains as the sun lowers.
The next day, we got up at 3am (more like bedtime than wake-up time, if you ask me) to go see the
Geysers del Tatio. Even though we were in the desert, it was COLD! The guide said that it was about -10 degrees Celsius when we arrived. We explored a little, and then had some hot coffee and granola bars
before heading on to some geothermal pools and hot springs. We decided not to swim, as it was still pretty chilly (look at me, bringing back that pun!) and we did not have towels. We continued on, stopping every once in a while to take pictures, and then visited a tiny little town called Machuca whose population vacillates between 3 and 35. I was so excited to introduce my dad to the Chilean delicia that is anticucho (or as I affectionately call it, “meat on a stick”), and the ones we bought there were probably the most delicious I have ever had!
Ojos del Salar
We got back to the hostel at about 1pm, got empanadas to snack on, bought more water, and took a quick nap before our next tour to Laguna Cejar, Ojos del Salar, y Laguna Tebenquiche. Again, we chose not to swim as the water in the first lagoon was super salty (comparable to the Dead Sea, the guide told us) and the freshwater body that came afterwards was one you had to jump down into and then climb out, and we didn’t want to risk that the hostel would not have water for the shower when we got back. Nevertheless, we got some pretty pictures and now can escape the wrath of my mother, as I doubt she would have been pleased if we had jumped into a lagoon of unknown depth in the middle of nowhere.
We sipped on the famous Chilean/Peruvian (avoiding the conflict, do I get some PC points??) cocktail pisco sour as we watched the sun set over the extensive salt flats, with the Andes Mountains on one side an extensive lagoon in the other. Finally, we returned to San Pedro for a delicious dinner before heading to bed for our last night in San Pedro. Atacameñs are such nice people, and I really enjoyed the trip there! The only downside was either that a) you have to use cash rather than credit card in most places, or b) four different people assumed that my father and I were a couple (Geeeez, Chileans, do I really look that old??)
We made it to the airport the next morning in time for our flight, after a little bit of panicking on my part since the buses all my friends told me would be there to shuttle us to Calama were gone, thus forcing us to contract a private taxi. Once back in Santiago, we had a snack and explored more of Ñuñoa before heading out for dinner at a Peruvian restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious, probably the best meal I’ve had during my whole stay in Santiago, and the company was lovely as well. Ashleigh came too, and the three of us ended up staying there and chatting until almost two in the morning!
The next day we went to Cerro San Cristobal, arguably the main tourist attraction in Santiago (not that there are many..). I thought it would be good since it was a sunny day, and there are plenty of gorgeous views from the top and all along the way down. We had some mote con huesillo once we reached the top, and sat in the outdoor chapel to talk and soak up the views and the sunshine.
Mote con huesillo
With La Virgen; Cerro San Cristobal
After we trekked down, we got some ice cream and walked around the comuna of Providencia, then took a micro back to my house for a bit of down time before dinner. On Monday, my dad came with me to IES since I had classes and he would not have anyone to translate for him if he had stayed behind at the house. He was able to meet some of my friends, and we went to lunch together. Once my last class had ended, we headed back to the house to freshen up a bit, then may or may not have gotten ice cream again (hey, it was 80ᵒF outside!) before the shuttle for the airport came. I went along to the airport, just in case it was crowded and he needed help navigating through all the lines (it was not crowded at all), and also to say good-bye and see him through security. His time here flew by! It was a short visit, but very enjoyable. I am so glad that he was able and willing to come all the way down to see me and this country that I love dearly.
One of my favorite views of my favorite city