Category Archives: weather

When the government says no, it’s a no.

Before arriving in San Pedro and well before leaving the US, Alana, Courtney and I had our hearts set on visiting El Tatio, the geysers. Your tour (you cannot do this trip without a licensed guide) picks you up well before dawn to get there for sunrise. Due to the massive rainfall and flooding the region had recently experienced, the government had suspended these tours indefinitely.

Disappointed, we really tried to figure out a way to go. The Chilean government would provide email updates on the status of the geysers. Our hotel would receive email updates at 6p and 11p; neither would give us favorable news.

Understanding that we could be arrested if we went on our own (therefore, eliminating that option), we told the front desk we’d set an alarm and check in for an update in the middle of the night … just in case the government’s restrictions were lifted. We were well aware at how far-fetched this was since our pick up was scheduled for 4.30am.

Let me clarify how insane we were. If the 11pm email said ‘closed,’ we REALLY didn’t need to wake up super early for a tour that was never leaving, or even bother with getting a status update in the middle of the night, since the chance of the geysers opening were nil.

We were persistent but when the government says no, they mean no.

The restrictions were not lifted that night. SPOILER ALERT: the geysers wouldn’t reopen during our time in the region.

 

Knowing now that ‘town’ didn’t offer much during the day but a convenient jumping off point to further explore the region, we spent some of the morning relaxing poolside, which, as you can see from our view, wasn’t a really terrible way to spend the morning.

pool

We had the pool to ourselves.

After lunch, one of the girls at the front desk connected us with Freddie, who, with his pal Sergio, would take us to several attractions in the region. And this is when we finally got to start exploring. It certainly took our mind off the geysers, but we still were keen on seeing if the government would lift their restrictions before we headed out of the region.

Our first excursion was a tour of the Valle de Luna, which translates to Valley of the Moon, appropriately so, don’t you think? What you might think in these photos is snow, is actually salt. Take a look at the scenery and the sky. The weather was fickle, changing from one minute to the next. Shorts and tees or sweaters and shivering? All of it.

This is what I would call ‘the middle of nowhere.’ Except we were somewhere in the north of Chile and it was pretty freaking spectacular.

 

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My first night in San Pedro de Atacama

After quite the treacherous bus journey from the airport in Calama to the small adobe village of San Pedro de Atacama, I finally arrived at my hostel. What an interesting set up. Once you entered the property from the dusty street, you were transplanted into a large courtyard. Looking around, you could see small huts dotting the property.

During check in, I realized that I hadn’t eaten since the plane, so I wanted to find something to eat. It was 8.50pm and the woman at the front desk advised me that the supermarket closed at 9 but was just around the corner.

my-hut1

My hut.

After being shown to my hut, I left my bags and headed out into the dark, dusty street. From what I could tell, I felt like I was on a movie set. The streets were sandy, dust was everywhere. The town felt old and worn, like a cowboy movie type of town. At the same time it felt charming and I was excited to explore, if only a short walk to the supermarket at this point.

I first went into the wrong place … they only had day-old (or older) empanadas. I figured out my error and came back outside, found the supermarket (all the buildings looked the same). This was no supermarket with fluorescent lights. This was a very, very small bodega.

The choices were slim and hodge podge. I went with a roll (that looked fresh), wafers, apple juice and water. Seeing a sign for cheese, but no sign of cheese, I asked the person behind the counter how it worked. I was asked how many slices, and not seeing a deli slicer, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get so I replied, ‘cuatro,’ (four in Spanish). After all, I thought, I could easily polish off four slices of cheese. Instead, I must have gotten four 1/4 pounds of cheese. Oops.

I made my purchase and my way back to the hostel. One of the huts was designated a communal kitchen. The lights were on and I could hear voices so I went inside to eat. Inside I met a German man and Italian woman. They had offered me some of their home-cooked meal but instead I nibbled on my cheese while we shared pleasantries.

After dinner they asked if I wanted to join them for a walk into town to go to the ATM. I clearly had nothing else planned for the evening, and hadn’t yet seen the town so I went along.

The center of town was a couple of small alleys away and after a whopping five minute tour, I saw it all. As I would later learn, the ATM was the highlight of the nightlife. After waiting in line at the ATM (it was popular), we popped into a bar for a beer before heading back to the hostel and calling it a night.

I was happy to get to bed since I knew when I woke up I’d be moving to the lovely boutique hotel that my friends and I had booked before I left New York.

Knowing now how small the town was, I didn’t want to explore on my own since I’d be doing it again with the girls once they arrived. My plan for the following morning was quite simple. Wake up, transfer to the fancy place, check in, figure out my next steps after San Pedro, and finally, spend the rest of the day poolside until the girls arrived. I was so excited to see familiar faces and now, after some reflection on my ride from the Calama airport, I was immensely curious how their ride would be, not even 24 hours after mine.


And the driest desert in the world, floods

Forget the (tiny) airport surprise, my biggest surprise came when the bus came to get me (the hotel we would be staying at had a bus that picked people up). While I wasn’t staying at the hotel until the following evening when the girls arrived, they were nice enough to get me and take me to the hostel I had reserved in town. However, the drive was interesting.

I had the knowledge from Google earlier that day that the region had seen the worst flooding in 11 years, but on top of that, I didn’t realize that the region would look like Mars.

I snapped photos basically the whole drive.

And then we stopped. In the middle of nowhere. Because the road was taken over by, what else, water. We could no longer pass.

On the left, part of the washed out road. On the right, is the bus driver calling his boss to find out what other road we can take to get to town. At this point, I am wondering what ‘town’ looks like too.