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Day 19 (7-23): Chile San Pedro de Atacama

CHILE | Friday, 23 July 2010 | Views [500]

- I started to hate myself. I woke up at 02:30, 03:00 and finally 03:30 for the Geyser del Tatio tour. By that time I was super tired.

- Keeping the tips I got from the group yesterday night in mind (they went on the Geyser trip the day before and warned that it was super cold. In the morning, it is -15 degree celsius), I layered myself with all the clothing I brought along for the tour - long sleeve T over short-sleeve Ts, along with my alpaca jacket, fleece and wind stopper. I wore 2 pants, 3 pairs of socks, and naturally my gloves and scarf. By the time I was fully dressed, I felt like a swollen mummy. But they were right - it was freezing. I wasn´t even at the Geyser, and I already felt the coldness of San Pedro´s morning.

- Geyser is caused by surface water gradually seeping down through the ground until it meets rock heated by magma. The heated water then shoots back toward the surface through the fractured rocks. I have seen geysers before (at Yellow Stone National Park, where the world reowned Old Faithful Geyser is located), but watching the numerous eruptions at this was icy cold weather was another flavor. One of our tourmates suddenly collapsed in the old and suffered a mild seizure. Luckily she was okay after treated by the tour guide.

- On our way back to San Pedro, we stopped at Puritana where there was a hot spring (a couple guys jumped in. There was no changing area which made it slightly challenging for gals) and village of of Machuca. We got back to the San Pedro at around noon.

- After a quick lunch, I decided to walk along the highway again, and possibly made my way to Cordelia del Sol. Not exactly sure what´s more to see at Cordillera de la Sal other than the Valley of the Moon, but decided to make the trip anywayz.

- As I was walking, I chatted up with three Chilean gals (Cami, Valeria and Catherine) working in the same direction. With broken Spanish (and their Valeria´s broken English), I learnt they were 17 year old kiddos on their 2 week winter break and they were camping at San Pedro. What was more, they hitch-hiked from home with all their camping equipment and stuff. As one who has never (and always interested in trying) hitch-hiked, I asked them if it was common in South America and they told me they did it all the time. As we spoke. Catherine gave a thumb up to the upcoming truck, and miraclously it stopped for us. Not understanding what Catherine said and where they were heading (I told the previously I was just walking aimlessly), I tagged along.

- As it turned out, their/our stop was Cordelia del Sol. They were planning to sandboard for their first time. The sand dunes were quite a way from the entrance, and after approximately 30 minutes of walk, these beautiful sand dunes appeared in front of your eyes.

- The three crazy gals walked up the sand dunes, approached a group of sandboarders and asked if they could join (they included me, which was very nice). Wooch - these gal are bold! They just hitch-hiked here and randomly asked the groups if they could join.? Maybe it´s a culture thing.

- Sandboarding was fun. Well - let me rephrase. The going down part (even falling or tumbling) is fun, not walking up. By the 2nd and 3rd time, I was totally exhausted and I just sat there, watch and took pictures. When we arrived we were like the first three groups. When we left (at around 5 pm), the dunes were packed with sandboarders, both experienced ones and people on tour.

- Catherine was carrying a sandboard when she left, and I curious that she did not need to return it. She told me they rented it and she was bringing back to the camp. That was when I realized they actually knew the sandboarders on the first place - they were actually staying at the same camp site and they scheduled to meet at the dunes. Ah ... now it makes a lot more sense. We hitch-hiked back to San Pedro on 2 rides - one brought us to the entrance/exit of Cordelia de Sol, and another back to downtown.

- The campsite they were staying were only 2 blocks away from my hostel. I actully checked out their campsite (they have dorm beds too) upon my arrival - it was the cheapest, but at the time it was all booked up. I would have stayed there if there was room. Wonder if I would have known them then. Hang out for a bit and called it a night.

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