In The Atacama Desert And The Bolivian Altiplano
|By Justin Marshall
de Atacama, Chile, a beautiful oasis in the middle of the worldís driest
desert. So dry that NASA has used the desert to test some of its Mars space
equipment. What happened during our first night in the driest desert
in the world? It rained of course, for the first time since June.
It didnít rain much, nothing measurable anyway, but you know what
clouds mean in the desert. Astonishing sunsets. With the sky
ablaze like a four alarm fire we drove into town.
eager tourists that we were, we couldnít get out of the shuttle fast enough
to start clicking away.
reds, yellows, and oranges, lit up the sky and our skin, perfect for
pictures and our arrival to the desert pueblo that boasts adobe buildings,
great restaurants, and many an internet cafeé.
some 25 pictures of the flaming sky, we made our way into town and began
looking for a place to sleep. Hmmm, $7, $6, $5 a night, what would
it be? We settled on the Casa Adobe for $5, where the water is hot,
and so is the stinking donkey dung. What did we care? Up
early, before noon that is, and home late, all we needed was a bed,
and warm water. Casa Adobe had this.
adventure took us, along with seemingly every other person in town, to
the Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon. The lunar-esque landscape
had various salt formations, canyons, sand dunes, valleys and crevices
formed from thousands of yeas of wind, rain, erosion, and terramotos, or
earthquakes. We hiked, climbed, and dug our way, literally on
all fours at one point, up the sand dunes. Jennifer is a great travel
partner, one of the few girls I know who can look at the sand dunes and
appreciate their true natural beauty.
|It was a very
special bonding moment for the two of us. Being the gravity junkies
we both are, we took one look at the giant sand dunes and imagined carving
down them boards. Of course if we had had a chance to carve, she
would have done it better, faster, and more gracefully than me. Yes,
the lucky lady hails from Park City Utah, and gets more days on her snowboard
in one season than Iíve had my whole life. As of yet we havenít rented
the sand boards that are available, so we havenít done any carving.
Weíve been too busy touring, trekking, clicking, climbing, and eating.
amazing sunset in the Valle de la Luna, which of course gave us the opportunity
to take another 25 pictures, we made our way to town and had dinner at
Adobe restaurant. Are you noticing a trend here? Casa Adobe,
Adobe Restaurant, yes, the brown stone buildings dominate the town.
every building looks like it is growing straight out of the ground , nor
are they all named the adobe something or other. Some are painted white,
with beautiful contrasting blue window sills, and some have colorful Coca-Cola,
Nestle, or Kodak signs adorning them.
day we went to the salt flats, the third largest in the world. Lucky
me has now been to two of the worldís three largest salt flats. How
many of you can say that? And where is the second largest? Try Jenniferís
neighborhood. Tomorrow Iíll be very close to the Worldís largest
salt flat when we go to Bolivia. After visiting the flats we got
high, very high. Iíve been high before, I am from California after
all, and as Iíve mentioned, my favorite ski mountain is Mammoth, which
is over 11,000 feet tall. Santa Barbaraís La Cumbre Peak is just
a shade under 4000 feet. Any of you who have driven to the top of
La Cumbre, or ridden you bikes as I like to do, can appreciate how high
4000 feet is, or maybe Lake Tahoe at about 6200, then thereís the
Andes where I am now, the tallest mountain range of the Americas, with
almost 100 peaks over 18,000 feet..
salt flat we climbed to some altiplanic lagoons that sat at about 14,000,
which was tall enough for Park City Jennifer and I to notice the lack of
couldnít handle, and of course it didnít stop us from hiking around the
sapphire blue lagoons complete with Flamingos and a herd of Llamas. The
white Llamas and salt deposits created a brilliant contrast against the
sapphire blue lagoons and creamy blue sky, it was tremendous (photos of
all of this will be included in the next email, and on the web site after
I return to Santiago).
Sunday we felt
we deserved a break from all of the trekking. Vacations can be exhausting;
donít you all feel sorry for me? We decided to visit the local, very
spectacular hot springs. After a bumpy, dusty hour of climbing up
a dirt road to the hot springs.
and I found ourselves doing the NY speed walk down to the turquoise pools,
each complete with a private deck. She and I had our own turquoise
pool and deck for our entire visit. There was also another empty pool and
deck, this one deep enough to dive in, that we visited between naps and
dips in the temperate waters. With the heat of the day steaming hot
springs would have been too much, so as luck would have it the pools are
perfectly warm, slightly cooler than bath water, and each pool has a gushing
waterfall cascading into and out of it, thus making the naps that much
better. Nothing beats falling asleep to the rushing water.
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