Week 4. El desierto Atacama: the Atacama desert

This weekend, a few of my friends and I took advantage of our day off of classes and took a long weekend to San Pedro de Atacama.

The trip had a bit of a rocky start: one hour before I had to be on the bus to Santiago, I found out that I had booked a flight for the wrong weekend! I went into a bit of panic mode, as there was a moment where I didn’t know if I would be able to go, and I didn’t quite know how to fix the problem. Luckily, however, mi papa chileno was able to help me navigate a phone call with LatAm Airlines to buy a (much more expensive) last-minute ticket. After this incident, all it took was one short 30-minute uber to the bus station, a two-hour bus ride to Santiago, six hours of “sleep” overnight in the Santiago airport, an hour-long flight, and another hour-long bus ride, and then we were in Atacama! And boy, was it all worth it for the nature that I was about to experience.

Each of our tours topped the last. We watched the most beautiful sunset of my life at Valle de la Luna. We saw flamingos at the crack of dawn. We inadvertently saw a beautiful sunrise while on the side of a volcano, because our bus broke down on the way to a tour to one of the world’s most prolific geysers. We floated in a salt flat in the middle of the Chilean winter. We stayed in a hostel surrounded on three sides by active volcanos. We stargazed from the driest, and therefore clearest, place in the world. Despite our 4:00am wakeups each day, we had an absolutely phenomenal experience.

On Monday night, our last night in Atacama, we made a fantastic meal of the comfort food we’ve missed from home: mac and cheese, and scrambled eggs with bell peppers. It was a great feeling to be able to cook for ourselves in the hostel! Mi mama chilena makes great food, but I’ve missed being able to cook the food that I am used to eating in the United States. My hostel had an amazing rooftop deck, so we took dinner up to the roof and had a picnic while watching the sunset with a 360-degree view.

It was the best way to end an out-of-this-world trip, before our 4:00am bus ride back to the airport, pictured below.

I know Atacama is one of those memories that I am only spontaneous enough to do while in college. I will ask myself, “What was I thinking? Six students staying in a hostel in the middle of a desert of a country that we barely know?” While it sounds like a recipe for disaster, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life, with some of the best friends.