Days 5-6: Moving Up in Chile

Thursday was a pretty uneventful day. We got up and had our same delicious hostel breakfast and then headed to Santiago Airport with Brett to catch our flight north to Calama.  It is also at just over 7,500 feet above sea level. This is the largest “city” in the Atacama Desert, which is the most arid place on earth. We have since learned that it is also the only place which looks brown from space… It’s that big and that dry. Yikes!
We were met by someone from our new hostel, Incahuasi, which translates to Incan House in the native language. They drove us an hour through the desert to San Pedro de Atacama, population 1,600. This hostel was a sweet deal because the four of us have our own cabin on the property with a bedroom that has three beds for the ladies, a common room with a table and bed for Brett, a full bath, and a title kitchen. We went with the all-inclusive deal as well, which provides us with breakfast, dinner, and a tour each day we are here, as well as transfers to and from the airport.
This morning we got up around 8am for breakfast, which was French vanilla yogurt, granola, awesome fresh bread, ham, cheese, and mango juice. Then we met Felipe, our guide for the day, and the other five guests who would be joining us for the morning. We drove first to the “Eyes of the Desert”, two small lagoons in the middle of freaking nowhere. Wait for the pictures. Then we walked out on a salt flat lake, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It was flat, salty, white… So cool and in the background was a dormant volcano, gorgeous
After that stop we went to the main attraction of the morning, the Atacama salt lake. For those of your who have never swam in a salt lake, it is surreal. You have the urge to constantly tread water or use your arms, but you really don’t have to! You can “stand” vertically with no effort! We swam for about an hour, then watched the salt dry on our skin before hopping back in the van and heading to the hostel.
We decided to walk into town (about 15 minutes) to grab a quick lunch of Hawaiian pizza and gourmet salad. Then Felipe picked us up again and we were off to the Moon! Seriously, goggle the last images of the moon or mars, and that’s what this place looked like. Incredible. We even went down into salt caves! Then hiked down into “Death Valley” by some sand boarders, raced up sand dunes, and just took in the scenery. Absolutely stunning.
Our final stop for the day was overlooking the Moon Valley, where we shared some pisco with our tour mates and appreciated our wonderful day one more time. This probably ranks up there in the top ten most relaxing, enjoyable, breath-taking days of my entire life. After the tour ended Cynthia, Brett, and I went back into town to use our dinner voucher. The meal was good, salmon and quinoa for me with a traditional Chilean dessert, but we were exhausted and ready to crash into bed. Tomorrow we’re heading even higher to check out more lagoons and see flamingos!

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