La Atacama y Altiplano
Just got back from my last big trip of the semester- we had an amazing time! This past week was la semana de mesas. It’s a week where in the public universities, there’s the equivalent of midterm exams instead of class. So, naturally, as intercambios, we took a week to travel 😉 We spent the first few days of our trip in San Pedro de Atacama, a small touristy town in northern Chile (right on the border of Bolivia) that serves as the base for a ton of different excursions. We took a tour of several lagunas, including one with four times the amount of salt as the ocean!! It was a pretty crazy sensation- you could literally have all your limbs out of the water and still be floating, no problem! We also took two different bike trips, one to Quebrada del Diablo, and the other to Valle de la Luna. On both trips we had a furry canine companion that followed us from start to finish- this is starting to be a common theme on many of our trips After that we began our 4-day tour of the salt flats of Bolivia. We got to the border and met up with our Bolivian tour guide (Ronald) to begin our adventure! On route to the salt flat, we stopped at various lakes, aguas termales, geysers, and other beautiful scenery. It was beautiful, but after a few hours I started to experience some altitude sickness. On this first day of our tour, we reached an altitude of 5,000 meters, the equivalent of around 16,400 feet! And that night, we stayed at a hostel at 4,700 meters- needless to say, I wasn’t quite used to the altura! The second night we stayed in another hotel that was actually made of salt- as if driving all day in salt wasn’t enough 😉 None of these “hotels” were heated, so we had to bundle up quite a bit to survive the frigid desert nights. By the third day of the trip, I was starting to feel better, and I was able to enjoy our final and most anticipated destination: el Salar de Uyuni. This salt flat is an amazing expanse of more than 14,000 square kilometers, and it’s definitely impressive. When you’re driving through, it really feels like it could go on forever, and the way the salt has formed on the ground is pretty cool. Coming back, however, was where the fun really began. On the last day of the trip, we tried to return to San Pedro, but we ended up driving through first a snowstorm and then a sandstorm, and it took pretty much the entire day to get back. After a night in San Pedro, we went to Calama and made it just in time to experience their first snowstorm in 30 years! Our hostel wasn’t exactly prepared for this kind of weather, so our night in Calama was almost just as frigid as our time in the salt hotels! We survived, but because of the storm, we missed our connecting flight and had to stay an extra night in Santiago. We weren’t too bummed, though- the airline put us up in a fancy hotel and provided a cushy dinner! After so many nights sleeping in bare-bones conditions, this felt like paradise! We enjoyed some much-needed warm showers and went out for drinks in the city, although it wasn’t too crazy on a Sunday night 😉 Monday morning we finally made it back, happy to be in Mendoza again. All in all it was a wonderful trip with some wonderful people, and I had an amazing time. Now it’s time to hunker down and study- it’s only a month until final exams! I don’t know where the time goes, but I’ve been having a blast here in Argentina and I’m not ready to go home anytime soon 😉 I’ll keep you posted- until next time!