Journal 8 - November 4, 2002

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile II - Time to Shred » Go Back

Journal 8
After the refreshing San Pedro hot springs it was going to be hard to please me. I could have easily spent a week lounging in the sun, swimming in the water, and napping on the sunny decks. However, for Monday's adventure JD and I decided to book a trip to Bolivia to see the Laguna Verde. Little did we know we'd spend more time in the bus and crossing borders than at the lagoon. From the Bolivian border we went straight to some Bolivian hot springs, where I was the only person crazy enough to take a dip. Nobody else dared remove the several layers of clothing required to keep warm at 14,000 ft. After my bath we made our way the windy Laguna Verde for a quick visit, then headed back into Chile with a bus full of new trekkers. All of this worked out very well for the tour company, they were able to fill their empty seats on their shuttle with travelers wanting to enter Chile, and charge $8000 pesos for their trouble. Fortunately the bus ride was pretty spectacular in itself, and the lagoon was an incredible mini-ocean of turquoise water nestled against yet another snow capped Andean peak.

After sitting on our duffs all morning, we were ready to hit the sandy slopes of the dunes. Like so many Santa Cruz surfers riding their beach cruisers, one hand on the handle bars, the other arm cradling their board, so too did JD and I head towards the dunes and the stairmaster-esque workout. For each step we took in the shoe swallowing sand, we'd sink or slide back two. However, being the exercise masochist I am, I was enjoying myself, and I knew that carving s-turns on the grainy surface would be my reward. I couldn't wait to get to the top of the sandy cornice, wax the board, strap it on and start carving.

Fortunately I was able to convince Jennifer to ignore the advice given to us by the proprietor of the sandboard shop. Never mind his warning that 90% of the broken boards are returned in the hands of expert snowboarders. Something about the way snowboarders distribute their weight incorrectly. "Whatever dude." Those weren't the words of encouragement JD and I were looking for, but as I said, I chose to ignore almost everything the guy said. All I heard was "lean back, like riding powder." "No problem bro." Oh yeah, "don't put too much wax on your first time, the more wax, the faster you go." I stopped waxing when my arm began to burn from the pain of applying about twelve layers. Jennifer took a more conservative approach and waxed only part of the board as the guy recommended. With a sandblaster of wind in our faces, off we went. It was great, definitely like riding powder, and thankfully I had applied a lot of wax because the friction burns the wax off quickly, so your momentum actually decreases if you're not careful. After making some nice turns, biting the dust a few times, and making the stairmaster-esque decent enough times to sear our calves, we had had our fill. I was very happy to have been able to make my s-turns a little earlier in the year than I usually do, and Jennifer was able to carve some turns before any of her friends back in Park City.

Afterwards we made our way back to town, ate dinner, then attempted to clean the sand out of our hair, ears, eyes, clothes, etc. That night we crashed early in anticipation of the following day's 3:45 a.m. wakeup call for the Geysers del Tatio.

We had been warned numerous times about how cold it would be in the valley, but neither of us were prepared. I didn't pack much cold weather clothing, why should I if I'm going to travel from summer to summer to summer for a year? So, next day, 4:00 a.m., into the bus we crawled, each of us wearing almost every item of clothing we had. We still froze, and that was during the bus ride, imagine how cold we were upon arriving at the Geysers, 14,500 feet high at 6:00 a.m., well before the sun had come up. Gulping coffee helped, and so did moving around. Like a couple of Umpa Lumpas from Charlie in the Chocolate Factory we waddled around in three layers of clothes, took pictures of the breathtaking Geysers, and slowly warmed up as the sun made its way into the valley. I couldn't erase the inferior digital images fast enough, as each minute passed and the sun rose higher the picture opportunities got better. JD and I clicked away as fast as our frozen fingers could while the warmth of the sun eventually diminished the beauty of the smaller geysers. From the Geysers del Tatio we made our way to yet another, not so hot, hot springs, a fact I discovered after getting into the pool. Upon realizing that part of the pool was warm, I proceeded to join the pile of pasty gringos huddled near the hot water that was making its way out of the earth; at least I hope that's why the water was warm in that particular spot.

From the valley we were driven to the airport and returned to Santiago. Minutes after we landed, jet setter Jen hopped on yet another plane bound for the States, Starbucks, Halloween, and all things nice. We had a great trip. It was nice to have a gringo buddy to travel with, and speak English with.

So who's next?

Justin