I am never ever going to promise blog posts again while I am traveling. I was wayyy too busy having fun to upload pictures in the middle of my vacation! Who would want to do that?? So here they are, better late than never.
I must say, South America far exceeded my expectations. Not that they were set very low or anything, I just had so much more interest in going to Asia and Oceania the last few years that it wasn’t really on my radar. It was Joe’s idea to head down there because he wanted to practice his Spanish, and I am so glad we ended up going.
Everyone and their mother asked if we went to Patagonia, but we actually decided to switch things up a little bit. The first leg of our trip was spent in the Atacama desert in northern Chile, one of the driest deserts in the world. And man oh man did I feel it. I tried to go for a run the second day we were there and after 3 miles it felt like someone was taking a blow torch to my throat and sandpaper to my eyeballs, not to mention I couldn’t breath at the 9,000 feet of altitude. On top of that I was momentarily chased by a pack of wild, but friendly, dogs. Needless to say it was my last attempt at staying fit while I was there. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at organized all our daily excursions which were very active. Mountain biking, hiking, swimming, horseback riding…we did it all.
The hotel itself was pretty amazing. There are a handful of 5-star hotels in the town of San Pedro including Explora and Awasi. We stayed at Tierra Atacama which also has a sister hotel in Patagonia. This was our splurge spot. The whole atmosphere was super relaxing and desert-y. I did not ever want to leave.
Each day we would have 1-2 excursions with lots of pool time in-between. One of our first excursions was a hike through Guatin-Gatchi to see the humongous cacti. The one I am standing next to is about 800 years old. The next day we mountain biked through the desert to some salt flats where there was a lake you could swim in. Note: Do not swim in salt lake after shaving legs. Burns like hell!
*Please note in the above picture that Joe’s shadow animal is a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep/T-Rex.
On the second day, in the early morning, we hiked up through a beautiful red-walled canyon to the Puritama Hot Springs. This place blew my mind it was so beautiful and serene and there was pretty much nobody there. Puritama is a natural hot springs that filters down through about 10 different pools. Explora Atacama built these platforms so you can easily access the water and lay out. The temperature is just warm enough to be comfortable if there is no sun out, but with the sun blazing it felt great. After dipping through all the pools we had some wine on a platform overlooking the valley. It was basically like being in heaven.