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Saturday, June 30, 2012

San Pedro de Atacama, La Serena, Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile

After completing the Salt Flats with amazing people for the previous 3 days it was time to move on, so our group split in half and Alex, Julia and I crossed the border into San Pedro de Atacama, Chile and had a speedy ride down from 5000 meters to 2000 ears popping the whole way. Once we got past customs we were introduced to Fabian who brought us to a hostel with wifi internet and hot showers, for those of you who know me or have met me travelling it's the little things that make me happy and after not showering for 3 days tthrough the freezing cold salt flats I was ecstatic. A hot shower and the ability to change into shorts and walk around in the desert was a huge change of pace and quite amazing at that. The next day we ended up renting bicycles and riding out to Valle de Luna for a nice casual 5k bike ride which turned into about 15k (jajajajaja Alex). Valle de Luna for those of you who don't know means Valley of the Moon and it was like being on the moon in the massive craters and vast landscape of mountains far off in the distance. Once we got out to the checkpoint we went spelunking in the salt caves. Now I don't know if I can consider myself a true spelunker as ìt was not a deep underground cavern but it was good enough for me to consider myself a novice. After the ride back to town we went and got ready for our night bus to La Serena about 12 hours south of San Pedro. If you are taking buses in Chile I recommend Turbus or Pullman as some of the buses have powerpoints (electrical outlets) and most have wine available. We made it into La Serena and went on a tour to the observatory and it was pretty amazing to see the southern sky and learned how to identify the southern cross and a few of the other constellations I had not been able to identify before but the cool thing was being able to see the Rings of Saturn which were very clear that night. After that made it back to the hostel to get ready for a tour through Valle de Elqui the next day which is famous for its pisco distillery's and vineyards and they have every right to be famous for them because it was delicious. Ended up buying a couple of bottles which I ended up enjoying in Valparaiso a few days later. The valley was very beautiful and the sunset over the mountain on the way back was incredible. It also signaled my time in La Serena was at an end and I was going on a bus the next morning to Valparaiso which is a port town on the chilean coast about an hour outside of Santiago. It is known for its street art and unfortunately when I got lost and found the art I did not have my camera with me to capture it so I guess you will have to discover it yourselves. Valparaiso was a nice chill place with a great party scene and the hostel I stayed at was always a party we cooked dinner together, drank together and went to a random make shift concert down the street well the last 30 seconds of it. The highlight of my time in Valparaiso was the day I was leaving it was a national holiday and the president of Chile made an announcement where people expected him to lower education costs, I think this was the reason at least for what happened next, well needless to say that is not what happened and the people took to the streets. Now I've seen riots up close and personal in the states before but damn the Chileans know how to riot. The police had them pushed back and then everything flipped there was tear gas everywhere and it was a war in the streets and the police were easily outnumbered 3 to 1. Well I had to walk to my bus from the opposite side of the riot through the middle directly to the heart where the bus station was which was across from congress. Before I left the hostel  the owner looked at me, put a hand on my shoulder and said "Buena Suerte (Good luck)" thanks Gonzalo, so off I went and was stopped by police in riot gear several times along the way asking me where I was going and what was in my massive backpack. All I had to do was quote my good friend Volle Grimminger I simply told the police in Spanish "Estás Bien, Estoy una tourista! (It's ok, I'm a tourist!)". So I safely got onto my bus and took a ride to Santiago and got on there metro system which was equipped with free wifi and very efficient. I made it to Aji hostel where met a ton of great people and had a great time in Santiago. Now at this point in my trip I had not cut my hair and the beard had not been groomed recently so I was looking like a wild man of sorts. Well with that being said I decided to wear a scarf that night (apparently my new hobby is collecting scarves, don't worry I don't get it either). The guy that works at the hostel came up to me in front of the whole group I was drinking with and told me I reminded him of an actor. I was not on my A-game as I had been drinking some delicious Chilean wine so my curiosity got the best of me and I asked him who, he quickly replied Alan from the hangover and I was not too thrilled with this until my good friend from London Town, Nikin, told me to embrace it! Which I did 150% like I do most things and the quotes kept coming the whole night and had the Alan walk down to a T. It was an epic night that will not be forgotten. Santiago had so much to offer between the food and restaurants to their very tumultuous history with military coup and revolutions and bankruptcies to nobel prize winners and coffee with legs. Well after a week in Santiago it was time to move onto Argentina so I took off with Sander (a dutchman who enjoyed wearing speedos and crocs) and we hopped on bus to Mendoza in Argentina the first day after the border reopened due to snow in the Andes. Our supposed 6 hour bus ride was delayed with our 7 hour border crossing in the Andes. Tip for all of South America most buses are great and for the most part mine were on time but you need to go into a bus ride with the expectation that your trip will be twice as long as they tell you so if you do arrive on time or only a few hours late you will be happy! More to follow in the next update about Argentina. Cheers and Safe Travels everyone!

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile Pictures
Valparaiso, Chile Pictures
Santiago, Chile Pictures

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