Thursday, April 30, 2015

Since when are deserts situated at 8,000ft above sea level?

Elevation kills. Actually that's not a scientific fact- but it was painful. Oh the symptoms- I'll spare you the deets but luckily I never puked and I survived to tell the tale so all is good. San Pedro de Atacama is a Chilean desert approximately 7,896 feet above sea level. Some claim it's the driest desert in the world- not sure if that is a scientific fact either but one thing was for sure. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. After Patagonia I never thought I would be able to perceive things as being absolutely pristine and gorgeous because the bar was just set so high there. However- in the best way possible, the bar was set a little higher. The landscapes of Chile cease to amaze me. With a country so thin and long I've encountered the most diverse landscapes- San Pedro included. In total we ventured to the Moon Valley, Death Valley, The Devil's Gorge, the National Flamingo Reserve, The Atacama Salt Flats, and The Tatio Geysers (the highest elevation geysers in the world! but we will get to that shortly....). I think that's all...
The trip started off with a case of Deja Vú- a cold, dark morning journey to the airport at 4am. Good times. Luckily the trip was filled with airplane rides and busing so I don't think I ever actually was in debt to sleep the entire time. The plane ride and bus trip there was uneventful despite the fact that they didn't feed us lunch until 3pm in the afternoon....the horror. Chileans and their eating times. smh (shaking my head). Luckily for us, the food was muy bueno and we actually ended up having every meal at the same place which also coincidentally was in our 'hotel lobby'. They had great pebre and as always we were served three courses at each meal. Delightful(: The best part of the CIEE programed events is the fact that you never really have to buy anything (that never stops me....but they were gifts! possibly for others...possibly for myself). Anywho- here's a fun fact we learned upon our introduction to San Pedro- did you know that the reason the indigenous people of South America (specifically those in higher altitudes) are shorter and slightly stockier (with larger chests and shorter appendages) Guess- 

and then read this: it's because they have evolved to develop larger lungs and require less blood flow to their shorter arms, legs, etc. Isn't that COOL??
Unfortunately for us gringos- specifically this gringa right here- with freakishly large hands, feet, long legs, and all of the above- that means that it is much harder for me to adjust to the altitude (excuses.. I know). In attempt to make these adjustments easier for the group (or so they claimed), the program decided to make some executive decisions about how we would prepare for the altitude changes ahead. Specifically the 8,000 foot climb we would be making one early morning to reach the Tatio Geysers- similar to the geysers in Yellowstone park. For starters they starved us. (lies)- but let's be real, you know I like to embellish this blog- right dad?) The night before we had to wake up in the dark, cold early morning (I am sensing a theme in my chronicles of this trip...) the program dinner included a three course meal with the amount of food suitable to satisfy for a toddler. We started with egg drop soup, then had two teeny tiny pieces of some sort of meat (pork tenderloin perhaps?) served up with some sauteed zucchini and then finished us off with some jello. The program guide warned us not to eat after dinner to prevent altitude sickness/participants from puking all over their nice little tour bus (sorry for the mental picture but obviously this part of the story was memorable for me- ain't nobody got time for a hangry Carly). So what did I do? I went and bought a double scoop ice cream cone, set my alarm and called it a night. Oh and I prayed a little that hunger should  in fact take precedent over listening to the authorities...
Aforementioned Bus
And graciously my prayers were answered- it could have had something to do with the coca leaves I stuck in my mouth (not the tastiest things in the world, taste kinda like...leaves) or maybe I just have an iron stomach, but whatever the case- I made it all the way up to the highest geysers in the world sans puking. 

Success. Unfortunately the real concern then became keeping warm..because second only to being incredibly hungry, I hate being cold more than most things in this world. Now you won't even believe this next part...
Hint- check out some of these people's expressions- and the fact that I'm still wearing my hat..
THE FAMOUS TATIO GEYSERS ARE NOT HOT. That's right. Hot springs, boiling geysers and the accumulation of magma were insufficient in their attempts to maintain a hot spring on the top of this mountain. Despite my gut instinct to avoid removing my clothes and putting on a skimpy bikini in the 20 degree weather, Adventurous (or maybe just peer pressured..) Carly decided to listen to the authorities this time and jump in. oye dios it was cold- okay actually it was just lukewarm, but it was not the hot tub temperature I was willing to strip down for. Dreams crushed. and this time there wasn't any ice cream to console me...
Alright- not that you feel sorry for me here are some of the incredibly beautiful things I saw on the remainder of the trip

So we did a lot of sightseeing, I star gazed one night and saw the milkyway! We also went mountain biking the last day and I learned how to successfully (more or less- the more being that I made it across without crashing and the less being that my bottom half was soaking wet) execute a river crossing in the trail- which were actually much larger and deeper than I had ever attempted.  

And then I ate some llama meat...

Which is cholesterol free apparently! And I'll leave you with those pics. Enjoy(:

Tata for now

No comments:

Post a Comment