So as you might remember, my parents came to visit. In addition to being really great to see them and awesome/weird to share a bit of Maria Elena and my experience here with them, it was also a super great excuse to travel. So I decided for their first weekend here we would see the jewel of the Atacama desert, a place I had already been and really enjoyed: San Pedro de Atacama (SPdA). Fortunately, it was a long weekend so we got bonus time in SPdA.
We all enjoyed the town very much. We explored the church, did some shopping, and might have eaten at the same restaurant three days in a row. We even got the same dessert three times, because Adobe’s Tres Leches Cake is to die for and I fully believe it is meant to be eaten every day. With all that eating, some relaxing was definitely necessary. Fortunately, our hotel had a hammock and a nice view of the volcano that was definitely enjoyed with a glass of vino or two.
Our days were also filled with tours and activities to keep us all plenty busy. The first day we did a full-day tour out to explore the Salar de Atacama: the salt flat with its red rocks, volcanos, high altitude lagoons, vicuña, and flamingos. The landscape is so spectacular it’s a little unreal (but not in the post-apocalyptic kind of unreal that surrounds Maria Elena).
The next day we got up super early to view the geothermal activity at the high altitude El Tatio geyser and I am happy to report that none of us suffered from altitude sickness. We wrapped up our SPdA experience by taking advantage of the clear night skies with a star-viewing tour. We got to learn about dying galaxies and even see the rings of Saturn!! The Atacama Desert has some of the clearest night skies in the world and is home to some giant telescopes and astronomical research institutions, such as ALMA.
The following weekend found us in Iquique, which I had NOT been to yet but I am so happy I finally went. It was easily my favorite city in northern Chile. It’s pretty, it’s clean, and has miles of actually usable beach on the coastline. There are plenty of museums, restaurants, and activities to keep you busy and satisfied. In Iquique I introduced my parents to Chilean sushi, which involves more cream cheese than you would expect (but is actually quite tasty).
We also went to the Corbeta Esmeralda, which was sunk during the Battle of Iquique of the War of the Pacific against Bolivia and Peru. The battle was fought on my favorite day, May 21. It is my birthday, and every city and town has a street and a square named 21 of May, so I feel like I am constantly celebrated. Although the Chileans technically lost that day, the death of Chilean hero Arturo Prat inspired thousands to join the army and really turned the tide in the war (which Chile obviously ended up winning).
It was so good to be travelling around again, and I cannot wait to go to Iquique again (which is looking like it should be next week, since November 1 and 2 are holidays here). And stay tuned for the continuation of the parents’ visit saga, because it looks like they might be coming back to check out Patagonia with me in a few weeks.