My week started off with a late arrival on Sunday. Monday had me wandering around the town, seeing what there was to offer and just getting a general feel of the area. It was dry and dusty – of course! But there was a certain feel to the town. A feeling, to me, that something was going to happen here but I just wasn’t sure what. Monday ended with me sitting on my terrace of my two floor, apartment-style hostel (I really do love hostels!), watching the milky way and a million stars. I had no idea just how spectacular it was to see the milky way!!
The square of San Pedro
The volcanoes of the Andes
Tuesday I had booked the morning tour with Tours 4 Tips – again cannot say enough about this company! If anyone is in Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Santiago or San Pedro – book the walking tours with these guys! Absolutely phenomenal!! Anyway – it turns out I was the only one scheduled for the tour so I had the pleasure of a private tour with a lovely guide by the name of Pauline, a French girl who fell in love with an Atacamen boy and stayed in San Pedro. She was full of knowledge and so much energy – I had such a lovely time – and what was supposed to be a two hour tour was almost a three hour tour because we talked about so many other things. She deserved even more of a tip than I gave her!
My awesome private tour guide Pauline
A very salty tree that grows in the desert
Tuesday night a big windstorm happened, and it continued all day on Wednesday. I am not a fan of blowing sand in my eyes, so the day was spent doing very little. I managed to go out and get some fruit and vegetables at the monthly market that Pauline told me about – it was awesome! Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – was sold there. Even a kitchen sink!!! I spent about two hours browsing the market, sitting in the town square, getting some lunch, then headed back. I had booked the Valle de la Luna tour for that night but it was cancelled because of the wind. I re-booked for Friday afternoon.
Licancabur Volcano in the distance
Thursday- I headed out to Pukara de Quitor, an area just outside of San Pedro. I walked, and it took about an hour to walk there. A local man said – oh just cross the river and walk for about 20 minutes – turns out you actually have to cross a river! Good thing I was wearing my boots – my feet didn’t get wet at all traipsing through the river! On to Pukara de Quitor – I had been told it was a hill you could climb and have a lovely view of San Pedro. No one told me it was an actual visitor’s site that cost money – good thing I almost had enough – the lovely lady at the desk let me pay the student’s fee. Gracias! So, I headed to the “hill” – it was more than a hill but not quite a mountain. I met a lovely mother and daughter and we ended up going up together. I conquered a big fear that day – I normally do not climb anything that has no railing to grab on to in case I feel I need to – well there was no railing and I managed to get up to the second rest stop (almost to the top). A HUGE feat for me. I was very proud of myself, and was also amazed at the view at this point. Walked back down and headed back to town. I was so proud of myself, that I took myself out to the best burger place in town – and it truly was the best burger. Thursday, at that point, was the most amazing day of my entire trip. Until….
Friday happened. I woke up to a beautiful blue sky, no wind, the temperature was just right. A perfect setting for my Valle de la Luna tour at 4pm. I arrived, backpack ready with water, sunscreen and my coat for the cooler temperatures near the end of the tour. With the group, we loaded on to the van to head out to the Valley. I had asked if I needed to be in really good shape, was this difficult, etc., and I was assured that it was not that difficult. Well, turns out, it was more difficult, both physically and mentally, for me than I had imagined it would be. The beginning was easy, a nice easy sandy slope towards this hill. As we got up a bit higher, I noticed that the people ahead of me were turning left, and some were stopping, gasping and looking up. This did not bode well for my fear of heights! As I got to that point – I stood there in complete shock. This was not just a hill. This was rock and sand, climbing up the side of the hill, about 200 metres (this is what Klaus, the guide, told us after). I was petrified and frozen in the spot. I looked up and just said No. Klaus was encouraging me, saying I could do it, he would help me. I just kept shaking my head and saying no. I was so completely afraid, I didn’t know what to do. But then I saw a couple about my age, maybe a bit older, going ahead and doing it and I thought I can do this too. I just don’t look down. Well, I got about half-way up – and couldn’t go any further. I was frozen. And on the verge of tears. I was absolutely petrified. And Klaus – my hero – told me to just wait and he would help me. So there I was, on the side of a “hill”, waiting for someone to drag me up there. He came back, talked to me, told me it was okay to cry, told me to take deep breaths, and that I could do it. After several minutes (felt like hours), he finally got me on the right track, I put my foot and leg where he wanted me to, grabbed his arm and had complete faith in him that he was going to get me up – and I did it. I made it up to the top. The other members of the group were cheering me on, and congratulating me. I just felt like crying and would not stand up LOL. After that, there were two other hills but nothing like that. I was shaking the whole time, but I DID IT!!! I was so proud of myself, and proved to myself that no matter the obstacle, I can do it, with lots of encouragement and Klaus holding me up haha. I made such a huge breakthrough that day – I have many fears and now I know that I just need to take deep breaths, tell myself I can do it – and just do it. At the end of the tour, we went to the lookout to watch the sunset over the valley, and I said a little thank you to the universe/God/my spirits/my guardians. Truly the best day of my time in Chile.
The entrance to Valle de la Luna
The three sisters
The view from the “hill” – I made it!
My hero, Klaus, and I standing at the top of the hill!
The amazing sunset in the Valley
Saturday, it was my last day. I did a final walking tour in the afternoon, enjoyed some lunch in the square and headed to the bus station for an overnight bus ride to Arica.
After the Saturday tour, the group – three Canadians and two Australians!
The square – one last time
San Pedro was amazing – I will never forget what this town, and this entire trip, has shown me about myself. My strength, my attitude and my life – so many ways I have changed and all for the good. I LOVE CHILE!!