These last few weeks I have been on an excursion exploring the north of Chile. While I originally planned to go with friends, I ended up going alone. I could do what I wanted alone.
I stopped at La Serena, a beautiful beach town in the fourth region of Chile. Exhausted from an overnight bus, I spent the first morning there sleeping at the beach. With new energy, and nothing to do, I signed up for a surfing class I stumbled upon. By the end of the class I could stand up on nearly every wave. It was fun because the surf instructor was a very chill guy from the south of Chile and he told me all about his life living in the south and traveling up north to surf during the summers. It was fun because the ocean was thrilling, powerful, and gorgeous. It was fun because I knew that I had tried the class only because of the spontaneous nature of traveling alone.
Another day I stopped at Elqui Valley. The valley is most known for the Pisco Distilleries and vineyards industries which create vibrantly green, small towns among the enormous semi-desert of the northern Andes. It is also famous for having been the home of Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean poet who earned a Nobel Literature Prize. I read some of her poems in my literature class. Some of them discuss a little girl’s dream, nurtured from the seclusion of Elqui Valley, to leave the valley to explore the world and reach the sea. Hiking through Elqui Valley alone, occasionally finding a small town whose way of life I did not understand, and with the inspiration of the tallest mountains I had ever seen, I could feel Gabriela Mistral’s sense of curiosity for all that existed beyond the gracefully quiet but haunting isolation of the valley.
I met up with a friend at San Pedro of Atacama . The town is mostly a tourist stop to explore the surrounding Atacama Desert. The driest desert in the world makes a spectacle coloring mountains with salts and shaping them in the strangest ways after thousands of years of dry wind erosion. I spent my birthday in the desert, sun burned and dehydrated, biking through moon valley. I floated in salt water lagoons, and swam in the warm waters heated by a nearby active volcano, and watched the explosions caused by geysers in the largest geothermal camp in the world.
Such absolutely remarkable natural Chilean landscapes to complement the lovely personalities of the Chileans I met during my time abroad. A couple weeks in the north, four months in Santiago, memories for a lifetime.