[Atacama VII] December 6, 2011: Back to Valpo

In the frosty morning, I packed up the last of my things, left my key in the door of my room, and prepared to leave San Pedro (perhaps forever). I spent a few moments basking in the desert morning light, waiting for my airport van.

There had been active roadwork in San Pedro: they dug a 5' pit in the middle of the dirt road to lay in wires, then filled it back in, all on the same day. Disculpe las molestias!

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[Atacama VI] December 5, 2011: Town and country

Today was my last full day in the Atacama. Just in time to leave, I finally started being social with some of the other people staying at my hostel. I spent a pleasant morning sitting on the patio in the sun, chatting with two Australians (whom I’d met the night before) and an American (not only from the U.S., but a real Californian).

Part of the hostel's garden. Not too shabby.

In the afternoon, I tagged along with the Californian and her Chilean acquaintance (a retired priest) on an epic quest for the Chilean food humitas, which neither of us had tried. Read More

[Atacama V] December 4, 2011: Glorious Tara

Today was my last scheduled tour, this time to Salar de Tara (Tara Salt-flat). It had also been my first choice when I was picking which tours I wanted to do, and even so, it exceeded my expectations manyfold.

The tour met me at the front door of my hostel. I seem to be methodically downsizing my tour vehicles: from Tatio Geysers’ giant bus, to Laguna Cejar’s large van, and now, a four-wheel drive, with room only for myself, the guide, and a group of three Chileans. (Following this pattern, if I had done another tour, it doubtless would have been on the back of a motorbike.) The guide asked me if I spoke Spanish, or if I’d like him to repeat his explanations in English; I told him that Spanish would be fine (and it largely was!).

After a brief stop for chewy fruit caramels, we were on our way. I started chatting with the other people on my tour, who were immensely friendly and pleasant. Our first stop was somewhere along the Jama Pass, a mountain pass between Chile and Argentina. The air was bitingly cold, which was compensated for by the sheer beauty of the place: a shallow lagoon, shaped like the continents and oceans of a miniature earth, all bloomed over with ice. Read More

Poetic Interlude (del Museo)

A translation of a poem from the wall of the Gustavo Le Paige Museum’s La Sala del Tesoro.

They are here.
They discovered this plateau
ten millennia ago
and they tamed it
as their singular
promised home.

They built villages
and cities
amidst the
fruitful oases
and the silence.

Here is where they all come from,
alive and dead,
in the projection of adobe
and of cement,
convening past and future
for the reclamation
of their soul:
the most ancient,
the most earthly.

They are here
in this
the Treasure House
of the pueblos
of Atacama…

(translated by Molly Allison-Baker)

(Translation is fun! If you have any suggestions to refine my translation, do tell, by all means.)