What a great weekend! After a full day on Friday, I relaxed a bit on Saturday morning before heading off to some salt lagoons nearby (Los Escondidos). These had three times the amount of salt that is present in the ocean, and you tend to float like you’re swimming in the Dead Sea. The lagoons were kind of small, and full of tourists. So it was fun, but a bit too much for the introvert that I am. 😉 Afterwards, we headed for an overlook (again full of tourists) for some pisco sour and snacks, to watch the sunset behind the mountains.
At this point, I had had my fill of tourists, and was looking for ways to avoid the crowds. There was an agency in town that offered horseback riding. I had not been on a horse since college. During my semester in Australia, I had joined the horseback riding club at Melbourne University. I went on several trail rides, including one 3 day trip at the end of the semester. I had so much fun, and always wanted to return to riding – and actually learn how to ride a horse. 😉 But life intervened – the Marine Corps, then school, and then so many years had passed I put it out of my mind. San Pedro seemed like the perfect opportunity to revisit something that I had enjoyed so much.
So I signed up for a 3 hour ride on Sunday, after the gentleman at the agency promised me there would be only walking and that my guide would speak English. I was so excited!
After my tour Saturday afternoon, I was planning for a quiet evening at the hostel and an early night. But I had made some new friends from Germany! Steffen and Patrick were on the same tour with me Friday. Achim joined us later, as we were all staying in the same hostel and met each other often in the common areas/kitchen. They invited me out for drinks and dancing and to see what we might be able to get up to in San Pedro. Of course I said yes!
We had a fantastic evening. Gratuitous amounts of alcohol, much dancing and competing playlists (between my playlist and Steffen’s playlist for the best song – of which Patrick and Achim were judges) across San Pedro made for a very fun and memorable evening. Somehow, we managed to stay up until almost 4:30 in the morning. How was I going to be up and functional for my horseback riding trip?
Again, I seem to be living in an alternate universe here in Chile. I woke up in plenty of time to make my trip, and was mostly functional (other than expected fatigue from being up all night). My guide did not, it turns out, speak much English. He was very nice, and as with most other Chilenos, was absolutely happy to help me with my Spanish. Unfortunately, I could really only attempt to work on my Spanish for the first hour of the trip. After that, my brain kind of turned to mush. Fortunately, I was enjoying the quiet, the relative solitude and the beauty around me. I was perfectly content to ride my trusty steed (Pandulce, pictured below) and reflect on the beauty around me.
It was a great ride – exactly what I wanted. I finally found the place where most tourists don’t go. I got to appreciate the landscape without the crowds and got to do something a bit physical. It’s inspired me to look into horseback riding again.:)
One last thing I wanted to do in San Pedro – stargazing. Because of its desert location and proximity to the Tropic of Capricorn, San Pedro has many opportunities for stargazing. I had signed up for a tour on Friday, but cloud cover canceled the trip. All other tours were booked, and I thought I would miss out this time around.
The common areas in the hostel are a great place to find out which tours are good, or not, and what else to do. Over lunch on Sunday, one of the Americans started gushing over his stargazing tour. He said he had found this gentleman (Jorge) on TripAdvisor. He had several telescopes in his backyard and conducted the tour out of his home. It was more expensive than the other tours, but he took his time and stayed as long as people were interested. Achim emailed him, and asked if he might have room for two more on his tour that night. He did! How exciting. 🙂
Jorge spent the first 90 minutes giving us an overview of basic astronomy, his different telescopes and the differences between the sky in the northern andsouthern hemispheres. We broke for a few minutes, for snacks, hot chocolate or tea (as we preferred). Then he spent the next couple of hours moving around the various telescopes to show us different stars, nebulae, star clusters and Jupiter. It was a perfect, cloud-less night with the moon not rising (and thus impinging on our stargazing) until nearly 2 AM. I have never seen the Milky Way so clearly.
Jupiter was my favorite, naturally. We saw it so clearly, and four of its 64 moons surrounding it. My next favorite were the star clusters. It was beyond cool to see that many stars, to see all the different colors stars can be (red, yellow, blue-white and white). We had a thoroughly enjoyable night going from one telescope to another to be newly amazed. Jorge took some pictures of us, which I will attach in a separate post, once I get them.
My time in San Pedro is nearly at an end. Tomorrow I take the overnight bus back to Santiago, and then a flight to Easter Island. It is hard to believe this Chilean adventure is nearly at an end. But I think I saved the best for last. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Oh,the cat is our local hostel buddy. I have discovered that (stray or not) dogs and cats are all over Chile. They have all been ceaselessly friendly, always ready for attention and petting (and food, if you feel so inclined) . They occasionally follow for a while, but have never begged or become a bother. If another dog happens to come along (common), it’s much more fun to run off and play with a new friend. I’ve enjoyed their consistent happiness and friendliness.