Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Friday May 29, 2015 – San Pedro to Santiago

We could finally sleep in this morning!! We packed, ate breakfast at our accommodations, and at 9:00 our tour guide from Wednesday picked us up.  Plans were in place for us to see several geological sites (National Parks) on our way to the airport. 

First we went to the Salt Mountains.  When you first looked you thought the mountains had a light dusting of snow, but it was salt! There were also large sand dunes in this area.  After driving through the area we did some hiking. We walked to an old salt mining area. Everywhere there is salt – glistening in the sun, delicate salt crystals on the top of the surfaces and large clear crystals that you are walking on.  You think you are walking on dirt, but when our guide poured some water on the ground it revealed a huge clear salt crystal.  At the salt mine, the old buildings were built of blocks. The blocks were actually blocks of salt.  It was incredible!
Valley of the Moon

Three Marys - Left one has fallen over

Salt Crystal revealed by water
Salt Crystal up close

More Salt Crystals

A Couple Convicts behind bars

A view from the salt mine camp

More salt crystals

 At another location we hiked to several viewpoints at the top of the mountains.  I took it easy, while Cal & the guide went ahead.  I made it to the top of one point, resting as I went. I sure didn’t want to get sick again.  This is at a lower altitude than the other day, but it is still higher than Denver, Co. When you realize that Mt Pleasant is at a height of 120 meters and San Pedro is at 2400 meters, it is quite a difference.
Our hiking trail

An Amphitheater Structure

Some views from the top of the ridge

Our hiking trail

Sitting on the ridge
Our next stop was the Salt caves.  We hiked through what we call “slot canyons”, with the walls being salt, until we came to an underground area.  Thank goodness I had a flash light with me, as the guide forgot his.  We literally crawled through this cave area. I was sure hoping the path would not become tighter.  At one point there was a hole to the top surface, as light was shining down to where we were in the cave.  Very interesting!

Entrance to the Salt Cave - Slot Canyon

We then drive to two other locations – first the "Valley of the Moon" and then "Death Valley".  Each had interesting rock formations/features and is totally barren.  There are no animals, reptiles or birds in this area.  This is a very unique place on the planet. You would not want to run out of gas or have car trouble! We were told to carry water with us at all times. At night it is chilly, but when the sun shines it is immediately hot.   In the last 3 days we have seen and experienced very unusual geological features. 

Valley of the Moon Overlook

Death Valley

We returned to the main road and drove directly to the Calama airport where we boarded a flight to Santiago.  There were 8 women on this flight compared to the 4 on the flight north. 

Back at the home of our Santiago host, we relaxed and had a quick nap before preparing for the evening. 

During the past months arrangements have been made for a gal who has just finished her Medical training in Chile (this week rec’d her first paycheck as a Medical Doctor), to come to Iowa for 3 months, so she can immerse herself in English. She will be hosted by Rotarians in District 6000.  Plans were made for us to meet her tonight as she is leaving for Iowa June 4.  In fact, we not only met her, but her parents and a sister who spent last year as a foreign exchange student in New Zealand (her English was great). An Uncle (he is also a Dr) and Aunt who helped with the arrangements were also with her. They made reservations at a famous downtown Chilean BBQ restaurant, Buenos Muchachos.  It was a huge restaurant, with long rows of tables, and a large stage. Our party of 8 sat on the second level and could not directly see the stage, but TV monitors were everywhere so we could see all the action on the stage. 

It was shortly after 9:00 pm when we arrived at the restaurant.  We began our evening of dinning, with a drink called "Pisco Sour".  On our very first evening in Chile we were introduced to “Pisco Sour” - the national drink of Chile. Our meal was salads, potatoes (fried or boiled) and MEAT!  A huge heated platter of different varieties of meat is set in the middle of the table – each platter is meat for 4 persons.  It was a picture in itself! While we were having the Picso Sours the program began - putting the words to Chilean songs on the TV Monitors.  Everyone robustly joined in singing of the songs. After the food came to the table, a show of cultural dancing began on the stage.  It was somewhat the same as we had seen several nights ago, but this was larger, and on a dance floor below the stage, patrons also joined in the dancing.  It was interesting to see how the little kids were involved.  It was definitely a cultural evening. By the time we finished visiting and dining it was 11:45pm.  The party was still going strong when we left. 

Dinner with Chilean Friends

Meat, Meat and more Meat - Very Tasty

National Dance Entertainment

Medical Doctor coming to Iowa

Her Family
We hope to see this Medical Doctor while she is in Iowa.  She will be a great ambassador for Chile.  She definitely understands English, and we had no problem communicating, but in 3 months she will be more fluent and confident in her English skills.

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