University of Wisconsin–Madison

SPDABCVVDMSCEPD and more

So I know I haven’t written a blog post in a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing cool Chile things. I’ve done quite a bit since I left Arica a little more than two weeks ago. I’ve actually done so much that I couldn’t come up with a single title for this post, so I decided to call it SPDABCVVDMSCEPD, which stands for: San-Pedro-de-Atacama-Birthday-Celebrating-Valparaíso-Viña-del-Mar-Sandboarding-Cerro-Exploring-Project-Doing. Which is what I’ve been up to, más o menos.

First off, let me tell you about San Pedro. My friends and I took an 11 hour, overnight bus south from Arica to visit this small touristy village, super close to the border between Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. We hosteled it for three nights, and went to see some pretty crazy awesome rocks and wildlife during the day. Here are some pictures:

So that snow-looking stuff on the rocks is actually salt…
So that snow-looking stuff on the rocks is actually salt…
Posing in the salty mountains of Valle de la Luna
Posing in the salty mountains of Valle de la Luna
Great homemade hostel food, straight from the pot for minimal dish-washing
Great homemade hostel food, straight from the pot for minimal dish-washing

Our first night, we went to see “Valle de la Luna,” where we were able to watch the sunset and the moonrise at almost exactly the same time:

Moon Rise
Moon Rise
Sunset
Sunset

For the other two days, we went on tours of the surrounding nature reserves, national and regional parks, etc.:

Chilean Salt Flats
Chilean Salt Flats
Flamingos!
Flamingos!
Beautiful road-side rest-stops
Beautiful road-side rest-stops
Enjoying some of Chile’s highest lagoons
Enjoying some of Chile’s highest lagoons
Failed jumping photo on the top of a mountain
Failed jumping photo on the top of a mountain
Went on a run down the road and found a park with Pre-Incan ruins, which we eagerly explored
Went on a run down the road and found a park with Pre-Incan ruins, which we eagerly explored
These ruins belonged to the Atacameña people (or “people of the Atacama region”) before the influence of the Incas and later the Spaniards
These ruins belonged to the Atacameña people (or “people of the Atacama region”) before the influence of the Incas and later the Spaniards
View of the Río San Pedro from the top of the hill with the ruins
View of the Río San Pedro from the top of the hill with the ruins

On the last day, we woke up early at 4:30 am to go see the Geysers of Tatio up in the mountains. They are most active in the very early morning, and as an added bonus, we got to see the sunrise through the geyser mist.

Geysers a little after sunrise
Geysers a little after sunrise
Fun rocks and more mist
Fun rocks and more mist

So that was San Pedro de Atacama. Definitely one of the better weekend trips I’ve taken. On Tuesday, which just happened to be my birthday, we flew from the airport in Calama (about an hour out from San Pedro) to Santiago, where I took a bus to Valparaíso and then took the metro to Viña del Mar, which is where I’ll now be living for the month of May with a new host family. My friend and I stopped in Santiago to explore a little bit, and to have lunch with my host brother from my Arican family, who goes to school in Santiago. After our delicious lunch of fresh fish and salads, my bro gave me a “birthday bread” to celebrate the occasion:

Birthday bread from my host brother
Birthday bread from my host brother

After lunch, it was time to get back on the bus to come to Valparaíso. During the month of May, each student in my program gets to choose any city in Chile to live and carry out their own research project on a subject of their choice. I chose to live in Viña del Mar, which is just a little north of Valparaíso (or Valpo for short). The city of Valpo is known for its rich culture: the colorful houses are built up on hills that overlook the ocean, and many of the buildings have beautiful murals painted by various people from all over the world. In Viña, I will be studying the services that are available here for children with disabilities. So while I don’t actually have to go to class at all, I will be shadowing and surveying various professionals and parents in the region. Here’s just a glimpse of the awesome city of Valparaíso:

Valparaíso is a port city built up onto a hill, and along the entire metro ride between Valpo and Viña (where I live), you can see the ocean
Valparaíso is a port city built up onto a hill, and along the entire metro ride between Valpo and Viña (where I live), you can see the ocean
Coffee shop murals of “The Little Prince,” one of my favorite books
Coffee shop murals of “The Little Prince,” one of my favorite books
View from the “ascensores” – aka little boxes you can take to get up the really steep hills
View from the “ascensores” – aka little boxes you can take to get up the really steep hills
Exploring in the hills
Exploring in the hills

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without pictures from my latest adventure: sandboarding in the sand dunes of Concón yesterday (which I can still feel in my ultra-sore neck muscles due to various face plants):

Sandboarding down into the clouds
Sandboarding down into the clouds
Celebrating the fact that we all made it out in one piece
Celebrating the fact that we all made it out in one piece

So there you have it, the complete SPDABCVVDMSCEPD and a little bit more. It’s been an awesome past two weeks, and it’s crazy to think that I only have about two or three left!