365, 6: day 69

Santiago, Chile

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We had a low-key morning in Atacama, breakfast at the hotel, packing up, enjoying one last outdoor shower, and wandering around town. We went to a fancy, delicious lunch at Le Estaka, where I had curry de pollo (served in a coconut on a bed of salt?!) and my first pisco sour – this one aji verde, which was soooo good and refreshing. We took a bus to Calama, which looked just like driving to Palm Springs, and we had an uneventful flight to Santiago (mostly thanks to the addictiveness of Harry Potter, all this transiting is very pleasant). We landed at around 9:30pm to bright daylight, which I was not expecting, but was magical. And even though I so enjoyed all of the amazing nature we saw, it was exciting to be back in a city. Santiago was buzzing and the location recommendation from my friend put us in a super fun neighborhood. We got settled into our Airbnb (pictured is the view from the window) and wandered around to find somewhere for dinner. We embraced the solstice vibes and got a bottle of Chilean rosé and outdoor seating. We wanted to get ice cream for dessert, but the place inexplicably closed at 10?! Which meant we had a nice, early night, in preparation of a big day of sightseeing tomorrow.

Year One
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365, 6: day 68

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

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I woke up today feeling a little over the desert, over the dust, the small towns, the eco-sightseeing, ready to be in a city, and like maybe we’d scheduled one too many days in Atacama. Part of this was due to the fact that we hadn’t really planned our time in Atacama, not knowing what we would feel like doing post-Salt Flats. I joined my husband for an ATV tour in the morning, another “group tour” that ended up being just the two of us, on one ATV. The ATV didn’t do much for me, but it was really fun and interesting to talk to our guide. The infrastructure around parks is already a big different between Bolivia and Chile – in that there really wasn’t any in Bolivia, and you could get as close as you wanted to things. We went to Lake Cejar and Laguna Piedra this morning, which had nice, clean bathrooms and hip, modern railings and contained walkways. We had a litttttle bit of a flight apocalypse, which my wonderful husband handled as he does most crises. We got “Led Zeppelin pizza” for lunch (camembert, caramelized onions, tomato sauce, and, hilariously, one piece of arugula on each slice), and I took my first sip of alcohol since our altitude sickness crisis in La Paz – I had about 1/4 a beer, which was fine. For the afternoon, we’d signed up for a tour of Valle de la Luna with TurisTour, which was recommended by our hotel but has an online reputation of being the sort of lame, big box tourist company. I was continuing to feel just eager to get onto Santiago at this point, and I didn’t have particularly high expectations (thinking: if this is the worst part of the trip, it’s been amazing and so that’s fine!). But: it was amazing. We had the best guide, who reminded me a lot of my bff’s boyfriend. He spoke the most beautiful, easy to understand Spanish (and also fantastic English), and he was hilarious and interesting and just amazing. The “tour” was actually a pretty intense hike, in the sand and heat, but we saw crazy desert sights and it was totally worth it. The tour ended with a glass of champagne (or two!), watching the sun set over the mountains. It was magical and I may have cried a few times (my second cry-at-beauty-summer-solstice of the year?!). We finished the day with a quiet night back at our hotel, accidentally having pizza again, as we sat near a loud group of Brits, with the loudest passionately arguing pro-Brexit. I got hot chocolate, which made our waitress giggle furiously (first because I ordered it incorrectly, but then also just because I wanted it in general!), which then obviously also made me giggle. It was a wonderful day, which was also a good reminder for me to just calm down and enjoy the moments.

Year One
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Year Five

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365, 6: day 67

Termas de Polques, Bolivia

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We woke up really early to get to the Sol de Mañana at sunrise, which was so other-worldly and spectacular. And then we continued onto the very-happening Termas de Polques for a dip in the hot springs and breakfast. One of our traveling companions was very upset about not spending the night at the hot springs, which is what many of the groups did, but when we got there this morning, we all agreed that our quiet, more remote evening stay was preferable. The hot springs were a scene. One guy was passing around a bottle of wine at like 9am?! I skipped going into the springs and instead wandered around the area, which was, in keeping with the theme, crazy and like another planet. We ate breakfast and went to one more lagoon (which is green in the afternoons apparently, but hadn’t yet changed when we got there mid-morning), where we picked up an abandoned Frenchman wearing a UCLA sweatshirt who had no idea what UCLA was, and continued onto the Bolivia-Chile border, where our Salt Flat adventure officially ended and we were left to continue onto Atacama. The paved road and clearly-marked road signs started as soon as we entered Chile, and the hour-ish drive to Atacama was all downhill, beginning our much-anticipated descent out of very high altitude. Everything about the transfer to Atacama was unpleasant – from the Israeli guy making out with his Peruvian girlfriend across from us the whole trip, to the seemingly endless customs process with no instructions, and finally our looong (10 minute?) walk to the hotel once we got to Atacama, dragging our bags through the dirt, in the hot sun, wearing dirty clothes. But we dropped our bags at the hotel, got Chilean money, and I bought and immediately changed into shorts (I hadn’t brought any and it was SO HOT) and new sunglasses (ugh, mine broke at the very last leg of our trip in Bolivia, the only bad part of the entire Salt Flat trip), and I suddenly felt like I had a new lease on life. We went to a hip burger truck where they were playing Stairway to Heaven and got overpriced burgers that made us feel like we were in LA (mine had rocket (!!), bleu cheese, caramelized onions, and garlic sauce. I also had my first agua con gas, now that we were at lower altitude and I was a few days off of anti-altitude sickness pills, which for some inexplicable reason made anything carbonated taste horrible. Like, we really weren’t out in the wilderness for so long, but everything in Atacama felt so extravagant and luxurious. The town was adorable, and when we finally got checked into our room/bungalow, that was also perfect and relaxing. We showered (our room has an outdoor shower!), read Harry Potter, and napped, before our evening star gazing excursion. We sat behind an American family of teenage girls who regaled me with their gossip, and then we saw the most amazing stars. The night was so clear and the stars were so bright – it felt like you could reach out and grab them. Our guide was Canadian, which I loved, and he told us so many things… it was fantastic. And the night ended with hot chocolate?! This trip keeps seeming like it can’t get better, and then it does.

Year One
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Year Five

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365, 6: day 66

Cañapa Lake, Bolivia

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Was today the most magical day of my life? There is a decent chance yes. I felt fine when I woke up, that feeling when you are finally getting over a cold, to a rooster crowing in the distance! And we looked out our window to find that we were staying on Avenida 6 de Agosto (we were also a block away from this street in La Paz), which is our wedding anniversary slash Bolivian Independence Day. I actually got my shower con auga caliente, we had breakfast, and then we were off. We spent a lot of day in the car driving, with no roads and crazy terrain, and it was today that I started to really appreciate our driver. We saw the craziest, most beautiful, insane, weird things. We saw a million flamingos, and ate lunch in yet another spectacular place, with no one else anywhere near us other than an aggressive Andean gull and a scheming vizcacha. We also saw a zorro andino (a local fox!) on our drive away from lunch, and a smoking volcano, and a crazy colored lagoon, and I had to keep reminding myself to pause from the photos and just take it all in because it was so beautiful and amazing and magical. We had an early night in, where we played Uno and bundled up to sleep at our highest elevation with no heat, although the conditions were still way more comfortable than the internet had led me to believe.

Year One
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365, 6: day 65

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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I woke up this morning feeling worlds more alive than I had the day before, but still weak and shaky, and my unsettled stomach and queasiness lasted all day. But, TG, I felt ready and a nervous excited-ness to begin our journey on the Salar de Uyuni. This is definitely the most adventurous part of our trip, with the most unknowns, and we’d both felt apprehensive about it. But Day One was smooth sailing! We met our fellow tour-ers, a lovely couple from Australia, and we somehow ended up with a not-full car, which was a great surprise. There was a lot of getting in and out, seeing crazy things along the salt flats, and I felt pretty bad the whole time. But it was spectacular, and there were some long stretches in the car (to a soundtrack of One Direction, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers??) that helped nurse me back to health. We spent the entire day in the salt flats, which were magical and seemed to go on forever. It was so hot, and I worried that I definitely didn’t pack appropriately. I also didn’t really heed sunscreen warnings and got very burnt. We ate a very good lunch (quinoa, cucumbers, meat – “not llama”, and avocado! with watermelon for dessert!) in the middle of the salt flats, with no other cars or tourists around. Our guide is great and our driver seems nice. We ended the night watching sunset over the salar and then going to a salt hotel, where we had heat, our own room, and the promise of a hot shower in the morning?! We ate delicious vegetable soup, garlic bread, potatoes, and chicken for dinner, and discussed Christmas traditions in our respective homes. I’m so relieved, encouraged, dazzled, happy, etc.

Year One
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Year Four
Year Five

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365, 6: day 64

Uyuni, Bolivia

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So, I had a really rough night. At first I thought I might have food poisoning or some insane illness, but at some point I realized that it must be a combination of alcohol + altitude. Fortunately, the vomiting stopped somewhere around 5am, but I felt maybe the worst I’ve ever felt in my life today. The good news is that we really had very little planned for the day, so I didn’t sacrifice much in the way of vacation fun. The bad news is we had to get to the airport and fly to Uyuni, where we arranged for our tour (thanks to our lovely tour guide in La Paz, this actually ended up being way less complicated than we had anticipated). I napped, drank tons of coca tea and water, and generally tried to will myself back into existence. We ventured out for pizza for dinner, which somehow seemed like the only thing I could stomach. We went to a place founded by a Bostonian, the power went out while we were waiting for our food, and they brought candles to our table, NBD, and it came back on about 10 minutes later. I finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and went to bed, hoping for a better tomorrow…

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365, 6: day 63

La Paz, Bolivia

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We started today with a walking tour – we’d meant to go on a group one, but somehow ended up scheduling a private one. Our guide was great, and I was feeling way more adjusted to the time and altitude and everything than yesterday. She took us to a salteñeria for a salteña, to Mira Flores, San Francisco Church, the Witches’ Market, the government square, and Calle Jaen. She also offered to put us in touch with a tour company for the Salt Flats. We tried to get money and to go to a museum, and both endeavors failed and we ended up back at our hotel for a troubleshooting break, before returning to the Witch Market to wander around on our own. I got some ice cream, which I’d been craving, and then we went over to another part of town for a much-anticipated dinner at Gustu. We were feeling good enough that we made the ill-fated decision to have some drinks. We started at a silly bar called Risky Business, where I got a singani (a Bolivian spirit!) with ginger ale and muddled lime (house recommendation). Then we went to Gustu, which was beautiful and delicious and amazing – we did the tasting menu, which came paired with drinks and contained so many delicious and crazy things. Next was the Casa Grande Hotel roof bar, where I ordered “un vino tinto de Bolivia con peqeñas frutas,” which resulted in a really good glass of wine. And, finally, we used the drink tickets given to us by our hotel to get a nightcap at the hotel. And I thought all was well and good, until I spent the rest of the night vomiting and thinking I was going to die…

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