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The Time the Atacama Desert Took the Best of Me

My adventures in the driest desert in the world were anything but ordinary.

By Abby FeenstraPublished 6 years ago 2 min read

The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world. Yes, that’s righ, this beautiful landscape has never seen a glimpse of rain. It sits just at the top of the beautiful country of Chile. The park has a quaint town within the desert and is a couple hours away from the closest airport. The altitude is close to 12,000 feet in elevation, which is not at all what I am used to. I was fortunate enough to go on this trip with some friends from my school while we spent the whole semester in Chile.

When getting out of the airport, my breath was taken away, not only by the beauty but also the altitude. Once I got to the city of San Pedro de Atacama, I purchased the largest water bottle I could find, which was about two liters. Throughout the four days I was there, I drank ALL of it in order to help with altitude sickness.

On the first full day of this adventure, I decided to go horseback riding through the great sand dunes that are the Atacama. I registered my name and some friends at a small tourist shop to be taken on a six mile horseback ride. We were later picked up by a strange man who spoke zero English and taken to his home where the horses were kept. The man let us run free with the horses in the wind and it was almost like living in paradise.

On the second day, we biked three miles in the sand and hills to reach Valley de la Luna—meaning "Valley of the Moon"—in order to go sand boarding. We decided to take the cheaper, harder, but more fun way to the dunes, and biked the whole way with our heavy sand boards between the Starla of our backpacks. The thing about sand boards is that they are HUGE and HEAVY. Within the first 20 minutes of going to the valley, I ran straight into a car—yes a car—and it knocked me right off my bike. After this traumatizing event and 40 more minutes of biking, we made it to the dunes. These glorious mountains covered in molecule-sized crystals were more than enough to make the bike ride worth it.

They say sand boarding is just like snowboarding. Well, I would say it is pretty dang close, but I have never been snowboarding. So with that being said, I took a leap of faith and went down what would have been considered the “black line” if this was in America. It was all going well and then I caught a feeling of sheer doubt and took a bad tumble. I rolled multiple times but somehow came out okay.

After we spent the rest of the day at the dunes, we made it back in time to watch the sun set against the beautiful clay mountains, turning them purple and creating a bike ride back to our hostile that I will never forget. We made it back and were able to witness the Milky Way in its full element. After this trip, I can truly say the Atacama changed my life.

south america

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    Abby FeenstraWritten by Abby Feenstra

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