I thought I could be the first exchange student to never go to the hospital for whatever reason, but that would be too good to be true! Of course, within my last three days in Chile I came down with a fever. When my host mom (and real parents) finally convinced me to go to the doctor, I found out I have tonsillitis. Talk about putting a damper on things…but I am already starting to feel better so hopefully these last few days I will be up to par. In the meantime, I decided to take the opportunity to share some travels while I am still bedridden.

About a week and a half ago, my friends and I decided on a bit of a whim to take a bus to San Pedro de Atacama. Buses tend to cost half the amount of flying, which is a great deal for broke college students.  It does come with another price though—the journey is 24 hours. Books, music, conversation, and midnight snack breaks got us through, and the trip was definitely worth it!

The Atacama desert is the driest place on earth. It also has some of the most extreme temperatures, with highs of 80 degrees F during the day and lows of 30 degrees F at night. Houses don’t have central heating in Chile, and our hostel provided us with a sheet and light comforter. I had a hard time sleeping at night even though I went to bed wearing my jacket, hat, scarf, and mittens!  During the day, all the layers come off and we even got a little color standing in the scorching sunshine. A friend gave us a great deal on tour adventures, and we made the most of our time in beautiful Atacama. Most of what we saw was surreal!

Valle de la Luna. Many people believe that NASA shot footage here instead of actually landing on the moon.

The Andes Mountain Range at sunset.

Salt Lagoons! The water is horribly cold, but there is such a high concentration of salt that you float effortlessly on the surface. Also, I thought we were surrounded by bits of algae or seaweed, but my friend informed me that they were sea monkeys!! Little shrimp-like organisms. I almost died.

Me, Whitney, and Katrina by Los Ojos de Salar. They were two fresh water springs that we jumped in to wash off the salt. Again, freezing!

My alpacheta—a rock totem left as a symbol of passing through, started by the Inca on there long journey across the desert.

We stopped in a small village to feed and pet llamas. They were so cute, and excited to see us, or just excited to eat.

Geysers of Tatio. We woke up at 4 am to arrive in the morning when the geysers are most active with the change in temperature at 4000 meters.

Llama kabobs! We felt a little guilty eating our friends, but they were so delicious!

Kissing cactuses. More prickly than they look.

Farewell San Pedro de Atacama, it was a one of the greatest pleasures of my life!

Peace and love, Sarah