The desert heat hit me immediately as I got off of the plane in Calama. Looking around, the landscapes were far different than anything I had encountered in the last few months of traveling throughout South America. Despite having a window seat, I didn’t actually get a chance to survey my surroundings from the skies. An irresponsible night out to end my 4-month stint in Peru knocked me out for the entirety of the 2.5 hour flight from Lima. I had gotten about an hour of sleep before my 6:30 AM alarm woke me up for my 9 AM flight. Yikes.
Landing in a new and foreign country lugging unsightly and seemingly heavier backpacks was made much worse by the hangover and the lack of sleep. I pushed past immigration and made it to customs where I saw everyone being forced to unpack their bags entirely. I thought of the extreme hassle it would have been to re-pack my lanky 60-Liter bag that I had rapidly stuffed all of my belongings into without rhyme or reason. Thankfully, the officer glanced quickly through my smaller bags before assuming that my big backpack was full of stinky backpacker clothes that he’d rather not sift through. Sometimes, it pays to be grimy. 99% of the time, no. But this particular time, I’ll take it.
And with that, I was home free. I hopped onto a shuttle from the airport towards San Pedro de Atacama, the promised land for travelers coming from all over the world. The drive, though long, immediately had me giddy for these next few days of adventures. The snow-capped mountains in the distance were separated from me only by miles and miles and miles and miles of desert. The hour and a half in the van could have really been used for some extra sleep, but the landscapes were too stunning.
Before I knew it, I was dropped off at my janky backpacker hostel, one of the cheapest I could find online. I checked in, got the tour of the facilities (including a “swimming pool” that wasn’t even worthy of being in a trailer park), and promptly passed out for fourteen hours. I needed every single one of those hours for the adventures to come, from the garnet sands of the endless deserts to the colorful lagunas at the foot of snow-capped peaks. And some places, well, only pictures would do them justice. I don’t have enough vocabulary in my repertoire to even begin describing some of the magnificent scenery that I encountered in this surreal region of the world.