Drink water. Put on Chapstick. Repeat. This was my ritual every couple of minutes while in San Pedro de Atacama. It lived up to its reputation as the world’s driest desert when Mark and I visited at the beginning of May. Going from the bottom of Chile’s cold Patagonia to the very north of the country’s hot desert was a relief at first, but I soon tried to hide from the heat.

The hammock outside the lobby became my new friend for a week at Hostal Millantu, just outside of town, where I swung back and forth in the shade and looked out at the majestic Volcano Licancabur. Scattered across the horizon I could actually see plenty more volcanoes from my hammock.

A siesta of our own at our hostel in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

With volcanos on one side of town, the other side featured Valle de la Luna, aka Moon Valley, which was one of the sites that finally moved me out of the hammock. In Moon Valley, Mark and I toured through a long maze of salt caves and walked next to an enormous, out-of-place sand dune. The moon-scaped valley was the most stunning as we looked over it from a cliff at sunset. Other than this one tour, I mostly hung around the hostel.

Some of our hostel mates from Columbia were competing in a multi-day endurance bike race in town. So I felt pretty lazy, swinging in a hammock whenever they left in the morning, and usually in the hammock again when they returned at night from their hard workout. So in order to not look like a total slob, I agreed with Mark to rent mountain bikes for one day and ride through one of the nearby valleys.

We made a friend while out riding mountain bikes outside San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

It was refreshing to have physical outdoor activity that wasn’t hiking, my usual go-to. It also didn’t hurt that we rode through a beautiful red-cliffed valley with some narrow slot canyons, along with a cute old church tucked away in the middle of nowhere. As we rode we realized we were on the same trail as the bike racers that day. So one of our hostel mates happened to see us in passing! Mission accomplished. See, I don’t just lay in a hammock all day…

Proud of my biking for the day, we returned to meet up with some of our other hostel mates, Giuseppe and Nina from Italy, who agreed to give us a lesson on Italian cooking. I won’t share all the secrets they told us, but I will say some of their tips were to never break dry spaghetti and that there is no need to stir risotto while cooking. I know, shocking! I’m forever grateful for them teaching us the proper Italian ways.

A cooking lesson from our Italian friends at our hostel in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Giuseppe and Nina also had a fun project as part of their Leaving the Old Way, they are gifting 100 puzzle pieces to people they meet on the road. On one side of the puzzle piece is part of a picture that will be revealed once they give out all their pieces. On the other side is a piece of advice or a deep thought provided by their friends or family members back in Italy.

All the puzzle pieces were in a bag, so I drew mine first and Mark drew his next. Both pieces of advice we pulled out were insightful particularly Mark’s, since it talked about making sure to not forget yourself and to find your missing pieces.

We then realized that out of all the puzzle pieces, mine was actually a matching piece to Mark’s! What were the odds? There was definitely some magic from the Atacama, (or the Italians), that night.

About The Author

Britnee traveled around the world with her husband on a shoestring budget for a year. A few of her favorite destinations include Scotland's Isle of Skye, Chile's Torres del Paine, Bolivia's Salt Flats and Nepal's Annapurna Circuit.

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