“Ride like a Chilean. Like you are making love to a woman,” Yasu our guide said about our impending horse ride.
This…was our introduction to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.
Glenn’s brother Chris had flown down from Santa Cruz, California, to join us for a little adventuring. On this first morning we found ourselves standing in the shade of a small tree outside of our hotel waiting for a van to pick us up to take us, presumably, to a horse corral on the outskirts of town. Suddenly a cloppity-cloppity-cloppity sound could be heard in the distance.
It was either a bunch of Englishmen with coconut shells…or the horses were actually coming to us!?!
Soon Bernardo appeared in front of our hotel with four horses in tow, looking every bit the traditional Chilean huaso (horseman). A wide brimmed hat cocked forward, a longsleved shirt with the collar turned up, leather leggings over his lower legs, boots with the hugest spurs I have ever seen and a kind twinkle in his eye.
Most of my adult horse riding experience has been in the form of slow, bored horses that spend everyday schlepping tourists single file down the same trail and back again. That wasn’t the case with Bernardo’s horses. They were very well trained (e.g., no need to pull on the reins -they sped up when you made a kissing noise, and slowed down when you made a hushing noise like “shhhhshhhshhhh”). They often cut their own trails through the desert and loved to run like the wind across the dunes.
It was a great way to begin exploring the Atacama Desert, the driest (non-polar) desert in the world. This part of the world gets about 0.6 inches of rain a year, with some areas having never had any recorded rainfall. Ever. What a difference compared to the cold, wet and rainy weather we enjoyed while visiting Chile’s Lake District only days before.
The Atacama is a place where unique and otherworldly landscapes await visitors in every direction.
Just in our first few days we’ve explored – by horse, bike and foot – many beautiful environments with evocative names like Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) and Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range). We’ve swam in the pools of a warm river, floated in a salty lagoon and tumbled down huge sand dunes.
It’s hard to believe we are just getting started with our adventures in the Atacama Desert!
You’ll find additional pictures from the past few days below…with more to follow as we set out to explore in other directions.
(Note: Many of these pictures, especially those that include me, were taken by Chris. Any that are out of focus or cut my feet off were taken by Glenn.)