Thursday July 4: Valley of the Moon
A Slow Start
Overall, we got good sleep last night. There was a radiator in the room, but there was no way to adjust it. This is probably a good thing. Before we went to bed, I thought that it might be on the cool side, and the heat wasn't turning on, but it was a good temperature for sleeping, and it remained the same temperature all night long.
We had a sheet and two blankets. At first I thought that two blankets might be too much, but when I tried one I was getting a bit cool, so I used two, and that was just about perfect.
Amy and Sam slept fine. (Not surprising, since they didn't sleep well on the bus.) I think we went to bed around 9 or 9:30.
I woke up at 12:30 with my nostrils closing. I took an antihistamine, but I sort of fought with breathing for about an hour before my nose settled down and I fell back asleep. I'm hoping that it was because I didn't take my long lasting antihistamine yesterday morning, because of all the to-do with the bus.
We were meeting our guide at 9, so we sort of slept in. We set the alarm for 7:30, but we didn't get out until about 8:15. Even though the breakfast in theory went on until 10 or so (and started at 7), we got there rather too late. A lot of the food was out.
One strange thing here is that they seem to always put sweetener in orange juice (and juices in general). They also seem to be fond of putting in artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, not only does this make the beverage too sweet (which is an odd thing for me to say, because generally I like sweet), but it also gives it an odd chemical taste. It was like this for breakfast. At lunch I got some high-end orange juice, figuring that it would be just orange juice, but it also had the artificial sweetener in it.
We met our team at 9. There was the same driver as yesterday, and our guide Andrea. He is from Italy. So our three guides in Chile were from France, Ukraine, and Italy. Our driver, however, is Chilean.
We drove a short distance to the Valley of the Moon. This somewhat fanciful name is because there is no vegetation there. We drove to the far end of the road, walked around a bit, then drove back stopping periodically. The best part was a somewhat longer "hike" that we did. I think it was about right in terms of length and elevation gain for Amy, although Sam and I found it on the trivial side.
We went up to the top of a ridge line, where one side dropped off somewhat steeply. Sam and I went further down the ridge, but I was finding that it was triggering my fear of heights, so after a while I took some pictures and returned. Sam went further down the trail to where he said it flattened out and perhaps widened, and then he returned.
I went a short way with the guide along the other side of the ridge. Here, the trail ran below a low "rock wall", so I didn't find it as nerve inducing.
The upside of going in the morning is that there were fewer people there, but the angle of the sun was not so good for pictures. In the afternoon and closer to sunset, I think the scenery would be much better. But it would also be more crowded then.
There was a picture spot there where a picture was taken that made the cover of National Geographic, but it must have been taken close to sunset. At the time of day that we were there, the picture was pretty bad.
After that, we went to the nearby Valley of Mars or Valley of Death (Valle de Muerte). We didn't go down into the valley, but rather we stopped at the rim and just looked down into it.
Finally we went to some other nearby spot and sort of saw the same thing we saw at the beginning, but from the opposite side.
We got back to San Pedro around 1pm. I'm wondering if the short day was designed to give Amy a more gradual experience with adjusting to the altitude.
We got cleaned up slightly, then went to a place our guide recommended and had some Empanadas for lunch. They were pretty good and not very expensive. The smoothie Amy got cost more than an empanada. There were three groups (including ourselves) in the rather small eatery, and interestingly all of use seemed to be American.
One thing I like about this trip is that I know enough Spanish to make some sense out of signs and things like the menus. If we were in Poland or Germany, for example, it would all be so much gibberish to me. To be fair, there was a large amount on the menu that I couldn't translate, but overall I had a good idea of what the various things were.
After lunch, we found a store that sold sun glasses and got a new pair for Sam to replace the ones that had broken. They were a bit more expensive than the previous pair, but I think they are also a bit higher quality.
It was by then 2pm, and we saw some of the shops closing for siesta. We wandered back to the hotel. Amy was taking her time, so Sam and I went on ahead, but when we got to the hotel, they were in the process of cleaning our room. So we just sat on a bench by the courtyard (in the shade) until they finished. I got my laptop, went back out to the bench, and started typing this up. A few moments later Amy came in. She is sitting at a nearby table going over things on her phone.
They warn us that it starts out really cold, but so far that hasn't been my experience. At least at 9, I came out with my light down jacket on, and that pretty much came off and stayed off. Somewhere in the valley of the moon, my heavy fleece came off, and I just had on a pair of tee-shirts. Even that felt too hot in the sun, although it was perfect for the shade.
Tomorrow we start at 8:30. It will be a longer day, about 10 hours.
Amy decided to take a nap, and I was feeling a bit sleepy as well, although I'm not sure why. So I just laid down on my bed and rested. Next thing I knew, I was sort of half awake, and 30-45 minutes had gone by.
I didn't want to sleep any longer (even though the thought was tempting), as I thought it might interfere with my sleep at night. So I got up. I walked around to see if there might be a good location I could find nearby to look at stars, but I didn't find any.
I was also thinking of going to that place where we had the empanadas for lunch and getting a coffee and pastry, but they were closed. So I just walked around for a bit and got back around 5 or 5:15. I took a shower so that I wouldn't have to tomorrow morning.
We had made plans to meet up with Marta at 6 to have dinner together again, but her tour got back late. We waited until 6:30, and then left to find dinner. Apparently she showed up at 6:45.
As we passed the church, there was someone singing there. It didn't sound like a Mass. I thought that perhaps it was some other sort of service.
We went to where we had dinner with Marta and then a block or two further. We found a place that served llama, so we decided to eat there. Sam got a beer. She liked it, but when I tasted it I made a really horrible face. I definitely do not like the taste of beer.
Amy and I ended up ordering the same thing, llama por la pobre, and a mango juice. Apparently "por la pobre" (for the poor) is served with rice, french fries, and two fried eggs.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the juice was actually just juice, and didn't have evil sweeteners added. The only potential wrinkle was that the guy taking our order said that they didn't take credit cards and only accepted cash. I did a quick estimate of our bill, checked how much cash I had, and decided that we would have enough. I was still a little nervous throughout the meal that I screwed something up, and that at the end we wouldn't be able to cover it.
The llama was very good. It was tender and tasty. We had joked before hand that it probably tasted like chicken or beef. Rather, I would say that it more closely resembled lamb.
Amy and I got french fries with our meal, and the server asked if I wanted catsup, to which I answered yes. A while later he came back with a large spoon full of catsup. It was interesting as it tasted a bit different from the catsup back home.
We were eating in essentially an open courtyard. They had a fire going in the other half, but we weren't too close to it. Still, by the end of our meal, it was getting a bit on the chilly side. I decided that I was very glad I wore my down jacket rather than the vest.
After the meal, our first stop was back to Cruz Verde, to hit up the ATM. I felt a lot better with a bunch of emergency cash with me. While we were there, we picked up some sun goop. I think that I must have put some on at the eclipse place, put it down to wash my hands, and then walked off and left it. I had a backup tube, but when I was using it this morning, it was really thick and hard to get out of the tube.
We wandered back towards our hotel, along the now familiar route through the town square past the old church. Amy sat on a bench to rest for a bit, and I wandered over to the church. Something was going on inside, and when I looked more closely, it seemed that they were halfway through a Mass. So I went back and gave Amy the key to the room, and then I joined the end of the Mass. One good thing about the Catholic Mass is that the form is the same around the world, so I could follow along with the basic plan of the Mass. It was easier here than in Chamonix, as I knew a smattering of Spanish (as opposed to no French), so I could pick up every 20th word or so.
After Mass, I returned to the hotel room. Amy told me that Marta had been there, had left a note (which is why I knew that we had missed her by 15 minutes), and had left my jacket at reception. I was glad that she had, because I don't know how we would have hooked up later. So I got my jacket, came in to the room, and I'm typing this up.
Things are very different here than at home. Doors are mostly left open, and there is a lot more eating outside or in a courtyard. In a sense, there is less difference between inside and outside. I guess you can get away with that when it rarely rains, has no bugs, and the temperature is mostly moderate.
I'm also amazed at how many dogs are wandering the streets. These are presumably owned dogs, not feral ones. They are for the most part very well behaved and fairly quiet.