Thursday, August 20, 2009
One week ago I was in the San Pedro de Atacama desert in northern Chile with the one and only Laurel Brittan. Two extraordinary things to know: San Pedro de Atacama, and Laurel Brittan. At its very essence, my trip to Chile was an exciting, bilingual exile from the world of programmed daily ritual; a reminder that there is so much more to see when you are not seated behind a desk. To distill everything we did and everywhere we went into one simple summary is about as easy as sifting through two thousand photos for the best thirty.
In fourteen days, we went from the city of Santiago (engaging, active, albeit polluted) to the port town of Valparaiso (stunningly colorful series of hills by the beach) to the jaw-droppingly desolate Atacama desert, and finally to the Cajon del Maipo, where we stayed in an electricity-less cabin about a dozen yards from the Andes mountains.
I learned a few Chilenismos. Vacan = cool. Hueyon / hueyona = dude. Palta = avocado. Pololo / polola = boyfriend/girlfriend. Cachai? = Got it?
We met artists. Single dads. Fellow travelers. Friends of friends who introduced us to their friends. And Oscar Montecino, the rare traveling Chileno who we met in the desert and instantly became the glue that held us together. The three of us rented bicycles and hiked Incan ruins. We watched the sunset over the Valle de la Luna and the sunrise over the Geyser del Tatio. Things happen when you meet gentle strangers in beautiful places. Meaning comes from surprising sources. Best friends develop when sharing close quarters.
The desert inspires. I feel stories growing up my spine, not quite ready yet, but hopefully soon. Now that I'm back home, where we have easy access to hot water, where the beds are warm and clean, reality awaits. School. Insurance. Work. Growing up.