I started off the third day by trying to figure out a good morning activity. Since I hadn’t heard from my Chilean family, I was starting to get a little nervous I had done something to upset them… But I also know I overthink and read into text messages (or lack of text messages) so I just decided to go by their hostel and see what was going on. I had decided I wanted to rent bikes and ride past the ruins I had been to the day before up to the Tunnel and Quebrada del Diablo. I found Marcelito cooking in the kitchen who was excited about my biking plan. In the slower Latin American way, we got our bikes and set out on the trail!
Mountain Biking the Quebrada del Diablo
It was beautiful! Such fun and strange scenery. To make it all 100x’s better shortly into our ride the cutest dog started running with us and ended up being our companion until we got back to town 3 hours and over 20 km later!
We started by going up a road towards the “tunnel,” that a guy at my hostel had recommended. You rode on a road surrounded by these tall mounds of dirt, that we’re actually hard clay. It was one of the stranger places I’ve been. At one point the road started getting steep and we slowly made our way up until finding a good viewpoint (aka where we noticed that the road just continued going up and up). Here we stopped, took a quick break, then enjoyed our fun fast ride back down the road. Continuing up the road towards the Quebrada we had to forge a few rivers which was a funny adventure. Quebrada del Diablo was more of a single track for the bike and kind of reminded me of a slot canyon made out of dirt. Since there was so much to see we left our bikes and walked, admiring where the water had carved out holes, the veins in the walls, and the crystals on the ground. It was crazy again how hot it was in the sun, but then once you entered a shadow you were chilled within minutes.
Secret Salt Lakes Tour with Vive Atacama
We had to be back at the hostel by 3 for the tour of the Lagos escondidos, and also wanted to eat a little beforehand. While the boys and I returned the bikes, Marcelo ordered pizza for lunch… It was DELICIOUS! Argentina has its own version of pizza, lots of bread, mountains of cheese, a teaspoon of sauce. I actually like it, but I had a real pizza. Thinner crust, lots of sauce, delicious toppings… Ooh my mouth is watering again just thinking about it! Our tour was with Vive Atacama and Cyna once again. The point of the tour was to experience swimming in really really salty water because you float. The more popular option for this in San Pedro are the Lagunas Cejar, they’re only about 28 km away and are two round lakes where you can swim. The downside to them is they cost 15.000CLP just to enter the park… That’s $30US… However the Lagos Escondidos are very salty lakes as well! There are eight in total, two of which you can swim in. The drive to get there was about an hour (so quite a bit further) but the entrance was only 2.000CLP… I honestly don’t know why the others are more popular, these are 8 lakes instead of 2 and are in really cool salt flats. Also we were the only tour there, meaning we got them all to ourselves!
Floating the Lagos Escondidos
Thanks to the advice from another person who had done the tour, our small group (Chilean family, a guy and girl from Santiago, and a hilarious man from Santiago) headed out to the eighth lake right away, instead of starting at the first with the whole group. That way we even got it more to ourselves! The walk out there was crazy. So much salt, hard and sharp enough that a misstep would actually cut you. The lakes were beautiful with the mountain backdrop, again such an alien environment. When we got to the lake everyone was a little bit hesitant to get in until Marcelo ran to edge and dove in head first. All of our jaws hung open cause Cyna told us multiple times – Go in back first because the water will irritate your eyes and nose. After that we all slowly made our way (back first) into the cold salty water. The sensation of being in that water was incredible. You just float! I would put both my hands and feet out of the water and still just sit on the surface. I was also really cold so you can imagine that my muscles were super tense and heavy… Still floated! The craziest was rolling to your stomach because you realized how buoyant you really were. It felt like how a log must feel in the water, just rolling around on the top.
Pisco Sours at Sunset on the Salt Flats
After we got out, we walked slowly back to the van and enjoyed Pisco Sours made by the driver, Freddy, while watching the sunset over the mountains. Best Pisco Sour I had in Chile! Much more sour than the others one I had tried… A perfect end to the tour.
Authentic Chilean Asado
That night we had an asado! My first real, authentic, non-tour related asado! Marcelo bought sausages and a huge piece of meat, we huddled around the parilla enjoying red wine and Pisco on the rocks. After pointing out constellations I had never seen before, Javier, who is studying in gastronomy school to be a chef, cut the meat like a pro. It was a truly amazing night, I felt as though I really understood the culture and meaning behind an asado. People coming together to talk, drink, cook, and eat together.
I finally pulled myself away at midnight, we had the geyser tour the next morning at 5:00 am! But it was another wonderful evening I will never forget.
Read about the Geyser Tatio and our final day in San Pedro de Atacama here!