Saturday, February 28, 2015

HOME and The Atacama

Next stop?  HOME!  We got to teach a seminar in Denver with a GREAT U.S. crew over Valentine's Day weekend, and then a 2 week visit at home!  This was such a nice break in our trip!  We laugh, because while we were home on business, it was actually a vacation!  People could understand what we were saying, we got to eat crazy vegetables that we only ever see in the US, mountain bike in Sedona, hug on all the growing babies that were born just before we left last year, eat and drink with all our friends, workout with our people in our own box, and share a lot of laughs!  And, most importantly, see our T-man. 
Long layover in Mexico City...can't wait to get to the U.S.!!!

We miss our buddy, but it was good to see him still happy and we know he is well loved!

THIS crew!  Great riding in the sun and red dirt!
Above: Post ride art appreciation - interesting interpretations could be had after a couple of margaritas on this one!

The Atacama Desert 
Even the Driest Place on Earth has Water
These incredibly dry mountains see an average of less than .004 inches/.01cm of rain per year. Many times this area will go without rainfall at all for years. Some places in the Atacama Desert have not had rainfall for over 400 years. The Atacama desert runs along the coast of Chile, right next to the Pacific Ocean.  The driest place on Earth ironically exists next to the biggest body of water in the world!  Much of the desert extends up into the Andes mountains and is very high in elevation. Unlike more familiar deserts, like the Sahara desert in Africa and the Mojave in California, the Atacama is actually a pretty cold place, with average daily temperatures ranging between 0°C and 25°C (32F-77F). The annual rainfall (or lack of it) defines a desert, but that doesn't mean that it never rains in the Atacama. Every so often a warming effect over the Pacific Ocean around the equator changes the weather the world over and even places like the driest desert in the world can become doused with drenching storms (3/2015 update: this exact situation is occurring right now, see next post). Even though the Atacama gets almost no rainfall, there is water in this arid place, coming from the evaporation of the lakes that do exist (creating the current salt flats), snow in the high desert, underground sources (geysers), and fog off the Pacific Ocean. - Extreme Science

Valle de la Luna 

San Pedro de Atacama

This little handful of picturesque adobe streets in the middle of the desert is the stepping stone to the amazing landscapes around it.  From here, we accessed the country's largest salt-flats, fields of steaming geysers, viewed multiple volcanoes on it's distant edges, and a host of otherworldly rock formations and weird layer-cake landscapes.  The above artist creates his pieces through burning the paper with the heat of the ever-glaring sun reflected through the magnifying glass.

Laguna Chaxa

So much for associating pink flamingos with palm trees and the tropics!  The jagged crust of the Salar de Atacama contains an oasis home to the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, a flamingo breeding site. Three of the five known species (James, Chilean and Andean) can be spotted at this salt lake. The Chilean flamingo has a black-tipped white bill, blue legs with red knees, and salmon colored plumage.  The James flamingo is the smallest and has dark red legs and a yellow and black bill.  The Andean flamingo is the largest of the 3 and has pink plumage, yellow legs, and a yellow and black bill. -Lonely Planet guidebook

The downward curvature and lanes of lamellae (small ridges that act as a filter) of their bill is specifically adapted for the filtration of small crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and microalgae present in saline lagoons.  When they eat, they immerse their head and part of the neck and fill their bill with water that they throw out with the tongue, which is thick and has projections to retain food. They can only move their upper jaw and they usually cannot open it more than half a centimeter. - Chrystal Clear

Geysers del Tatio

Located at 4,200m (13,700ft) above sea level, these are some of the highest geysers in the world. It's also the third-largest geyser site on Earth, with over 80 active ones. After viewing them in the middle of the day, the next morning we got up at dawn to see these against the backdrop of the rising sun. It's best to see them from the first stages of dawn, then watch them change as the sun rises, until sunlight bathes them completely. They were spectacular in any light!

Our campsight outside the geyser field was a watering hole to local llamas.  The locals mark their llamas with colored ribbons, making them a festive sight as we drive everywhere and see the herds.

Trying to maintain some level of fitness on this trip, we busted out a little workout at our campsite with hill runs and kettlebell thrusters. We were discouragingly WRECKED afterwards and it took twice as long as we expected. Then we got into the van to continue our drive and saw on the GPS we had just pushed ourselves to the brink at 14,000 ft. elevation! We had no idea, and though we coughed up our lungs for days after, we were relieved at WHY we had felt so TERRIBLE!


This village is known for its architecture in liparita stone, with straw and clay roofs and with narrow streets paved in stone. The original Caspana people spoke the quechua language, thus maintaining a clear difference with those who spoke the more common Spanish language. Today, many maintain their deeply rooted Andean traditions and continue to speak their own language and do not speak Spanish.  It was really interesting to see a deeply tradition village and it's people, living as they have for hundreds of years. -San Pedro Chile

Pukará de Lasana and Laguna Inca Coya

The village of Chiu Chiu has the 12th-century fortress, Pukara de Lasana, built with an amazing construction technique into its valley walls. It was built of rock, with 110 structures built into it with narrow interior paths. The houses within it vary in size and all the houses had 2 kinds of cellars (mainly for food) built in the backyards.

Petroglyphs all along the steep canyon walls.

Mike made a beautiful dive into this lake, unfortunately bursting an eardrum on impact!
Laguna Inca Coya is a perfectly round lake in the middle of the desert, 80m deep according to Jacques Cousteau, who dove it to measure its depth.  A legend claims it was filled with the tears of the jilted lover of Inka Tupac Yupanqui.  We didn't realize it was salty until we boiled water and made coffee with it.  Needless to say it was a wasted pot, as we spewed it on first drink!
Back to Santiago for a seminar at CrossFit 1810 with Pablo and Eric O'Connor, where we are always treated so well by Ernesto.  This time he brought us fruits from his own home garden and grilled us up some chorizo and sausages!  We also visited Black Mamba CrossFit, who welcomed us to do the Open 15.2 workout!

Back in Calama, back on the road, we headed for the Argentine border.  Goodbye Chile!  You have been a great home to us for these past 5 months!

FORD - Found On Road Dead.  Van trouble again...losing power and dying at high elevation climbs.  Put gas cleaner in and changed the filter.  After a night's rest, we made it to the border without further incident, just lower power than optimal.
Burpees went down at 15,800 ft. elevation!  20 Burpees had us rolling on the ground, gasping for air!!!
Good bye Chile, hello Argentina one last time...