San Pedro is in the midst of the Atacama Desert. This being the highest and driest desert in the world. It is also one of the most interesting exhibits of landscape that I have seen. Yesterday I found myself with a group of friends at a natural hot springs oasis. In the midst of the cracked and parched ground there is a sharp steep valley. The bottom of the valley runs freely with warm volcanic water rushing down into seven levels of rocky pools. Lush plants frame each pool and small waterfalls cascade from each, descending into the next. We stand underneath one and feel the rush of energy coarse over our bodies.
Chile is a beautiful country filled with natural wonders. Purple mountains specked with volcanoes. Desert plant life that surprises the senses. One furry cactus resembles a bear laying in the sun soaked sand for a nap. Bright yellow plants envelope a hill and looks to be straight from a scene in The Wizard of Oz. Rica rica is scattered over the ground; a plant that smells so good you want to roll around and fall asleep in it.
When plant life is absent you’ll often find miles of white salt ground. The cracked and rolling bleached sand dunes make you feel you have entered another world. You can meet with these worlds easily by visiting one of the two major observatories in the area. The Atacama boasts some of the clearest skies in the world. The Milky Way, South Cross, and shooting stars boldly shine in a black velvet sky.
At every turn this country surprises me. Within my first hour in Chile a sea bird anointed the stay upon my head. My host and I laughed as he poured water through my holy hair. In San Pedro it rained for five minutes and I danced in it. Rejoicing with my companions that we had the chance to experience a once a year rain in the driest desert.
According to my friend, a bird’s “anointing” and rain in the Atacama desert are both fortunate. Though he also says that “you are more likely to have a bird poop on your head than to experience rain in San Pedro.” I count it a laugh and a blessing to have experienced both.