Chile – The Low Down Adventure
On the flight to Santiago, a stewardess asked me where I’m from. I had a hunch that she didn’t mean what passport I carry or where I call my permanent home – she wanted to know my ethnic origin. I replied that I was Korean and she squealed “YES, PERFECT!” She wanted to talk shop about Korean skincare brands. It was her latest obsession (and pretty much everyone who’s into skincare). Lucky for her I always travel with a ton of travel-size products and hooked her up.
Then I asked her for some advice. I asked her where is the one place I should visit in Chile. She didn’t hesitate, she didn’t need a moment to think. San Pedro Atacama. The driest place on earth. Massive deserts and salt flats, places with names that scream adventure – Valley of the Moon, Death Valley, Coyote Lookout. I didn’t hesitate. I booked a flight to Calama and was on a mission for adventure. Not sure if it’s my obsession with Mad Max Fury Road or our annual trips to the WA / OR desert, but deserts be callin’ my name. It’s like anytime I’m near one… they pull me there. Didn’t matter that I didn’t have clothing for the harsh environment. Was I worried when I arrived at the airport for the flight to Calama and noticed everyone was rockin’ extreme weather Patagonia clothing from head to toe? Sure was. This adventure was gonna be either super epic or major fail.
In the driest place on earth my lips cracked and bled within 20 minutes of arriving. I ate dirt – figuratively and literally. Got knocked to the ground by wind and pushed forward until I managed to pull myself up. The finest grains of sand covered my face, it was in my mouth, it was in my clothes, it poured out of my shoes. Who needs exfoliant when you got sand?!
AND I got to hang with flamingos!!! I saw all three different species of flamingos found in Chile! My inner flamingo-obsessed 5th-grader lost her shit. Not in the “I’m screaming at the top of my lungs and fanning myself because I’m about to pass out” kinda way. It was more like the silent scream – where your face is contorted, hand over mouth to not freak people out, and you’re basically frozen. Time stopped ticking. I was mesmerized by the silence, the 360-degree view of mountains, pretty pastels turned vibrant shades of gold that swallowed you up, the too-good-to-be-true flamingos feeding a few feet from my Reebok Freestyles. I kept whispering to myself… dreams do come true. Dreams do come true… I’M M'THR F'KIN LIVING A DREAM.
I came back with 2000+ photos and a handful of videos of flamingos. Every time I watch a video of the flamingos, I smile. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience a sunset as magical as the one that night, or if any trip will ever compare to the awesomeness of the STMT X Chile sourcing trip. The biggest adventure ever, ever.