From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2006
By: Cherlyn Anderson, South Carolina, Cathy Campbell, Michigan, Phyllis Isbell, Washington
We opened the shade and saw the most beautiful blue sky with a layer of pure orange and saw dark jagged peaks. All the coast of Chile was beneath us. The sun rising over the Andes was spectacular. We drove all day, white truck, blue van, red truck, green truck. We had 700 miles to go to Vallenar, halfway to our destination of Yungay. The group met briefly in Dallas and were feeling the separation from our families and were separated from each other on the long flight from Dallas to Santiago. Our team skills were unpracticed and it took three hours to eat, pack the vans, pile into our assigned vehicles, and leave Santiago.
We ate breakfast and lunch off the tailgate of one of the trucks. The close quarters and chatter in the vans helped us bond. At lunch we were asked to mix up the vans again and we were reluctant to separate so early from our new friends.
We continued on our eight-hour trek. The view reminded us so much of the California coast . We stopped at some "beach" towns where it is off season and the houses were boarded up. Two young boys were dropped off by the school bus and they walked by in their uniforms carrying their books. It was here that Koby VanBeest, a teacher from New Hampshire, went for a swim in the breakers of the bright blue Pacific Ocean.
Everything was so interesting and new that we lingered longer than we had time for. The last hours of the drive to Vallenar were in the dark. Ruta 5 is the main road and heavily traveled by trucks going slowly through the winding mountain road. Each of our vehicles had a walkie-talkie and we used them to alert the ones behind when it was safe to pass.
We celebrated when we saw the lights of Vallenar in the distance. The hotel was nice and clean. We were on 36 hours of little sleep and we still had to unpack the trucks, register and look for dinner. There was no elevator and we were on the third floor carrying tents and luggage for a two week stay in the desert. The room was large and had three single beds, a private bath with toilet paper and hot water! We got to Vallenar about 8 pm and ate dinner at 9. We had trouble finding a restaurant that had enough food for us. The first three restaurants turned us down. We found a restaurant where the owner couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating.
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