Calama, Chile The Most Beautiful Place I’ve Ever Been

There is no oxygen in La Paz.

Call me crazy, but I’m obsessed with the stuff. I can’t get enough of it. And at 3500 meters above sea level, in the highest capital city in the world, I’m simply not able to get my fix.

Trivia: La Paz is not technically the capital of Bolivia, but after winning a civil war over the matter, it’s pretty much earned the title.

La Paz is like a methadone clinic for oxygen addicts. After a few days, I could get by on a lot less, but the hankering never quite goes away.

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The city was founded by the Spanish inside a massive volcanic crater to serve as a rest stop on the trail from Lima to Rio. The unusual layout puts the outlying neighborhoods on the steep crater walls, climbing all the way up to the rim on every side.

We arrived with a tight schedule to keep. We needed to continue south to the remote desert town of Uyuni so we could visit the salt flats, then make it back to La Paz within three days for our flight to Argentina.

The plan was blown out of the water on the first morning when we found out the 15 hour bus ride had been stretched by the rainy season into an 18 hour ride. A further update put this time at a barely fathomable 24 hours each way.

Hiring a driver wouldn’t have saved us much time and would have cost a lot. There are no functioning airstrips anywhere near Uyuni, so flying was out of the question. The bus ride sounded so bad, I wasn’t sure we could stand even the first half of the journey – nevermind that we’d have to hop on the same bus back a few hours later.

There is a train to Uyuni, but with Argentinian students on holiday, it was booked solid.

We pondered our options and decided the salt flats would be worth the extra time it would take us to get there. We cut Argentina from our itinerary, cancelled the necessary flights, and booked the next available train. By skipping Argentina, we realized we’d be very close to the border of our next destination, Chile, and decided to make our own way there once we reached Uyuni.

With everything settled, we were left with a day and a half to kick around La Paz.

We went to the massive street market.

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It takes up about 30 square blocks of the city and sells everything your average La Pazian needs. It is in many ways the opposite of Wal-Mart; rather than one company selling everything for ridiculously low prices by bleeding their suppliers dry, you’ve got a million people selling everything for ridiculously low prices because of fierce, shoulder-to-shoulder competition.

I prefer the latter.

We visited the much-ballyhooed La Paz witchcraft market. There didn’t seem to be much to ballyhoo about unless you get excited about mummified llama fetuses and inflated toads with bulging red eyeballs.

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…my expectations were higher.

All the major cities we’ve visited have had what seems to be a single major backpacker hostel. The advantage of staying in such places is their tendency to serve key backpacker needs such as internet access and laundry at very reasonable prices. The disadvantage is their tolerance for horrible guitar-playing.

…If I could just take a minute here to address the male backpacker demographic: please, don’t bring your guitar. It’s not going to get you laid. It’s not going to help you meet people. It’s just going to annoy them. No one wants to hear your rendition of "Redemption Song." And speaking on behalf of the flight attendants, they’re tired of having to cram your pawn shop treasure into the gutter between 1st class and coach.

Moving on. In La Paz, the hostel of choice is called Hotel El Solario. Many of the people staying at Hotel El Solario were either about to go on or had just come back from a mountain biking trip down “The World’s Most Dangerous Road.” “The World’s Most Dangerous Road” is a stretch of pavement leading down out of the Andes and into the sea-level Amazon basin at a length of only 64 kilometers. It used to be a somewhat-hazardous but not altogether noteworthy road until someone declared it to be “The World’s Most Dangerous Road.” Now hundreds of people have to ride mountain bikes down it every day…myself and female companion not among them.

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The way most people get around the city is on microbuses – similar to the matatus in parts of Africa. They follow general routes which are modified on the fly depending on the destination of each passenger. The upcoming neighborhoods are advertised to passing pedestrians by young men who stick their heads out the side and yell really loud. Everything they say sounds like complete gibberish.

We walked to the upscale part of town and had a fancy steak dinner.

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Each plate cost a whopping 6 bucks. We were the only two customers in the restaurant. The owner was both the cook and the waiter’s mother.

Despite the fabulousness of the meal, it still forced the little man who lives inside my body to pull the big red lever down below. Melissa too. Our big red levers are pulled often. The only food we discovered in Bolivia that’s guaranteed not to cause any lever-pulling is something we call the miracle burger.

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Miracle burgers are cooked on the side of the road in little wooden shacks. They take about 30 seconds to grill and come served with lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and heaps of delicious spices. Miracle burgers cost about $0.19. For another $0.13, you can have fries pressed under the bun. Miracle burgers are delicious.

We ate a lot of miracle burgers in Bolivia.

Here’s me doing what I do most of the time. Feel free to notice the tan and weight loss.

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Up at dawn, taxi to the bus station for our 3 hour bus ride to Uluru so we can catch the 12 hour train to Uyuni. Bolivia’s commitment to their growing tourism business is made very clear by the presence of Kevlar-armored “tourist police.”

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On the bus to Uluru, a man stood in the aisle shouting to all the passengers. With our rusty Spanish, we eventually determined that he was informing them about recent events in local politics. It was a live presentation of the nightly news.

He was carrying a briefcase, which we asked him to show to us. Inside were four soft cover, easy-to-read textbooks for sale. One taught English; one taught about the geography, politics, and economics of Bolivia; one was full of quotes from historical figures like Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King; and one taught how to use Microsoft Office. This is a program that was started a few years ago by the Bolivian government to improve the minds of its populace and make them more able to compete for high-paying jobs on an international level.

An impoverished, third world government endeavoring to better the lives of its citizens. How about that for a change?…How about that?

The train to Uyuni was not as stimulating.

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Not much to say about Uyuni. Here are some dogs.

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Husky

We went to bed, woke up the next morning, and caught a 4WD truck out to see the Salar de Uyuni. First they took us here.

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And then this happened.

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…let me back up a bit.

They took us to a small village on the outskirts of the salt flats. The village used to exist solely to process the salt from the flats into bricks for shipping. Now it’s where the tourists eat lunch.

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The bricks are all over the place. They make chairs out of them, tables, and most of the knick-knacks for sale. You can buy a salt shaker made out of salt.

With our tummies full of flavorless noodles and llama, we left the dirt road and started into the 9000 square kilometers of the largest salt flats in the world.

In this part of the year, the rainy season leaves several inches of perfectly still water on the ground, which reflects the full expanse of the sky as a single, continuous sheet of glass.

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The truck cuts through it like a ship at sea. Before long, the window views were not enough and the intrepid among us crawled onto the roof, completing the nautical illusion.

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I don’t believe I have ever, in my life, felt less like I was on planet earth.

The dark speck on the horizon soon grew to become The Salt Hotel; an unlikely outpost built entirely out of you-know-what. The Salt Hotel is in the process of being closed down after it was discovered how badly the human presence was damaging the surrounding environment. Now it’s just a short stop with no opportunity for eating or bathroom breaks.

I took some pretty pictures of my girlfriend.

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…and yes, I danced.

It’s a cliche to say the pictures don’t do a place justice. I’ve certainly had my share of that feeling. For once I can say they capture a spot perfectly. They might even improve on it a little bit, as these don’t hurt my feet as much to look at.

The salt forms in an endless stretch of rock-hard hexagons. Every once in a while you’ll spot a hole in the ground that you can put a hand or foot through. Just enough light gets in to show that the salt flat doesn’t go down very deep, and beneath it is several feet of liquid. Within the hole, the warm surface water turns frigid cold. We found a particularly large one and I lowered Melissa down into it until she started screaming.

Very cold.

We’d planned to move on from Uyuni by train to the Chilean border, but upon investigation, a faster and more interesting alternative was made clear. We booked to go by 4WD to the south through the Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. It was a 12 hour drive, but it saved us a day and took us through some extremely remote territory – about as high into the Andes as anyone can go without an ice pick or a propeller.

We shared the vehicle with a guy from Belgium named David and his mother. The mother only spoke Belch, but her son spoke English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian. He’d also spent four years touring the world by himself on a bicycle, living on $5 a day. He was also an unbearable asshole.

What is it about the Belch? I’ve never met one I can stand talking to for more than a minute. They’re conversation assassins. It must be a cultural thing; when one of us was speaking and he decided he wanted to talk, he’d just started talking. If we tried to ignore the interruption and continue, he’d just talk louder until he’d drowned out the competition. And then when he finished talking, he’d just start over again from the beginning. It was always some piece of wisdom he was dispensing, and he’d dispense each piece about three or four times before moving onto the next one.

Melissa and I both wanted to strangle David. His poor mother, oblivious to anything that wasn’t in Belch, just sat there shivering in the cold.

The driver, Victor, decided he hated my guts when I asked him to turn down his Godawful Bolivian pop music tape. From that point on, he spoke only to David. It was all in Spanish, but we understood a fair bit of it. Much of the conversation centered around how little patience he has for obnoxious, demanding tourists.

We left in the early evening, drove for a few hours, and stopped for the night at the Four Seasons Bolivia.

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We woke up at quarter to four the next morning and hit the road. Shortly after dawn, we reached an altitude of over 5000 meters. That’s twice as high as Quito, where we first got hit by the lack of oxygen. It’s less than a thousand meters shy of the summit of Kilimanjaro, where I vomited my guts out and nearly got rushed down the mountain with altitude sickness.

How else can I put this?…it’s very very high up. But the views were great.

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We passed a strange rock formation that I recognized from photographs as the rock tree. I asked Victor to stop. He groaned at my insolence and gave me one minute to go look at it.

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At a pee break, I took this picture of the truck. I didn’t realize when I was taking it that the Belch guy’s mum was doing her business directly behind the rear bumper, and could be seen bare-assed in the image.

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I don’t really feel too bad about that.

We stopped at some hot springs. I am no longer excited by hot springs. The novelty isn’t very novel. You don’t really get anything out of a hot spring that you can’t get out of a bath tub, except it’s freezing cold when you get in and out and you have to listen to a bunch of Germans who think it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to them.

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There was a green lake that’s green because of some green algae that grows on it, and a red lake that’s red because of some red algae that grows on it. Big deal…I guess I was just sick of listening to the Belch guy. He kept telling us we were seeing the most beautiful scenery in the world. He assumed that as Americans, we’d never been out of our backyards and were too ignorant to appreciate the wonderment. I wasn’t going to bother telling him differently, but I’ll tell you:

Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa is a nice place. It’s stark and pretty. But if you die without seeing it, your life wasn’t necessarily a complete waste of time.

We stopped near the border to wait for a bus that would take us across to Chile. David thanked the driver for driving us, hugged him passionately, and waxed rhapsodic to us about how Victor was the greatest driver he’d ever ridden with and should be racing professionally in the rally cross circuit.

I think he may have been overstating things somewhat.

We shared our slice of barren wasteland with a tour group that was making its way through all of South America on a massive overland loop from Quito to Caracas. It was a mix of Kiwis, Australians, Canadians, and Brits, with not an American among them.

What is it with us, folks? All over the world, these kids are finishing school and taking off to see the world. It’s a standard rite of passage. And I get emails literally every day from people asking me how I do it.

I didn’t invent world travel. I’m not even particularly good at it. There are lots and lots of people out there. It’s just that very few of them are American.

We talked to an Australian girl for a while who was finishing up South America and then heading on to Oman. I have an unabashed fondness for Australians — especially as travelers. They’ve got a sensibility that makes them really good at it. They’re tough, they don’t complain, and they can manage to laugh about pretty much any situation, no matter how bleak or miserable.

She drilled us on our traveling plans and kept asking questions until we finally broke and, for the first time on our trip, told a stranger about the dancing video.

"So, someone is paying you to travel around the world and dance wherever you want?"
"…pretty much, yeah."
"You must be a good dancer."
"Actually, I’m really really bad at it."

We hopped on a bus with the tour group. There’s Melissa in back looking incredibly miniature.

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We stopped at a funnly little intersection in the desert where the driver told me we could turn left for Uruguay and Argentina, or right for Chile.

We turned right and the bus took us down 2500 meters out of the Andes. It could be the world’s most dangerous road, except no one has bothered to name it "The World’s Most Dangerous Road." We passed by car after car stalled on the side while trying to go up in the other direction. The steepness of the incline, combined with the dryness, the desert heat, and the decreased oxygen, make it very very easy for engines to break down. The ones who weren’t stalled were all going at speeds under 5 miles an hour.

The bus dropped us in the boom town of San Pedro de Atacama. Over the last decade, it’s become the tourist hub of northern Chile. Problem is: there isn’t really anything to see or do in northern Chile.

Still, the cultural differences with Bolivia were immediately obvious. For one thing, lunch went from costing $.62 to costing $30. Even more jolting, many of the other tourists were actual Chileans. Chileans take vacations and travel. Chileans have disposable income.

This I did not know in advance. But the explanation is fairly simple: Chileans and Argentinians are basically displaced Europeans, bringing with them all the associated advantages. The northern countries, by comparison, are a more indigenous mix.

We booked to see the Tatio geysers; billed as the highest-altitude geysers in the world — which is sort of like being the hairiest left-handed person in the world, or the albino with the best sense of smell.

The van picked us up at 4am.

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It wasn’t worth getting up for.

Afterwards, they kept us enthralled with a trip to a traditional village where the locals served up empanadas and meat on a stick.

And to top it all off, more bathing in hot springs.

We got back in the afternoon. The only other nearby attraction that seemed remotely worthwhile was the Valle de la Luna; a barren landscape that someone cleverly likened to the moon in an attempt to make it seem more interesting.

It’s 17 kilometers from San Pedro. We could have easily seen it at sunset with everyone else, but I thought it’d be fun to ride bikes out there on our own.

I will never again opt to ride bikes at high altitude in the world’s driest desert on a hot afternoon.

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…that was a bad idea.

We made about a fifth of the way there and nearly died. Our only salvation was an inexplicably-positioned bus stop at the corner of Nothing st. and Nowhere ave.

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We hid under it for a good half hour, until our water ran out. At that point, survival dictated getting back on our bikes and sweating our way into town, exhausted and defeated.

My ideas aren’t always all that great.

In the evening, we caught a Salon Cama bus to Calama. Salon Cama, we learned, is the absolute summit of luxury in a country that relies heavily on its buses. We were given pillows. Our seats reclined into beds. Curtains could be drawn over the windows. There was a TV playing movies. Fancy headphones descended from the ceiling. There was a bathroom, watercooler, you name it. It was the most comfortable bus trip I’ve ever taken. I could’ve ridden it for days.

Calama marks the end of our plan-as-you-go overland odyssey from Cuzco, Peru. Tomorrow morning we fly to Santiago, and in the evening I continue on by myself to Easter Island so I can dance with some giant stone heads.

43 Responses to Calama, Chile The Most Beautiful Place I’ve Ever Been

  1. Kandra

    Hey Matt,
    love to read your blurbs… thought i would let ya know, your pics aren’t workin though. From numbers 1090 to 1167. Look forward to reading more in the future!

  2. Matt – Discovered you via YouTube.com video clip of your dancing travels and tracked down your blog. When I saw your pictures of the Salt Flats they dropped my jaw! I thought that the images had to be “photoshopped” at first! I’ve got you blogrolled now so I’ll be checking back frequently. Thanks for the great entries.

  3. Seamus

    Matt,

    I found your site while browsing ‘Internet Phenonmenon’s’ on Wikipedia. I too hail from Connecticut and you’re spontaneous adventure is a dream that I wish I could live. The fact that you were ‘poor’ makes me feel more like I could pick up and go if I wanted… Thanks for the cool site.

  4. Ok Matt – “Where the hell are you”? :)I keep checking back but can’t find any new posts. You don’t actually expect me to go out and get my OWN life, when I so enjoy living vicariously through yours?

  5. An Admirer...

    I don’t know who the hell you are, let alone where the hell you are, but I wanted to say that your blog certainly was worth the half hour I spent reading about your travels and seeing the wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing. (I just stumbled across while randomly surfing.)

  6. Rich

    Those photos of the salt flats are absolutely incredible. I was with James in that I thought for sure they were “Photoshopped”.

    It’s been a bit since I’ve read any new stuff. What fun that you have 3 entries! :)

    On to some more. Man I love your writing!

  7. I’m still processing those salt flats pictures. I don’t actually have words at the moment, but thank you for posting those.

    Also, thanks, as usual, for the laughs!

  8. George

    Matt, You are doing great. Love your writng and dancing!
    In a question you wondered why US Americans don’t explore more. The opiate of the people is now TV and computers.
    Earlier in my life I spent many years as a beach bum in Hawaii, each day of which was far more exciting and rewarding than my many years of work will ever be. The friends were also much to be cherished.
    Thanks for the insghts, George

  9. Matt, sorry for my bad english. I´m from Chile and the other day, the local tv shows your history..it´s a dream..flying around the world telling the people that you are making a better world just dancing..it´s amazing..i read in your blog about the easter island and it´s true is very expensive travel to there..please visit my blog…

    http://www.525criticas.blogspot.com

    peace.. you are dream inspires me…

  10. pegail

    I really dont think to see a place like that on earth. It’s very pretty, I want to go there !
    Thank you Matt for showing us this place, and for doing this wonderfull video.

    Live from Paris, France ^^

  11. Matt, your pictures and movies are impressive. It makes me remember one of my trips ! I sure agree that Bolivia is the most beautiful country I have ever seen.

  12. Tricia

    Matt,

    Thanks for the memories–I’m glad someone else felt that Tatio wasn’t worth getting up that early for! That being said, I spent a year living in Chile–I wish you’d had time to see the rest of it, which IS worth it.

    Tricia (Arlington, TX)

  13. Fernando Zamorano

    hombre , que daria yo por hacer lo que tu estas haciendo recorrer el mundo por mostra eso… lo tuyo ..

    saludos desde chile.

    fernando

    eres lo mejor.

  14. Franco Schiappacasse

    Realmente increible, pero recomiendo muchos lugares mas de Chile que son conocidos mundialmente, como las Torres del Paine o el desierto de Atacama.

    Espero tu proximo video

    Santiago, Chile

  15. Jen Chao

    Matt- You are so Fresh! I’m totally in agreement with you that Americans should travel more. I’ve had some great travels of my own… the hard part is standing still now! TRAVEL ON my friend!

  16. Austin J.

    so i discovered your site 5 days ago and have read many blogs and posts, and have watched both dancing videos numerous times. they’re inspiring, but you already know that. This post, along with the antarctica one are my favorites. the panoramas are so breathtaking. well anyway, you’re doing a good thing with all of this. Keep dancing man, keep dancing.

  17. yas

    Oh, but I do have to make a point in defense of Tatio:
    Watching my breakfast being cooked – boiled eggs, hot milk, the works – IN one of the (less-athletic) geysirs – was certainly worth getting up for!

  18. Deborah P.

    Matt. Love your stuff man. I haven’t checked in with you in a while but I recently saw that you made it to Bolivia and Peru. I have been to Bolivia many times, even married there. In reading your journal entry I have one correction I would like to make for you. “The Most Dangerous Road In The World” is not paved. I have traveled on it twice, once down it, once up it. In a car then a microbus. I can tell you now that it is in fact the most dangerous road in the world. I was scared to death most of the time. Specially when we hugged the outside of the curves. SO SCARY! We got stopped for about an hour on the drive down it due to a small avalanche that they had to clear before anyone could get by, and then it was one by one. Those drivers are the crazies people in the world too. No fear at all. 98% of the time the road is only passable by one car and they have to back up or move aside for oncoming traffic. There is a small water fall the falls over the road, so you drive behind it. That area is so scary because of the water erosion.

    I have so much to say about Bolivia and Peru and Lake Titicaca. I loved it there.

    Anyway….I will read and enjoy the rest of your journal entries soon. I just wanted to tell you first hand that it is indeed a terrifying road. Many crosses and plaques along the way to indicate the deaths. I lost count after a while.

    Keep dancing and sharing with us.

  19. Fran

    you have to visit the south of Chile, is amazing so beautiful, good luck with your travel, greetings from Chile,

  20. Cecilia

    Hi matt!!! where the hell are you now? loved your experience in Bolivia… but i gotta tell you that you missed all the fun there!!! of course you’ve seen beautiful places! but there’s a lot of things to see…

  21. Matt…now you got me second thinking the bike ride at high altitude…I have the plane ride over from Santiago to San Pedro to think it over…great blog, keep on trekking…Wally

  22. from a belch to a yank

    is it an american thing to generalise a country by meeting one of their inhabitants? i must say it doesn’t suit someone who travels the world to spout comments like that.
    i’ve traveled a lot myself and have never felt the need to characterise a whole nation based on one person.
    also i think if you publish a well-sponsored blog that is widely read you should be aware of a certain responsibility.

    an offended belgian.

  23. Kristin

    Hey Matt
    i love your project it seems like so much fun
    but just a little piece fyi I learned in history class this year about the moai.
    so the native people on easter island were using up their resources really quickly, so none of their farms were flourishing and since they are so isolated they didnt have any way to get things they needed fast.
    They made the moai to recieve mana from their ancestors.
    The people thought that the Mana, (which is a generalized or supernatural force or power) given from their ancestors would bring them better lands etc. The moai were built bigger and bigger as the people needed more mana from their ancestors.

    cant wait for your next video to come out!

  24. Inti

    Hey Matt, congratulations!! I am so proud you liked my country Bolivia. Next time I´ll try to dance with you, maybe in “the devil´s tooth” or in the moon valley.
    Hey, from the title of this entry it seems like it is calama, chile the most beautiful place you´ve ever been, and not Bolivia. That mistake is politically incorrect!. Regards

  25. Benjamin Horcos

    man i really appreciate what you are doing. Dancing around the world could sound like a crezy idea, but it’s not. it’s a form to unite the world, their culture, the people.
    If you come back to Chile i recommend you to come back in September 18, our independence day. there are massive BBQs with dance and drink. or you can come to the Torres del Paine, i have seen lots of americans going to there, it is just amazing. Come and dance in Punta Arenas, please.

    Benjamin Horcos, a proud chilean

  26. Derek B

    Matt,

    Everything you do is amazing. Someday I could only hope to visit 1/10th of all the places you have visited in my life. I have to admit the one place I would really love to visit is Salar de Uyuni. The video/pictures you have posted from the salt flats are amazing. And I think it would be awesome to buy a salt shaker made out of salt.
    By the way when I go to La Paz I’ll remember not to feed the Llamas chocolate milk. I do not want to take part in any Llamapedes.

    Thanks for your all stories
    Derek

    P.S. like everyone else says all your work is an inspiration.

  27. Juan

    Calama Chile man??? You meant La Paz Bolivia, or el Salar is the most beautiful place… not Calama…. common dude, that has to be a mistake. If it’s a mistake you should Fix it… :)

    If it’s not you are dang crazy

  28. Víctor Garrido

    Bueno lo que haces Matt
    is increable¡¡¡
    bueno en Chile hay artos lugares como La Catedral de Chillán, Las Torres del Paine, Valparaiso, El Desierto de Atacama, El desierto florido, Santiago, Iquique, Chillán entre varias zonas y ciudades mas……..
    aa muestrate el próximo baile en Chillán, o en cualquier lugar de Chile si puedes

    CONGRATULATION¡¡¡¡

  29. Lorena Ojeda

    Matt,
    I’m glad you liked our bus rides in Chile, the salon camas are very good way to travel, though many chileans can’t afford those type of buses and pay cheaper ones. I also would like to comment that San Pedro de Atacama does have what to do, you just need to feel the good vibes of the small town. And I do found it offensive to read in your blog that the stone heads were phony… anyways, I’m glad to passed through Chile and I wanted to tell you that your videos had been very inspirational to me and other people. Wished you had enjoyed mucho more of my country, Maybe in a next trip you will. Take care

  30. Andres

    Hello Matt, great job…

    however you make a HUGE MISTAKE in your post… is NOT Calama/Chile IS Potosí/Bolivia!… the Salar the Uyuni, the South of Potosi, Laguna Colorada, etc. are in Bolivia… in fact, all the pictures that you show are in Bolivia?, what happened man?, didn’t you read your map??

    anyway, great job!

  31. Muy interesante, pero me da la impresion que confunde Bolivia con Calama….

    y al decir que no hay nada que ver en San Pedro de Atacama, creo que se equivoca…
    En nuestro pais, encuentras desde el desierto a la nieve, y bosques muy bonitos, te recomiendo:
    Valparaiso (cerro alegre), Chiloe, torres del paine, isla robinson crusoe, bueno la isla de pascua es muy importante por las estatuas Moais, dioses pascuenses.
    para la proxima vez ojala veas todos estos bellos lugares y por supuesto sigas bailando.
    saludos!!

  32. Susana MacLean

    Matt,
    My parents were from Bolivia and I’ve been there a number of times. A couple of comments on your post: First, the road to Las Yungas IS the most dangerous road in the world. It has the highest number of fatalities per kilometer on the planet. The NY Times had a full article on it. One of those fatalities was a first cousin of mine. So please don’t be cheeky about it. It’s a freakishly dangerous road. And no, it’s NOT paved. I heard the rules have changed and now vehicles can only go on the road one way, and the one way direction alternates day to day. This has resulted in fewer deaths.

    Second, you and your girlfriend missed a HUGE culinary opportunity in Bolivia if you never ate salte~nas. They are delicious, spicy, meat-, chicken-, or vegetable-filled pastries found ONLY in Bolivia and they are outstanding. The rest of Bolivian cuisine is mediocre at best, but salte~nas are so fantastic that my sister and I each placed special orders at a Bolivian restaurant in Queens, NY to make salte~nas for our respective wedding receptions. If you ever return to Bolivia, you MUST try a salte~na. There are Bolivian restaurants in Queens and in Washington, D.C., but I don’t know of any in other parts of the U.S.

    Thanks for your videos. I love them, and I try to count how many places I’ve been to in the videos, but I’ll never catch up to you. Good news is my two kids (ages 7 and 9) have caught the travel bug and are begging us to take them to China and Egypt and Peru, so maybe we’ll make videos of THEM dancing.

    Cheers,
    Susana MacLean

  33. josefa

    maatt !! sorry for my english im from chile, i didnt know you came to chile !!! im honoured but i think you should come to valparaiso its a beautiful city and you will definetly have lots of people to dance with if you come :)
    ps: i love your crazy dancing !!!

  34. Alex Quinn

    I’ve always wanted to go to Easter Island! Looks like a great experience there. I went to South America about two years ago and it was the most amazing trip I have taken. Patagonia glaciers , penguins, mountains, and interacting with the locals were all part of what made this trip magical.

  35. I’m researching for a trip next year with my 2 kids aged 8 and 10 and trying to work out how to have fun while avoiding altitude sickness and the extreme cold, but still get to all these amazing places. Sounds like a challenge, maybe even unsuitable. I got to the Peruvian side of Lake Titcaca about 15 years ago and ran out of money so I’m determined to reach Bolivia this time … somehow.
    You are a funny guy – loved your blog. What’s with the dancing? Don’t get me wrong, I like dancing too.

  36. Riding through the water with a 4×4 vehicle? That’s the first photo of its kind that I saw about that area.
    Gosh, I’d love to take a mountain bike trip across that desert!

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