In the Atacama desert of Northern Chile, the driest non-polar region on Earth, there is nothing but barren hills, canyons, and tourists. And this inhospitable place has me facing off with my fiance, to see which one of us is the bigger dork.
Our first day, we had to make sure we were protected from the sun, so we bought so-called gringo hats – wide-brimmed cloth hats to shield our necks and faces. I bought one with a loud floral pattern. Dork points, +1. Aaron got a khaki-colored hat with the town name and a llama embroidered on it. Dork points, +4. I had to pull ahead quick.
Fortunately, I was wearing a hot pink tank top (+0.5) and hiking pants (+0.5). But Aaron was wearing socks with sandals (+3) and he’d taken the brain off his backpack and wore it like a fanny pack (+2). By siesta hour of day one, it was Ada, 2, Aaron, 9.
We rented bikes and I rolled up my pants so they were floods (+1) and I haven’t shaved my legs since Ecuador, worth at least 2 dork points, giving me a slight boost to 5. (The following day, though, I couldn’t take it anymore, and finally shaved.)
Our dork points stayed about the same on the next day when we went to see geysers and took a dip in the hot springs. But that night was my chance. We took an astronomy tour at an observatory, and I became the obnoxious know-it-all student who answers all the questions asked by the tour guide. Dork points +3.
I was just behind Aaron at 8 dork points to his 9. We both wore helmets over our floppy hats when we took a bike ride through the Valley of the Moon, a lunar desert canyon. I lamented, “Aaron, how will I ever be dorkier than you?”
He said, “Don’t worry. Just be yourself.”