San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (Feb 16-19)   Leave a comment

The Road to San Pedro de Atacama

The road from Salta starts up a winding mountain valley. We are flanked by large green mountains as we climb in altitude. Continuing on we come to the colorful mountains of Purmamarca, remembering the previous day´s hike. Along this stretch of road many of the large mountains, which are made of clay, show large vertical crevasses eroded by years of wind and rain.

Higher we climb and the mountains change to gigantic rolling hills of green grass. Llamas stand grazing at each turn. The large cacti that covered the low desert change to small shrubs as the altitude climbs and temperatures drop. The mountains have now become more jagged and rocky, taking on a dark brown color. Farther down the road splits the middle of a large, shallow reflective lake stretching for miles in each direction. It is impossible to tell where the earth ends and sky begins.

As we approach the Chilean-Argentine border we are met with a tall peak with snow that looks like sifted powdered sugar. Continuing into Chile we climb into
the high desert where the only plant life is small patches of grass. The dark red sand surrounds us. One peak we drive over is covered with snow showing the diversity of the region´s beauty. Onward to San Pedro de Atacama.

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Valley de la Luna

San Pedro de Atacama Chile

 

This afternoon we rented bikes in San Pedro de Atacama and headed out for Valley de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). It is so named because it resembles the surface of the Moon. I doubt the Moon looks anything like this valley, but it is certainly other worldly.  After a 15km ride we see mountains jutting up in every direction and tall sand dunes climbing up to meet sharp cliffs. The entire region is a dark reddish-orange with dark grey dunes all covered with a white salt giving you the impression of a snowy winter.

A few kilometers into the valley we come to a point where we are able to lock up our bikes and head out on foot. The trail leads us up a winding path to the
top of a small mountain range giving us a view of the surrounding area. Walking along we see one of the regions largest dunes surrounded by a large cliff on one side and multiple smaller jagged peaks everywhere else.

Continuing on we find a giant cliff and a few tourists taking photographs. Even farther we come to Las tres Marias. This small formation of three(?) stone pillars is one of the tourist draws of the valley. It should not be. After taking a picture (after all, we came all that way) we headed back towards San Pedro. The 8km out of the park and 15km back to town were enough to do me and Magan in. As we were leaving we looked back
to see rain falling in the distance. This is supposed to be the driest desert in the world, but apparently not this region, as it seems to rain every evening.

Tomorrow we head out on a 3 day excursion across Bolivia to Salar de Uyuni where we will see colorful lagunas, geysers, flamingos (comer?) and of course the large Bolivian salt flat.

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