Death Valley, Moon Valley, Lagoons, salt flats and the red rocks. So many fascinating places to see, so many wonders of the desert yet to discover.
Valle de la Luna – Moon Valley. My first trip into the desert and outside of San Pedro. It was my second day in the desert when I decided to walk around in San Pedro for a bit, not even sure what I was about to do with my day. Too many offers, too many stunning places, too much room for decision. Luckily, San Pedro was small enough to coincidently run into a Brazilian girl I met the night before. She had already planned to visit the Moon Valley and I quickly joined her. We started off visiting the three statues of Mary – three statues made of salt and sand in the desert you could only interpret as women with a lot of imagination. Then we went on to the sand dunes which were bigger than I expected. It took us an hour to climb onto the top as it was also not that easy to move forward with our feet getting stuck in the sand all the time. But we made our way to the top anyways, where we had an amazing, endlessly seeming view over the whole desert. We couldn’t stay there much longer, a little sandstorm nearly blew us away. So we quickly left for the caves o the desert. There it was so dark we had to use our flashlights the find our way. The walls of this over thousand-year-old cave was covered in salt. Fascinated we even tried to taste if it really was salt or not every time. The last place of our tour was a gorge where we waited for the sunset. Standing on the sides, seeing the sun slowly sinking down at the horizon. The sky turning first yellow, then orange, then red. The sun getting smaller and smaller until it disappeared like behind the mountains. A beautiful end of a beautiful day.
Valle de los Muertos – Death Valley and my favourite part of the desert. That day I decided to discover the desert on my own. So I just grabbed a bike and started to drive to the Valley. When I entered I was immediately struck by this lonely but beautiful place. So quiet and peaceful, no noises to be heard. Not even the wind was hushing around the dunes. Everything was still and silent. There was no one except me. No other people, no animals, not even insects or plants. Nothing. Red sad, stones and salt surrounding me. The sun burning, no clouds in the sky. Just a single path leading uphill. So I went on with my bike to follow it. The Valley had a viewpoint up on a hill I had to climb at the end – and it was worth all the way. On top I had an amazing view all over the Valley and beyond. I could even see San Pedro seeming even smaller from above and the mountains at the horizon. A breath-taking scenery. Everything seemed so small from up there – a cheesy phrase, but true. When you see what nature has to offer, what amazing wonders our world can built you just forget everything else for a while. There’s something so much bigger than all these small worries one might have. An experience like that can shift your priorities in life. If you stay there long enough it won’t leave you unaffected.
Up there I met one of the most amazing people of my whole trip. I sat down on a bench just gazing over the Valley and a girl sat down next to me. We started talking and I immediately noticed a German accent in her voice. She indeed was from Germany, but studyed in Santiago. We became friends right away, walking downhill together and talking the whole time. Sometimes you just have this special connection with a person – and she definitely was one of them. We even met up another time in San Pedro the next day, to discover the city together.
Salt flats and red rocks – my last tour in the desert. And the most intense one. We had to get up quite early in the morning to see the sunrise at the salt flats. When we arrived the sun wasn’t up already so it was still freezing cold. But the sky was already turning pink and blue. Flamingos standing in the water, the lagoon layaing in front of us. Behind us the salt flats. A fascinating place. They even built a path for us to go through the salt flats, because the crystals were too sharp to walk over. Right there, looking over the beautiful scenery we had a litte breakfast. There were two Brazilians taking this tour as well with whom I got along great. They were also travelling together so we soon started talking about travelling and all the experiences we had yet to make. Afterwards our group went on driving uphill to the mountains. The landscape changed, soon we were standing in front of another lagoon. The red rocks. Rocks so bright red and water so turquoise blue I couldn’t even believe it was real. A perfect mixture of colors, another spectacular miracle of nature. It was a bit muddy so you could easily sink into the ground. We all ended up with our feet and jeans coverd in mudd. Then we moved on to the next destination. The landscape surrounding us changed, suddenly we weren’t in such a dry part of the desert anymore. Suddenly there was grass growing in the desert and we even spotted a group of vicugnas. Behind them a mountain with its top covered in snow. Snow. In the middle of the desert. I was amazed how that was even possible. I was even about to see more snow when we went on to our destination in the mountains – two big lakes. Christal blue water, surrounded by snow and a bit of grass. A beautiful combination. After a long lunch we went all the way back, also crossing the tropic of Capricorn. The most southern latitude where the sun can be seen directly above your head. Going back it was getting dark and cold quickly. As soon as the sun disappeared behind the dunes the cold was coming immediately. However, the most beautiful part of the desert at night is the clearness of the sky. Unpolluted by light or traffic emissions. Another peek to go visit the Atacama to see for yourself – if there haven’t been enough already.