03.09.2014 - 03.09.2014
Since today’s tour started at 2.30pm I could spoil myself with a nice sleep-in. As a guest at Hotel Poblado Kimal you received a discount at Piedras Australes, a handicraft store selling jewelries among other things. I went over to that stores just to have a look and I would receive a free gift only by showing up that discount coupon. I actually found a nice ring that cost 21600 CLP (26 Euros) with the discount. And the free gift was a keychain in leather. After that I walked to the town park and found a narrow alley that had a small market with sellers selling souvenirs, handicraft etc. It was nice and cool since the sun could not reach in here. Most of the stuff was knick-knacks as usual but I managed to find a nice clay-vase that represented San Pedro to me. Funny though I also found spices, Rica-Rica for example, that Tote told me about yesterday. Rica-Rica is supposed to be helpful for stomach problems and I almost wanted to buy a bag… but then I started to think… what would customs say about that? And how do you even cook with Rica-Rica? I have no idea, so that’s why I didn’t buy any. I found a nice restaurant in the fringe of San Pedro where I stopped for a 3-dish lunch menu with drink and tip included for only 11000 CLP (15 Euros). So cheap!
The guided afternoon tour had pick-up at 2.30pm and I waited and waited… around 3 pm I noticed a full-sized bus pulled up in front of the hotel. A cute little chic named Angelica came to pick me up and she spoke both English and Spanish. I asked her how many people we were going to be since they had a big bus and she answered 31 persons. After picking me up, the bus stopped at one more place before start driving to Valle de La Luna (Moon Valley). Moon Valley is 13 km west of San Pedro de Atacama and a part of Cordillera de La Sal (Salt Mountain Range), which is a part of Los Flamencos National Reserve. Its nature consists of both rock and sand formations shaped by wind and water during centuries and the landscape reminds a lot of the moon surface, therefore the name Moon Valley. The area shows a wide variation of colors and structures and also dry lakes and dehydrated layers of salt. There are also a lot of caves in the area. Moon Valley is considered by many to be one of the driest places on Earth since some areas haven’t got any rainfall in over hundreds of years and due to insufficient humidity no life exists here also making it one of the most inhospitable places in the world.
Our first stop was at Tres Marias (the Three Maries). Three formations estimated being 1 million years old composed of gravel, clay, salt and gemstone and even though they looked created by man only weather and wind have had influence. The name has an obvious religious reference since it (with some imagination) looks like they are praying to God. One formation has fallen over on the side though and a fourth stone (to the left) reminds of an animal (after a whole lot of imagination). It was windy and cold and obviously not as warm as in San Pedro but the sun was just as intense.
We embarked the bus again and rode to Duns Mayor (the Great Dunes) an area affected by strong winds for thousands of years creating sand dunes in big areas. Our guide told us to bring our water bottles since we would be walking for 30 minutes now along Great Dunes Path and the chilly wind and strong sandstorms made it hard to walk and breathe and even see anything. But it was worth putting yourself through all that to experience the amazing 360°-view from the top of the hill. Great dunes on one side and a barren moon landscape on the other, all surrounded by great mountain ranges and volcanoes was so powerful to see. And seeing the natural beauty without human influence (for once) was amazing. Then it was time to walk back to the bus and continuing on to Cañon (Canyon). It’s a canyon with a cave but since we were so many people in the group the guide didn’t want us to enter the narrow cave.
There are a lot of minerals in the bedrock of Moon Valley. The high day-temperatures expands the mineral structures while the cool night-temperatures makes the mineral structures to contract and the phenomena results in cracking sounds in the rock faces. The guide gathered us at one place where the rock-faces almost enclosed us and asked us to be absolutely quiet and listen. When everyone was quiet a strange cracking sound was heard and you almost got the feeling that the mountain would crack for real.
Before leaving Moon Valley we made a quick stop in Valle de La Muerte (Death Valley). It is told that the name emerged by a Frenchman who thought the landscape was reminiscent of Mars but his bad pronunciation of the word Mars made people believe he said Muerte. Well, I’m not really sure I believe in that story but I guess I can buy it anyway. Then we had to hurry up back to the bus and go to Atacama Valley to watch the sunset. Our bus was probably the last one to arrive and most people had already taken their places and waited for the sunset to begin.
Sure you have seen the sunset hundred times or so but it was nice to see the warm orange red sheen being thrown against the sand dunes and mountains around. And the chilly wind (as it already was) changed quickly into freezing cold winds as soon as the sun silhouette had disappeared under the horizon. Damn how cold it was! A few minutes later we gathered at the bus and rode back to San Pedro de Atacama. Back in my suite at the hotel I started to pack down my things in the bags. All clothes had dried up now here in San Pedro so I didn’t have to worry about getting my clothes damaged due to damp during my journey back home.