Valle de la Luna, the light side of the Moon – Day 476
“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". OK, we weren’t on the moon, but in terms of landscape, we were at the next best thing: Valle de la Luna, the light side of the Moon
Just 13km from San Pedro de Atacama, the view becomes more desolate. Sweeping pristine sand dunes between weird shaped rock formations have been generously sprinkled with bright white salt. This might not sound like the moon; however, there was a flat, parched area with small craters, crevices and hummocks that reminded me of our natural satellite that orbits us daily.
We were at Valle de la Luna, part of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range) in the Los Flamencos National Reserve, otherwise known as the Moon Valley. This area is surrounded by the snow-capped Andes on one side and Domeyko Mountains on the other side, where we had visited the Rainbow Mountains. What a fabulous 360-degree view with a fabulous clear deep blue sky contrasting against the rusty red rocks and pure white salt.
This area, many, many moons ago, used to be covered in lush vegetation. The creation of the Andes put a stop to that. The vast mountain range became a barrier, preventing rain from getting to this area, and together with the winds and low humidity, this moon-like scape was formed, making it one of the most barren places on earth.
I walked slowly and quite breathlessly due to the heat, dryness with just 7% humidity and high altitude and chatted to Rex (same name as my dear ol’ Dad). An engaging, fun and gentle man, living in Cardiff, Rex has just retired from the IT Industry and enjoying a well-earned break. We had such a lovely chat about mindfulness and travel as well as admiring the scenery surrounding us.
Meanwhile, Tim was chatting with four students from America who are staying in the same place as us. Two of them, David and Jessica, want to get onto “Amazing Race” an American reality TV show where eleven couples race around the world. David was filmed making an excellent impression of walking on the moon. I think this may be included in their application.
We moved to another area where there were large figures of salt and clay jutting out from the flat earth. Three formations called "Las Tres Marias" are supposed to represent three praying ladies. The middle one, yes, we could make out a praying figure, the right one was of a lady kneeling, but the left one, well, you’d have to have a very vivid imagination or have been taking too much coca leaves to see any resemblance. Perhaps the weather has withered her down. The shape to the left of them was of a Dinosaur head. That was very clear.
Our third short stop was to see the Anfiteatro. This broad line of rock used to be a typically large, pointy hill, but due to an earth movement, half of it crashed exposing thin wavy lines of different strata which were created over time, similar to the rings of an ancient tree…but much older.
The time was ticking on, we needed to hop onto the bus to reach a car park joining the other happy crowds of tourists and travellers. It was nearly time for the sun to set. Tim and I planted ourselves down with a perfect position to see the big star of the show slowing descend behind the horizon. OK, I know it really isn’t moving, but it’s far more lyrical that saying that Planet Earth was rotating around.
We waited in anticipation. It was a clear day, a couple of wisps of cloud had appeared. Would we get a stunner of a sunset?
Er…no, not really. I think we left too early. Sometimes once the sun has metaphorically set, it is often after that the magical colours appear in the sky, but we needed to get back onto the bus. However, the Licancabur Volcano, watching this daily show for millions of years, did turn its tip a gorgeous delicate pink for us.
Back to San Pedro de Atacama for a lovely meal with Rex, chatting more about travels and hearing that we aren’t the only ones who have had travel traumas! He had a classic one.
He was leaving Buenos Aires to catch a flight. He left the Airbnb with no wifi and the Uber didn’t turn up in the right place. After 30 minutes waiting, he caught a taxi to the airport, was informed he was at the wrong terminal, walked half a mile to terminal 2, told to return to terminal 1 to then discover that he was at the wrong Airport. A nice lady tried to get a refund for him to no avail, so booked him on to a different flight. Eventually reaching the correct airport, he found out that his original flight was delayed by 3 hours so could have got on it!
There you go, we’re not the only #GrownupTravellers that do boo-boos!