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    South by South America Tour – Chile Part 23

    Thursday, September 12, 2019
    San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

    On the far left, the Lithium Aventura tour guide Alan points out some geologic features in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    On the far left, the Lithium Aventura tour guide Alan points out some geologic features in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    An overhanging rock in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    An overhanging rock in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    The Lithium Aventura tour guide Alan relaxes with his friend Mr. Contraption in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    The Lithium Aventura tour guide Alan relaxes with his friend Mr. Contraption in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    The praying rocks, left to right: crouched, standing and kneeling in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    The praying rocks, left to right: crouched, standing and kneeling in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    The Pac Man rock in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    The Pac Man rock in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    A beautifully eerie landscape in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    A beautifully eerie landscape in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    In the early afternoon, I walked over to the offices of Lithium Aventura and booked my first tour in the San Pedro de Atacama area. Just a short drive away from town, the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is a scenic wonderland that, according to the opinion of the tour guide, Alan, and myself, actually looks more like Mars than the moon. The driver, guide and myself, along with a dozen other tourists, piled into the van at 4:00 pm and spent around three hours exploring such visual treats as a valley of finely detailed rock carved long ago by a river, as well as bizarre-looking eroded hillsides, a craggy salt mine, natural rock formations that looked like Pac Man and saints praying, majestic and otherworldly sand “glaciers” and much more. The tour guide, Alan, by way of a pretty serious yet friendly demeanor, provided plenty of info on the geology of each spot we visited. Around 6:00 pm, we ascended up to the top of a ridge with a sharp spine, where a nice sunset ended the day in a most pleasant manner, casting lovely magenta light over the astonishing alien landscapes all around us. I can now state with firsthand experience that dwelling within the Atacama desert really is like visiting another world.

    An immense black sand dune in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    An immense black sand dune in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    On top of the sunset viewing ridge in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    On top of the sunset viewing ridge in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    Looking north off of the sunset viewing ridge in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    Looking north off of the sunset viewing ridge in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    Looking north off of the sunset viewing ridge in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    Looking north off of the sunset viewing ridge in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    Sunset in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    Sunset in the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    Looking east at the Andes mountains from the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    Looking east at the Andes mountains from the Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    “The Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is located eight miles west of San Pedro de Atacama in the Cordillera de la Sal, Atacama desert, Chile. Boasting various stone and sand formations carved by wind and water, the Valle de la Luna contains an impressive range of color and texture, looking somewhat similar to the surface of the moon. The park also presents a wide variety of caverns, diverse saline outcrops which appear like man-made sculptures, as well as dry lakes covered with a layer of white salt. When the sun sets, pink and magenta tones color distant peaks while a strong wind blows over the rocks. Valle de la Luna is a part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamencos and was declared a nature sanctuary in 1982 for its natural environment and strange lunar landscape, from which its name is derived. The Atacama desert is also considered one of the driest places on earth, as some areas have not received a single drop of rain in hundreds of years. Due to the valley’s dry and forbidding terrain, a prototype for a Mars rover was tested in the Valle de la Luna by NASA scientists.”—Wikipedia

    Words and photos ©2019 Arcane Candy.

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