So we’ve spent about four days in San Pedro de Atacama at 8,000 feet doing some pretty amazing things in the great outdoor desert. The Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth and has 10% humidity, making it great of star gazing, as well as having nearly nothing grow. I was sort of shocked a bit when we arrived into the town as it was bustling with tourists, tour operators, travel vans, etc. We have been off the tourist path for awhile, staying in very small towns with hardly any of the tourism features that you find here. It was a good place to experience some new things and we had a pretty good time. On the down side, our hotel (if you can call it that) basically had open windows in our room – no big deal expect that it gets really cold at night and our room would be an ice box in the morning when we woke up. I guess you take the bad with the good.
We left Tilcara Argentina and drove across to San Pedro de Atacama. The pass and road are at 15,700 feet. After flying aroud in planes the last couple of years I know that above 14,000 feet I start to get headaches – but only after an hour or so. Our trip worked out well, and we were all a bit relieved when we started the descent into the valley. When we were crossing we experienced sun, wind, and snow – sort of crazy, but to be expected in these conditions. We hardly saw anyone else on the road.
We did stop at a great salt flat and took some pictures – this salt layer is huge and mined actively. We walked out a bit, but the light was very intense from the sun off the salt – more than hen you are skiing.
San Pedro- Laguna Cejar
So we decided to go to Laguna Cejar during the day to check out a lake in the middle of a salt flat and swim. What’s amazing is that there was no one else there while we were which was great. The tourist tours start at 3 PM, and we got there at Noon. When we were done the tourist vans starting showing up, so we were glad to have been done with our experience before the crowds arrived.
The Lagoon is very small, but deep in a section and you can get in the water. The water was very, very cold – Gavin turned blue – but we all went in and floated around. Since there is so much salt in the water you simply float – you can’t really swim, but you can dog paddle. We floated around for about 30 minutes, then started the process of salt drying ourselves outside. Basically your entire body gets a nice layer of salt on it – which actually hurt to wear a shirt, but we were able to walk back and rinse off a bit before heading back to our lodging and take a mini-shower.
Valley de la Luna
Yesterday we took it easy in the a.m., but spent the afternoon walking the valley de la luna (valley of the moon). We were able to drive in most of the way, then did this great hike at sunset to the top of a valley where we could see all around and experience some great sights in the desert. This area is bordered by a line of volcanoes so it makes some spectacular sights. All of the ground is compacted with salt so everything is very hard. We were able to walk through a very long cave which we used Cindy’s cell phone for it’s flashlight to get through – very fun, but I don’t like small spaces ad the light went out at a very small place that was about 3 feet high and you’re climbing through on hands and knees. Gavin quickly turned it back on and we progressed out of the tunnel.
After doing the tunnel we were able to climb up to a high point. Hayden did the entire walk with me – in high winds to the very tip. There are huge sand dunes here, merged with salt laden rock – it’s simply spectacular.