By local bus, it takes a full day of driving to get from Salta to San Pedro De Atacama. Hours of window watching, navigating the winding roads, trailing through the most amazing landscapes. Sweeping mountains of terracotta, green shrubs and golden tufts of grass, boulders, cactus, wild llamas and icy peaks.
Getting to the Chilean border was easy. Crossing, however, was an experience I could’ve done without. Lining up 3 times at the same desk. Fml.
Located outside the Atacama Desert, San Pedro De Atacama is a Chilean tourist town, saturated with local handicraft stalls and low lying mud brick structures and not a sealed road in sight. The Atacama desert is considered one of the driest places on earth!
Braving the desert cold and altitude, I run out of the dirt streets and along the highway. Ahhh so, oxygen deprivation is a thing and I’m running at the pace of a 60 year old with amphasimer. No one look at my Strava, it’s embarrassing.
Today, we surf the sand dunes of Atacama. Getting to the top of the dunes is a physically exhaustive exercise but completely worth it to get a quick adrenalin fix. Deep techno music plays from the cars below, creating a desert rave feel. It’s like being back at Burning Man. Hours of gnarly blow outs, sand in every orrifice and smiles wide as the Atacama Desert. So much f*cking fun!
In the afternoon, a visit to El Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is nothing short of amazing. Located 13 kms east of San Pedro de Atacama, in the Atacama desert, showcasing various stone and sand formations, carved by the elements over time. A Salvador Dali world; sideway seas of melting rock, sand and salt. It was declared a Nature Sanctuary for its unique lunar landscape, thus the name, and is renowned for its sunsets. Fun fact, a prototype for a Mars rover was tested here due to the valley’s dry and unforgiving terrains.￼
The moon sits high in the blue sky. As the sun fades behind the opposite mountain range, the hills transition. The sunset sucks the colour from the surrounding canyons and gorges, spitting pink back onto the mountains. This landscape is incredible. The only way to top this, would be to experience it in solitude. It’s not the best sunset I’ve seen…. it’s the best moon rise though and the kind of scene you’d describe as a dreamscape.