We drove 15 minutes into the park past some seriously freaky and barren landscape before first stopping at some ancient eerie looking rock formations surrounded by sand. Around the time we got off the bus the wind started absolutely howling so it was pretty interesting taking photos of each other whilst trying not to be blown over, oh and as well laughing at people chasing their hats in the wind.
We jumped back on the bus and stopped again at the bottom of a sand dune pushed up against a cliff. Here we got to walk up and around this huge dune and across the top of a ridge that had the most amazing lookout over more lunar landscape and the huge Chilean Salt flats in the background. Basically trying to describe what the views were like here and how amazing these places are is well beyond the stretch of my vocabulary, so I’m just going to let the pictures talk for themselves. On the way back down though the wind really whipped up and I think we all lost about 3 layers of skin due to all the sand and small rocks flying around.
Back relatively safely on the bus and down the road towards “Valle de la Muerte” or "Death Valley" for the gringos. All of these scary, inhospitable and amazing places in the Atacama Desert are largely due to this being one of the driest regions in the entire world. On average, San Pedro de Atacama rains only 3 days a year. The last time it rained was in June 2014, a storm that lasted only 2 hours, however several roads were washed away as a result, cutting the town off from the rest of Chile for an entire week!
Anyway, as we headed to Death Valley, it started raining. It wasn’t super heavy, but the lightening storm accompanied was absolutely amazing and our tour guide lost a $20 bet. This storm luckily enough wasn’t long lasting and that wind I mentioned before managed to blow the clouds away in about 15 minutes. Still, absolutely amazing. Our guide told us that “Valle de la Muerte” (Valley of Death) was actually originally meant to be named “Valle de la Marte” (Valley of Mars), however because the guy who found and named it was French the spanish speakers misunderstood Marte for Muerte. I guess either could be accurate due to the dry red rocks and clay everywhere. We also saw a road that had been washed away in that same short storm in June 2014.