Updated: Oct 8, 2020
I wanted to go to a desert since I was a little kid, maybe it was because of watching Young Indiana Jones series. But never, ever, did I think I would visit Atacama Desert, the driest desert on Earth. Not in my wildest dreams. When we were driving to San Pedro de Atacama there was nothing arround, just fields of wind plants and nothingness – wilderness of hot air and unfriendly soil, you could feel the unfriendliness of it to the animals and the people. It looked like in cowboys movies, and, yes, there were those balls made of branches rolling along the highway. In a funny way was it felt so peaceful.
Guest Blogger: Zeljka Rajic Aralica, Travel Love Blog
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San Pedro de Atacama
Then, finally, San Pedro de Atacama! What a rush of adrenalin that my heart hadn’t felt in a long time and my eyes had never seen – dirty road, with no concrete, but, literally – it’s just sand and dust. And somehow we didn’t mind, on contrary, it felt like such a relief. Like a scene from a western movie. There are some pavements, but they can’t be seen quite well under all the dust.
The first thing I got an urge to do was to take off my shoes and run through a dusty road, like I did in the kids’ park when I was little. Tourists are walking around with clothes filthy from dust and sweat, but full of happiness with dazzled faces. It’s the primary happiness. San Pedro de Atacama is a little village from where the most tours are operated, so we booked a room there.
And then a slap in a face: a house with – A POOL ! For renting it to very rich people. I was so, so hungry and we sat in the first restaurant we saw. You have to experience this. While you sit and wait for your lunch, you can see the lady cooking another meal in a large pot in a backyard. Priceless! This meal was one of the best in my life, lamb soup, fried chicken with rice and vegetables and coffee. About coffee…You get a jar with coffee, jar of sugar and boiling water so you can prepare your own coffee. From the moment we were driving from the airport, then eating in this restaurant I felt so „grounded“, so down to earth, so willing to let go everything, so freed. Everything felt so simple, as it should be. There's still a part of me regretting not just staying there, although it sounds ridiculous.
After lunch we went for the tour I'd booked. It was Valle de la Luna and Valle del Muerte.
Valle de la Luna
As our group got to the Valle de la Luna and started climbing dunes, the fact of not wearing long trousers seemed quite stupid…it easy extremely hot and you could feel the sun biting your skin. I’ve never seen dunes before, so I forgot all about not wearing long trousers and discomfort of the burning sun, it didn’t matter any more. It was remarkable. At that point I realized all the other tourists were overwhelmed and acting like kids again, running up and down the dunes, like little kids.
Our guide, George, had native ants esters so we heard some very interesting stories and facts, among which was – the name of one Andes peak means „The place where flying saucers take off“. George explained that there are two explanation of Valle del Merete’s name. One was that many people had died of hunger and heat while trying to cross it. Another was that a missionary who had found it said it looked like a Mars (Marte in Spanish language) Valley, but later on it was wrongly pronounced and turned into Muerte Valley.
Valle de Muerte in Chile
After that our group headed to see stone statues called Tres Marias (Three Marys). Now days there are two and a half Marias, because years back a tourist climbed one and broke it. This is why we (tourists) are sometimes called the “lowest life intelligent species”… I ate salt from the salt crystals on the ground, went to the caves (would not recommend this to claustrophobic people) , did a bit of climbing on a way out and then it was time to go to Valle del Muerte (Valley of Death) Canyon.