ATACAMA DESERT, SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA TO THE ARGENTINE BORDER.
Our exploring of the Atacama Desert continues driving from the El Tatio Geyser through beautifully desolate landscape and one of the driest places on earth towards San Pedro de Atacama. San Pedro de Atacama is known as the Valley of the Moon.
And the area around this town has been described as a landscape you see on Mars. This area has a lot to offer, drawing thousands of tourists every year. We spent a week exploring this area with huge salt-flats, blue lagoons and small villages. Just a few kilometres out of town is the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) a very rugged area which looks like a lunar landscape with the magic Andean Mountains in the distance. Around 80 kilometres south is the Salar de Atacama which is home to Los Flamencos National reserve, Chile’s largest salt flat. This is the part where you find most of the flamingos. We spent a night on the salt-flats enjoying clear skies and a million stars. Our next stop was the Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley). Unable to get in with our truck we decided to explore the other tracks bypassing the gate. Unfortunately, we never saw the 100-meter-high Dune and the spectacular view, however we did enjoy the stunning nearly alien landscape.
The locals told us that NASA tested their Martian rovers here. We also spent a night near the Cejar Lagoon where it is possible to swim and water in the lagoon has a salt concentration of 28 percent compared with the dead sea of 35%. However, the 28 percent will make it nearly impossible to swim, so you just float. Like all other nights before, once dark there is nothing better to do than look at the endless amounts of stars above the driest desert in the world. We decided to park our truck at Andes Nomads Overlander camp, a perfect spot just a few km out of San Pedro de Atacama operated by Maurice a fellow overlander himself.
It was time to explore San Pedro de Atacama, an age-old town with dirt roads and Andean homes. The town is a mix of ancient cultures, indigenous people and tourists. It has a craft village where traditions are kept alive, and a nice old church (built in 1744). Life is slow here and it seems no-one is in a hurry. Originally San Pedro was a quartz and copper mining town, today it primarily caters for tourists. Lucky for us our visit was during the Fiesta de San Pedro, a colourful event held over 2 days in June. It celebrates the martyrdom in Rome of 2 Christian saints we were told. This celebration includes typical dances, folk music, a street parade, Catholic procession and locals in traditional costumes.
After a few more days of R&R (overlanding is hard work) it was time to cross the Andes Mountains once more, this time via the spectacular Jama Pass (4850 M) which is as high as Europe’s highest mountain (Mont Blanc) and nearly twice as high as Australia’s highest mountain MT Kosciusko, returning to Argentina to explore the Far North West Region around Salta.
It was an amazing drive over the Andean plateau where small villages survive over 4000 meters and wild life roams free. Besides Llama’s we also saw herds of the Vicunas; this animal has a thick, soft coat that only can be shorn once every 3 years making it very expensive wool.
Till next time when we explore North West Argentina.This entry was posted in Uncategorized