2018ChileLandscapesSouth America

The Atacama Desert: bizarre rocks, dust and lots of salt

Via the Paso Sico we travel to Chile. We have routinely brought our food “to safety” and drive along fantastic high mountain landscapes always above 4,000 vertical meters to the lagoons “Micanti” and “Miniques”. Vicunas go to the lagoons for drinking and 6,000 meter high volcanoes look down on us. Then we drive along various, partly green overgrown gorges down into the “lowlands” to the Salar de Atacama and from there to San Piedro de Atacama. A dusty little street village which is nevertheless the tourism center of the whole region – you find one tour operator and money changer after another. Shujaa on the local parking lot is again the focus of interest. Quickly we set out into the stillness of the desert and find a dream-pitch in the backside of the Valle de la Luna: completely alone with a view of indeed moon-like stone formations, especially at sunset an absolute spectacle.

We like it so much here that we decide to stay another night. In the late afternoon we get our quad – Shujoo – out of the garage and the so relaxed day builds up some momentum: On extremely bad slopes covered with deep-sands, we try to reach the actual Valle de la Luna on back tracks. Shujoo can prove its full off-road capability for the first time. After a long search, we find a path and join many other tourists in the Valle de la Luna. It is unfortunately high season and many Chileans spend their summer vacation here. Nevertheless, the landscape is spectacular. It is close to eight when we leave the Valle de la Luna again. Unfortunately, the battery of my Garmin navigation system is exhausted and so I can hardly trace the zig-zag way back. A game against time begins: in 30 minutes it is dark and then we have no chance to find Shujaa again. We manage it just because of our good orientation, but are deeply dusty and exhausted so that we both directly take a shower. What a day!

The next day we drive on a really hard gravel road to a lagoon on the Salar de Atacama where there are seven very saline pools where you can swim. Like in the dead sea you do not sink but drift on the surface – just cool. With the Valle de Muerto and the Devil’s Gorge we visit two other sights in the area and are very impressed. The following day ends with errands: refueling, refilling water, shopping, hairdressing, etc. because we will leave civilization and enter the next day to Bolivia on the legendary lagoon route at 5,000 meters altitude. Bolivia is by far the poorest country in South America and we are very excited about what awaits us there.

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