Home » Peri-Trip » Day 1: In Which I Hike Through the Shadow of the Valley of Death, and Walk on the Moon

Day 1: In Which I Hike Through the Shadow of the Valley of Death, and Walk on the Moon

Here is our first day in San Pedro de Atacama, which was last Thursday the 9th of May. Click here to read my first post about San Pedro, explaining more about the town and where I was in it.

We last left our intrepid traveler heroine in the Incahuasi Bed and Breakfast after an early wake up call and a short plane ride from Santiago. Little does she know she is about to come face to face with death in an experience that is out of this world!

No sooner had we picked roommates and deposited our suitcases we were back in the van. We passed through the Valley of the Dinosaurs, so named for the huge rock formations that look like the backs of slumbering stegosauruses. We drove for a while on a desolate highway, admiring the far off mountains when our van turned off the road and we bumped along for a while along a rough trail. Although everything pretty much looked the same our guide said we had reached our destination so we grabbed our cameras and water bottles and hopped out.

We started to hike, panting uphill for a while until the path evened out and we found ourselves on the top of a cliff overlooking a huge valley. There were great sand dunes and very pointy rock formations. Our guide explained that this valley was originally called Valley of Mars by French explorers, but the Spanish misheard it as Valle de Muerte, or Valley of death. They were both excellent names. The valley certainly looked like Mars with its red pointy formations and cratered landscape, and nothing can live there safe for a few lizards and beetles because everything else dies of dehydration.

The funnest part of this valley was running down the side of a great steep sand dune. The way to do it is to take off your shoes and socks so you can feel the sand, as soft as baby powder, between your toes. Then you run as fast as you can down because once you have momentum if you don’t keep up then you will fall spectacularly and roll down. Although this doesn’t hurt at all because the sand cushions the fall. We had tons of fun throwing ourselves into the sand and making sand angels and taking goofy pictures.

After the Valley of Death, we got into the van again and blasted off to the Valle de la Luna, or the Valley of the Moon. Again, the great pointed rock formations made the name apparent. When we had all hiked to the perfect vantage point to watch the sun set behind the mountains, we all fell silent and experienced the reverent stillness of the world’s driest desert. It was eerie: there was no wind rustling through leaves, no singing of birds, no running water or hum of machines, nothing but a stillness that envelops you and holds you captive in its immensity. We watched the palette of the mountains fade from browns and reds to purples and greys, and we watched the life giving disk of plasma that is our sun slip away behind the topography of the earth. As we walked back down to the van, now in the deepening shadow of twilight, we could feel the temperature slipping from around 75F down down down to close to 30F.

Back at the Incahuasi B&B we had a welcome barbecue dinner with chicken, pork, sausage, and steak. Being a Chilean meal there was tons of good bread, too. Exhausted and encrusted with sand, we showered and crawled gratefully under our down comforters for our first sleep in the desert. Tucked into warm beds after the frigid air of the night desert air was bliss and we all slept deeply, which was good because we had much to do the next day!

To be continued…

Here are pictures from the Valle de la Muerte and Valle de la Luna.


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