Up close with the universe

We had decided to take the one-way tour from Uyuni, which brought us to San Pedro de Atacama in the very north of Chile. We reached the town in the early afternoon and were quite happy that it greeted us with the warmth and sunshine that we had been missing for the last weeks. At about 2400m, San Pedro is much lower than all the places we had been to since Cusco, so it was naturally warmer.

Strolling through the dirt roads of San Pedro de Atacama
The prominent Licancabur volcano reaches almost 6000m

In the evening we were still sitting outside in the courtyard of our hostel, when we heard some live music playing somewhere. As we went over to have a look, it turned out to be a “St. Patrick’s Day” celebration in the bar next door. And although we were a bit tired, we decided to join, which turned out to be a lot of fun. Unfortunately though we didn’t find the four-leaf clovers, which would have gotten us some free drinks.

The bar around the corner was celebrating “St. Patrick’s Day”

The next day we booked a tour to the “Valle de la Luna”, the moon valley. As the tour wouldn’t start before late in the afternoon, we walked around town for a bit and found a really cool shop just outside our hostel. And while Dani got a handmade top, Krissi went for a black and white picture on plywood. What made it so special was the fact, that the shop owner was burning the picture into the wood by using a simple magnifying glass.

Using the sunlight for drawing pictures
Krissi got one of the plywood pictures with her name engraved

The tour of the moon valley was very interesting as well, as it rained just before we had arrived in San Pedro. The rain had washed out the salt from the rocks and as the water evaporated, the salt remained on the surface of the rocks, creating a white cover that almost looked like snow in the desert. And although this is one of the driest deserts of the world, rain is not uncommon in San Pedro between December and March, however only in small quantities.

What looks like snow is actually deposited salt crystals
The bare landscape of the moon valley

During the tour we had a look at the different rock formations – steep crater walls, eroded rocks supposedly looking like three virgins, and high sand dunes. Somehow our tour guide always managed to avoid most of the crowds that were with us in the park, which we were quite happy with. Only the last stop seemed to be identical for all tours, as everyone turned up at a cliff overlooking the moon valley to watch the beautiful sunset over the desert landscape.

The craters and sand dunes were quite impressive
Sunset over the desert

The next morning, after two exciting weeks of traveling together, it was time to say goodbye – Dani and Krissi were heading over to Argentina, while I was about to go the other way, back to the coast and up to Peru. But before I continued, I went on an astrological tour to watch the night sky with large telescopes. Here we got to read stellar maps and got explanations for different objects, the most impressive being Jupiter with its four largest moons.

The last adventure with Krissi and Dani on this trip
Watching stars, planets and the milky way without urban light pollution (photo by Tour Astronomico Astrocoya) 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *