September 27, 2015
Today is a long drive through the desert to our destination in San Pedro de Atacama. The scenery is bleak and doesn’t change much.
The painted geoglyphs that were supposed to open at 9:30AM (Tuesday – Sunday) were still closed at 9:50, not a person in sight.
We visited the nearby salt flat where you could view the geoglyphs in the distance, and found it more interesting than the geoglyphs. The brown floor, a mixture of dirt and salt crystals, sounds hollow and metallic when tapped.
Even stranger, when you stand quietly you can hear the floor crackling and quaking beneath your feet as it expands in the warmth of the morning sun. Francisco tells us that the layer of dirt and salt is less than a meter thick with possibly borax below it.
We passed through the National Reserve of the Pampa Tamarugal, a few trees in an otherwise bleak desert.
Our next stop was in Quillagua, another oasis town fed by a river and recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the driest place on Earth.
The main attraction is a couple of sink holes that at one time were thought to be caused by meteorites because they had also found dinosaur tracks in the area.
Lunch was in a nearby town at a truck stop which resembled an American diner and according to Francisco is one of the few restaurants in the area. The daily menu featured the usual soup and a chicken or fish plate.
After lunch our journey concluded with a long drive through desert. Stopped at few minor petroglyphs.
Desert, dust and more desert. One of the driest landscapes on the planet with next to no plant life.
Outside of Calama we pass by the world’s third largest copper mine. Francisco tells us it is 1k deep, 3K wide.
Calama is a prosperous mining town on the river.
Finally the landscape becomes more interesting when we reach the Valley of the Moon outside of San Pedro de Atacama. Snowy peaks in the distance but not the crystal clear skies I was expecting.