Touch down on Valley of the Moon

The valle de la luna is so named because of its similarity to the surface of the moon. And after looking at it from above I had to agree, as it did appear like the CGI images they use in documentaries to replicate the surface of other planets (especially the first pic below). We paid a bit more for a tour with only 6 other people that took us down into the valley, and it was worth every penny. One thing you can’t help noticing is how dry it is. Even the rocks seem drier than normal rocks, if that’s possible…

Truly spectacular place. At the end of the walk, the guides take you through a canyon carved centuries ago by a river and formed of quartz and salt crystals. As you walk into a cave you can hear the rocks cracking in the baking sun… a strange, unexpected experience…

Trekking the Valley of Death (deep in the Chilean Atacama)

My last few posts have been text heavy and image lite. So in the tradition of the time-honoured cliche (a picture tells around a thousand words) I’ll focus on the pics in this one. These photos were taken in the Atacama desert in Chile, a short drive from the small town of San Pedro de Atacama.

We visited the Valle de la Muerte (valley of death, aka the Mars valley) and Valle de la Luna (the valley of the moon). Both have pretty awesome names I think you’ll agree, whatever language you favour. First set of images comes from the good ol valley of death and dying. *

Web connections in Bolivia being what they are (ie: goddam unreliable), I will upload valley of the moon pics in the next update! 

All aboard the vomit bus (¡a San Pedro de Atacama!)

So, we cheated. I hold my hands up, it’s just not cricket, we’ve let the side down. To the disgust of backpackers everywhere; we took an expensive domestic flight instead of a long distance bus. I can feel the embarrassment, the shock, the naked hatred in the eyes of our fellow travellers when they ask: ‘so how did you get from Patagonia’s southern tip to Salta (in the north) so quickly?’ 

We might’ve been able to claw back a modicum of respect if we had somehow secured a impressively cheap fare, but no, it cost 350 smackeroos per person. 350 smackeroos. A  sum to boast about it ain’t; in fact I must be a masochist to even document this shameful episode. But on the plus side, it cut a journey of 4 days down to around 8 hours, so I can live with the shame.

Salta itself wasn’t particularly interesting, so two nights and the next bus out seemed logical. For some reason, I had no idea that to get from Salta to San Pedro in Chile would mean crossing the Cordillera de los Andes. The Andes is a notoriously high mountain range, and plateaus at something like 4500 metres for the crossing we were doing. This is by far the highest I had been and was not really prepared for it.

First I noticed a slight headache. But I had been feeling a bit ill the day before, so I put it down to that. My stomach began turning a little too, but again, I hadn’t been 100% so I chalked it down to that. Finally when we crossed the Argentine border and were driving at snow level, it started to dawn on me that we were pretty high. I consulted the Lonely Planet. Sure enough, this crossing was considerably over 4000 metres…..

Aaahhh! So that would explain why people had been forming a line to be sick in the toilet! Some unfortunate lad was kept waiting too long and some vomit dribbled down his chin and onto the floor next to me. I gave him a plastic bag and he nodded his thanks, his mouth still being full of his regurgitated lunch. The downhill to Chile was almost unendurable, but thankfully I made it through without revisiting my last meal.

I learnt two things from this trip: firstly, don’t drink beers the night before hitting altitude… and second, for the love of god, never, ever, EVER book the two seats next to the toilet on a south american bus. The smell coming from that thing was worse than all the portaloos in Glastonbury put together!