Valle de la Luna

Yesterday I went for a day tour to el Valle de la Luna, just outside of San Pedro. Beautiful desert landscape. Stark. Alien. In fact, in this desert a prototype of the Mars rover was tested by researchers needing a landscape to approximate the conditions of Mars.
But, on the way there…

 

…we passed a herd of llamas and sheep.

 

They’re so cute!
I know I’m anthropomorphizing, but this one looks like it’s laughing!
Okay, enough cuteness – on to Mars.
These two shots were taken from the van.
Love the dunes.
We stopped at some salt caves where our guide, German (pronounced with a soft Spanish G), led us through.

 

 

 

At the right is an indentation in the quartz. German said it’s indented from so many people stopping to feel its smoothness. I added my DNA to the mix.
On into the caves. There was a lot of crawling and feeling one’s way in the darkness and slipping and sliding on the sandy, dusty floor. Not for the faint of heart…. of course, I didn’t know this before entering. But, once you’ve gone in, you’ve got to get out, don’t you.
There were areas like this where you’d come out into the open before carrying on.

 

Here, German is pointing out a salt out-cropping. I tasted it. Indeed, it was salt.

 

 

Following German back into the heart of darkness….

This is where it got really hairy.
I couldn’t take any more pictures inside – too much focus on scrambling through. I am no spelunker!
But the view was worth it. Look at that blue sky.
The whiteness you see everywhere looks like snow, but it’s salt.
From here they took us a few miles away to the base of a quite large hill to hike for more of a view.
Here’s the start of the climb. The sand is really soft, so you sink in and it’s at a higher altitude than San Pedro. I definitely got my exercise yesterday.
But, again, worth the view.
See the fellow on that long trail and the itty bitty people at the top of the trail? I went over there and beyond…
…and had it all to myself. At one point, I could see no other human being. It was just me and the mountains and dunes and the sun and sky and the wind. It was priceless.

I think that the haze you see is from dust and the angle that I’m shooting toward the sun. The air is so clean here.
This is one end of the dune that I was on. I got this shot as I was walking back down the hill. I love that clean line of separation between earth and sky.
Looking back up the dune. At the top right of it you can see a little speck that I think is a person. That’s where I was.
It was late afternoon by this time so we were driven to where we’d watch the sunset.
Incredible landscape here.
The young couple below being photographed had asked me to take a picture of them earlier in the tour.
The man later asked if I wanted my picture taken, so I figured, why not?
I’m wearing the alpaca sweater I bought in San Pedro. Not super visible in this pic, but I really like it – it’s so soft!
The setting sun began to change the colors of the landscape.
While the sunset itself wasn’t all that spectacular (I’m sure it depends on the time of year because I’ve heard they can be really beautiful here), the changing colors of the mountains were really nice.
The dormant volcano at the right is called Licancabur. It is considered a holy mountain by the Atecameno people and is one of the largest in the area. I see it up close every day that I walk out of my hostel and it is beautiful.

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