From Calama Airport I set out in a rented Toyota 4x4 for San Pedro de Atacama about 70 miles away. My drive towards San Pedro covers some of the same areas that I had previously flown over less than an hour ago.
A brief stop and I am again driving across a desert landscape under clear blue skies. Although mostly barren the scenery with rolling hills and distant mountains is still enjoyable.
A sign for Valle de Luna and I find myself going down a dirt road where I am soon approached by a cloud of dust which turns out to be a group of cars heading in the opposite direction.The first car stops abeam me and the driver says something to me. My “no hablo espanol muy bien” starts him speaking a language that I understand.
Turns out they have been looking for Valle de Luna but without any luck. Further conversation and a group of us decide to give it a try together.
Parked at the beginning of a blocked off road, we lock our cars and I start hiking with a couple on vacation here from the southern part of Chile. I feel fortunate to have met them as they give me some history and tips of the area and their home country.
From talking with a local we discover we have come up the back entrance to Valle de Luna. This entrance is closed to cars this time of the year because it has the potential to develop sink holes.
I watch from the ledge of a “Grand Canyon” type rim as the sun heads west and brushes the landscape with all shades of orange.