Friday, 13 July 2012

Valle de la Luna

On Saturday, I had an afternoon trip to the Valle de la Luna, an area where a prototype for a Mars Rover was tested because of the dry and challenging landscape.

Personally, I think it should be renamed Valle de Martes, since to me, the colours more resemble the surface of Mars rather than the Moon. Whichever you want to call it, it certainly does seem 'other worldly'.

It is an incredible place, which has been sculpted by wind and water over the years, and is part of the Salar de Atacama. Salt deposits occur from the water which comes down from the mountains. Over time the deposits built up and became compacted. Tectonic movements over the years have folded the layers and created strange curves of rock, sometimes perpendicular to their original orientation. A mixture of salt, rock and sand, form strange almost man-made looking, structures.

The Three Marias

Me in front of the 'Amphitheatre'
After the Valle de la Luna, we went for a quick look at the Valle de la Muerte. Supposedly, the Belgian  Jesuit missionary, Gustavo Le Paige, actually named it Valle de la Martes (i.e Valley of Mars) but didn't realise that Martes is actually a masculine word, so the name ended up being heard as Valle de la Muerte and has stuck ever since.

Anyway, I feel I'm getting a little too fixated on this valley naming business!

One cool feature there is in Valle de la Muerte, is a layer of volcanic ash, trapped in amongst the rock formations. There are many volcanoes around San Pedro, many of which are now inactive, but had plenty of activity in years gone by. In fact, not too far from San Pedro is the most active volcano in all of Chile - the Lascar Volcano. Apparently, there has been an 'amber' alert of activity on this volcano for the past 2 years.

The white-ish layer is volcanic ash
We headed off in time for the sunset, to watch the colours change over the Valle de la Luna. It wasn't really so much a case of watching the sunset, as the sky wasn't that spectacular, but the colour changes in the valley were quite stunning - from bright rust-red, to brown, to purples and pinks.

While the Sun was still up

And once the Sun had gone down

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