Thursday 5 June 2014

Day 36: The Valley of the Moon and Laguna Cejar

Laguna Cejar
Even experienced 4 x 4 drivers like Guy (who has slithered vehicles into dry river beds in Oman with the road collapsing underneath him) need a bit of a warm-up when they haven't driven anything larger than a Brompton for a while.  So, our first desert trip took place close to San Pedro, not too far from help, in the Valley of the Moon.

As we drove through the valley, we hopped out of the jeep every few minutes to walk between high walls of evaporite crystals, crawl into caves, climb smooth sand dunes and stare at bands of rose-coloured rock, undulating in sync with the dance of the tectonic plates below.  It was a place for the camera rather than the written word, but suffice it to say that, if this valley looks like the moon, then the moon is now on my wish-list of future destinations.

Later in the day, we drove to Laguna Cejar - a complex of three small lakes dwarfed by the beaches of salt around them.  Swimming was permitted in one of them and, as we had arrived in the heat of the afternoon, we thought of taking a dip.  But we quickly discovered how desert temperatures plummet at sunset and, half an hour later, we had given up any such idea.  Campers, take note.

We are campers.  We didn't take note.  Instead, we found a tranquil spot to pull off the track and eat our avocado salad in the back of our pick-up truck.  (The delights of car camping!  Food other than spaghetti comes into play!)  Then we lay down to bivvy under the milky-way.  It shone bright and clear and absolutely stunning - as bright and clear as our fast-freezing breath pluming above us.  I slept in my down jacket inside my sleeping bag (rated to -18 degrees) but my chances of waking up too hot were nonetheless nil.  Star-scapes this clear come at a price!  Even so, thanks to my Golite sleeping bag, I would happily bivvy again in the desert.

Rock formations in the Valley de la Luna
Weathered salt canyon in Valley de la Luna
Sand Dune, Valley de la Luna
Licancabur from Valley de la Luna
Salar de Atacama from Valley de la Luna (the horizon is 200km away!)
Photogenic Valley de la Luna
Licancabur (again) from Laguna Cejar

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