Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chile Day 3

Morning Expedition
Another beautiful morning in the Atacama and we were all set for our next adventure. This is a picture of the lodge that we were staying at, looking from the carport. It was always lovely and cool inside the building so no air con was needed which was great as Air con and I don't get on due to it killing my sinuses.

From the side and back views. You can see the round window that John took a picture of the volcano from.
This morning we were headed to the Rainbow Valley, I wasn't sure what to expect, I had been told by friends in the Falklands that the rocks were all different colours but that was about it.

We set off along the straight road across the desert, we probably drove for around an hour turning off onto the dirt tracks once again weaving our way into the valleys.

Present in our views here and there was Licancabur who looks so serene in the morning sun.

We drove into a valley which quickly opened up into a green plain with a shallow river running through its middle. JP asked if we would like to see some petroglyphs before Rainbow Valley and we all decided this would be interesting as the children had never seen any before.

Of course this meant more up hill climbing for me! I wish I had Ellie's energy and agility and not this silly asthma. I am slow but I did make it up the hill with John doing his usual and recording the height we were at. Part way up the hill we could see some movement amongst the rocks and we could see a largish animal about the size of a small dog but fat and solid. These were Vizcachas which have the tail of a kangaroo and the body like a rabbit. They are the wild cousins of Chinchillas.

Alot of the petroglyphs have now fallen down from their position at the top of the hill and are laying this way and that part the way down the hillside.

There were lots of pictures of Vicunas or Guanacos which are the South American Camels
carved into the rocks.

Along with a lot of Shamans depicted with wild hair and spindley legs and arms.

We even managed to find a picture of the Vizcachas that we had just seen, although it was rather faint so JP helped shield it from the sun so I could take a picture.

We headed back down to the car and carried on our journey into the valley to find our Rainbow rocks. We passed by a small settlement which seemed almost deserted but JP said that it was owned by people who lived in Calama and came out at weekends and during holidays. There was some Government scheme to help them recover the ancient lands.

We soon began to see the wonderful colours changing in the rocks and quite pronounced separations of the different ores which cause these amazing spectacles.

We stopped just in front of a massive wall of rock and proceeded on foot to explore the natural pathways. You can just see the green rocks on the left hand side which formed a different formation. Although I haven't posted them here there were white, green, pink and orange rocks.

A little further down the track we started to see movement again and this time it was a rather larger beast in our pathway. If you look closely you can just see three wild donkeys in the picture above.

They made quite a song and dance about having to move off the pathway for us and brayed loudly for quite a while.

The scale of these rocks is difficult to describe, you can just about make out Ellie in the picture above who was half way towards the rock sides. They are such a wonderful warm orangey pink colours that it almost seems as if your eyes are being tricked.

We started to see more of the cactus appear on the hillside like when we walked at Punta Del Inca on day 2.

and as we rounded the corner these magnificient pillars came into view. We got Euan to run and climb up at the bottom of one of them to give an idea of scale. They were amazing to look at and we tried to work out why they had been left standing whilst everything else around them had crumbled.

They were also rather phallic in their appearance!

We headed back into the car and drove down another valley to stop and look at some more formations. The rock itself seems to be made up of thousands of thin layers which when exposed are really vunerable and flakey.

John couldn't help himself and had to climb up one of the banks infront of him so he could get a hero shot between the pillars.

The girls and I took a more sedate route up to the base of one of the smaller pillars near by.

We headed back into the car and slowly wound our way back out to the flat desert plain again. On our way we found lots of small grave markers where people placed small houses to mark where they had lost a member of their family. We had seen lots of these on our ride from the airport to San Pedro at the road side. It reminds me alot of Eklutna in Alaska where they have wonderfully coloured houses that they use to allow the spirit of their deceased to pass through from the physical to spiritual side. They would leave food for their journey and this was quite similar with personal effects jostling for position. This one had boots, a bottle of alcohol, a small stick and a vase for flowers.

One of the most spectacular ridges is called Dinosaur Valley as a lot of the rocks look like the spines of dinosaurs. It was most spectacular as you headed up this road but there was no where to stop to take photos unfortunately. This is looking back down the road but you cannot get a sense of the ridges from this photo.

We arrived back at the lodge just in time for a nice steak with rice for lunch and a dulche de leche mousse for dessert which the kids loved. A quick siesta in the afternoon and we were ready to get up and go again for our next walk.
Afternoon Adventure

This afternoon we head out to Kari Gorge. I think it was one of the most stunning views to date just due to the sheer vastness of the view. It is probably another of my favourite walks also.

Just beyond Euan and Maddie is a sheer drop a long way down to the lake floor. There are massive rock outcrops which have worn over time with weather and wind and fallen down into the basin. Sand has been blown about and caused great big sand dunes the size of a 10 story building up against the cliff edges.

JP was rather nervous about the family going out on this limb and only let them get so far before he asked them to stop! I think I was rather grateful he did as there was nothing below for hundreds of metres.

Looking back from our starting point we could see old faithful Licancabur rising high above its neighbours.
We started to make our way along the ridge line over flat areas of just rock and sand,

before we reached a narrow path which would lead us to the point where we could descend to the valley floor. Looking back along the ridge line you can get a better sense of the vast drops from the path we were walking on.

We soon reached the top of the large sand dune which we were going to run down. I took this opportunity to be one of the first down so I could take some photos of all the others bouncing in the hot sand.
The photo below was taken half way down, we had walked along the top ridge all the way back past the right hand side in the photo.

Euan was first and probably the speediest as usual!! He nearly cannoned into Mum as he blew past.

Ellie was next and had a more sedate run down, keeping her eyes steadily on the ground in front of her.

Then Maddie and she couldn't stop grinning and laughing at me, she was alot more precautious than the others but made it down without stopping.

John was last and he adopted a style a bit like Tigger out of Winnie the Pooh and bounced his way down the hillside.
We walked down to the bottom of the slope and then all stopped to remove the bucket loads of sand which had worked their way into our socks and shoes before heading to the other side of the lake floor.

You can still just make out Lincancabur in the distance between the two ridges.

The whole of this valley floor was similar to the Moon Valley basin as it had thousands of stone hard footprints in it. JP said that this was a walk that he would not do during the rainy season as they quite often had flash floods. He said we would understand better as we progressed along the walk.

When we got to the other side we stopped for a well earned drink of water and a quick snack. We also took the opportunity to listen quietly to the noises the rocks and salt were making as they expanded and contracted in the heat. It reminded me of the noise ice cubes make when they are placed in a warm glass of water.

Ellie found another salt formation to taste test after JP had washed it with some water.

Quite alot of the surface of the rock was covered with this wonderful pattern which JP calls popcorn and I think that is a rather apt name for it.

Cooling down nicely now we were in the shade we started our journey to go and find Pablo our driver on the other side of the valley.

We are walking in the natural river beds which made me realise why JP would not come here in the rainy season! We soon came to our first obstacle which was a waterfall. Ellie went down after JP very carefully facing the wall and taking tiny steps until she reached safe ground.

Looking back you can see where we have climbed down on the right hand side.

A little further along the path we came to our next natural phenomenon a low cave or tunnel through the rock. We were to go through here to carry along on our journey and JP warned the kids of bats and monsters lurking in the cave.

Thankfully he had only been pulling our leg but he did ask us not to dawdle as we walked through here, as he explained that caves and tunnels were not the safest places in Chile due to the regular earthquakes. Great now he tells us!!

It wasn't long before we found our next waterful which was slightly smaller than the last.

And then into another rock climb and cave.

This one had a lot higher ceiling than the last and was alot shorter in length.

All along the path we found evidence of owls who lived here. There were lots of pellets with small bones and fur in them. We hadn't seen any existance of wildlife along here and I really don't know how they would survive without any signs of water.

Euan found another interesting rock formation and soon had us laughing as he pretended to be taking a shower. Before long we rounded the last corner and met up with Pablo again for our high five session. We left the park with its Patagonian and Chilean Flag flying to head back for dinner.

Oh and a nice soak in the large jacuzzi tub to wash away all the sand and sweat from our journey.

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