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November 25th 2013
Published: October 4th 2014
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Our next stop, also named by the same priest, was Valle de la Luna. This unearthy landscape is now a protected national park, and even picking up stones is forbidden.

We went into one canyon which showed the results of the flash foods of the previous February. Apparently, they had more rain in one day than they had had for the entire month the previous year. Parks were closed, streets were flooded and here, in the desert, the rushing waters had carved complete new areas of the soil.

The main attraction here was a cavern. The entrance was through beautiful small canyon like passage ways, and then we entered the cavern. Pitch black and barely seen through the flashing lights spread through the group, we crawled through passages too low to walk straight, climbed in some areas and descended in others. It was quite an experience, although I wish I had been able to do it with a much smaller group ... and my own light!

The exit then required climbing a fairly sheer cliff, and descending another cliff back to the road. A couple of heart stopping moments, for me, but I managed to do it without having to be rescued and thas was very satisfactory, considering I do suffer from a bit of vertigo, and some of those narrow turns were quite impressive, and the small footholds to place my hands and feet were challenging.

My carefully chosen wardrobe didn't fare as well. I came out of there with my black suede booties looking completely white, they were so encrusted with dust, as were my jeans from crawling through narrow spaces. Oops! I really should have packed at least three pairs of pants, it turnsn out! Patricia took a picture of an unsuspecting me walking away, just to showcase my dusty butt. LOL!

We stopped to see the pillars of salt named The Three Marys. Unfortunately, now they are the two marys and a quarter. Some idiot tourist decided to climb the third Mary, and broke it! As a result, paths are now marked with stones that you are not expected to cross, and trails are closed to the public. The spot was, long ago, also looked up to by the native indians who called the pillars the three protectors. The religious catholic implication of the Marys, of course, came from the priest.

The last stop was at the foot of one of the highest sand dunes to await the sunset. You know how hard it is to walk on sand on the beach? Well, here it was like that, but climbing a winding path to get to the top of the dune. I admit, I had to stop twice to catch my breath, and was worried about being able to walk the next day, since I expected that I was going to be reminded that I had some muscles that I had completely forgotten. I finally made it to the top, navigating some corners that made me hold my breath, and worried about what it would be like on the way down. The guide, Mariano, pointed to another steep path to reach the very top of the dune that would allow me to see the sun reflected on the Cordillera of the Andes also, but I knew darned well that, although I could make it up there, I would probably have to come down it on my butt. It was that much of an incline and not very wide. So, I decided to stay put where I was.

OMG! It was spectacular. It was beautiful to begin with, but as the shadows started taking over the valleys and dunes in front of us, the look and colors of the place kept changing and playing tricks on my eyes. I wish I had been able to see it in the dark, but we were expected to leave the dune shortly after sunset, and the valley before dark. Regardless, it will remain as a once in a lifetime experience.

The climb down had a couple of tense moments, namely navigating some of those narrow sharp turns on the path with a long fall on the other side, but clutching rocks for dear life to hold on, it definitely was a lot easier to come down than it was going up.

It was sad to leave such a beautiful place behind. It is aptly named the Valley of the Moon.

Back in town, I dusted my jeans as best I could, changed tops and went out to find a place to eat dinner. Las Delicias de Carmen, a quaint place about two blocks from the hotel, was recommended to us. It was packed and we had to settle for a table outside, along a narrow covered porch that circled the glass walled main dining room.

I only wanted some Empanadas. I was too tired to be hungry, but they were out so I ordered the roasted chicken with two sides. I chose fries and a salad. Patricia ordered a salad. We were rather giddy at this point so we could not stop the giggles as they set down an enormous plate of salad in front of her. She asked what size family it was supposed to feed. It was that huge!

My chicken was no state side genetically engineered dried up bird. It was juicy, and tasty, and perfectly roasted, with mounds of crispy fries. I even ate the tomatoes in my salad. They were delicious.

We dragged ourselves back to our lovely and comfy room and crawled in bed around midnight to await the 3:00 AM wake up call to be picked up at 4:00 AM for our next excursion; The Geysers del Tatio.

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