Desolate Places

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July 26th 2017
Published: July 26th 2017
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These are on everyone's list. I have been to each of these, or very near in many cases.

Atacama Desert, Chile

When Hollywood needs footage from Mars, they film in this ethereal landscape stretching some 600 miles across Chile. With less than one inch of average annual rainfall, it’s the driest non-polar place on the planet. Certain regions in the Atacama are so inhospitable not even a plant or insect can be found. Surprisingly, other areas within the desert are settled. More than one million people live in the Atacama’s kinder parts. They’ve managed to introduce irrigation systems and learned how to source water for their families and livestock.

My view: It looks much worse than it really is. Many people were out sandboarding down the dunes. We were the only ones in the park that day, our car broke down, and we had to push start the critter to get back to San Pedro. Was it the most desolate place I have ever been? Probably so.

Deadvlei, Namibia

While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it’s okay to judge a place by its name. Deadvlei, meaning “dead marsh” is a clay plan on the western edge of Namibia. The only signs of vegetation are the haunting skeletons of camel thorn trees that died nearly 1,000 years ago. Because of the extremely dry and hot climate, the trees have been unable to decay. Since it’s located in Namib-Naukluft National Park, no one can live in Deadvlei, but they probably wouldn’t want to anyway. For most of the year, the closest thing you get to seeing water is the sea of sand.

Not many parts of Africa interest me any more. I would go back to Cape Town to see my buddy, Barry the V. Flying over many parts of Africa from Addis Ababa down to Cape Town, we passed over thousands of miles of desolate, uninhabited land. Many areas did not even have animals of any kind.

Death Valley, California

The main problem is the heat, which often reaches close to 130 degrees and can easily cause death. The average adult will need about four gallons of water to make it out unharmed, but dehydration is not the only concern. Death Valley is often deemed the world's hottest place. It’s the lowest, driest, and hottest spot in the U.S. It holds the record for the highest reliably reported air temperatures – 134.06 degrees Fahrenheit – measured in 1913.

We went in the dead of winter, and it even snowed. It is just as desolate in the winter. Please do not go in the summer. I would go back in the spring to see the wildflowers. Having a car makes it feel like just an easy drive form civilization, Las Vegas, that is!!!

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau

Can life survive on the “roof of the world”? A new study suggests that the earliest known settlements may have been formed around 62,000 years ago. Still, nowadays, few can endure the cold and arid place with an average elevation of over 14,760 feet and with just half the oxygen available at sea level.

I enjoyed getting close to Everest, albeit by airplane. It is a truly magnificent part of the world. Just don't try to climb it!!! But it seems oddly mysterious and quiet. I am sure it is much different on the ground. So many have died trying to climb Everest. Is it really worth it?

Yukon Territory of Alaska

The Yukon Territory is large enough to hold the states of California, Arizona, Delaware and West Virginia. Annual records report the average low temperature to be 10 degrees Fahrenheit. But in 1947 they reached an all-time low of about -81.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature recorded in the Yukon is 96.98°F, recorded on June 14, 1969 at Mayo.

I got close when I made it to the Arctic Circle last Spring. Alaska is huge, and desolate. I would hate to get lost there. Driving and flying over vast areas, it is a real frontier. I admire the folks, mostly natives, up there.

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