After a late night, last night, we weren’t in a rush to get up this morning. Breakfast was had just before the cut off time of 10.45am. We wandered up Caracoles St to rent some bikes. We got kitted out with reflective vests, helmets, spare tyre, bike lock and two bikes. There is an pre-Incan ruin called Pucara de Quitor about 3kms from San Pedro. We ride our bikes out on fairly rough roads, so our ‘seat’ gets a bit sore and through a creek bed to get there. We lock the bikes and pay the entrance fee and walk up around the remains of this fort which was built on different levels by the Atacameño people in the 12 century. It was then taken over by the Incas and then then finally, the Spaniards in 1540. The native chiefs were beheaded so it became known as El Pueblo de las cabezas (heads town). We walk to the top for a view over the whole remains and then back down the valley to another area where there is a carving of a face and further along an archway with another face carving and this leads onto a path to a cave. Interesting place! We cycle back to town and on the way Phil shepherds his flock of sheep and goats using his bike!
We are not too hungry so skip lunch but buy a bottle of coke and sit by the pool with a few nibbles until just after 3pm and then we go up to the meeting point for our Valley de la Luna tour. Whilst we are at the agency we book El Tatio geysers tour for tomorrow. We were going to go on the ‘all day’ Salar de Tara tour but the road is very rough and most agencies are not doing the tour anymore. However, some rogue agencies are still going and we did think about it but Phil is rightly concerned about his back, so we are choosing the easy option, El Tatio.
We get into the vehicle with another 10 people. They are all young but one couple from Brazil spent 2 years living in Sydney, so they were nice to chat to. Our first stop is in the valley where we can see the rock made of salt and calcium. Millions of years ago the Nazca plate and the Mediterrean plate moved and the Andes were pushed up on one side and the Domeyko Range on the other side and this formed the Salt Range in the valley. A lake emerged in the depression between the mountains and also the Salt Mountain Range formed from horizontal layers of sediment. There are numerous caves and the erosion here is caused by the rain and wind they receive however, they may only get as little as 1mm a year. We enter the Flamingo National Reserve and this geological site formed 22 million years ago during volcanic activity. The wind and atmospheric conditions have sculptured the sedimentary rock and along with sand dunes and the absence of animal or vegetable life as well as lack of humidity makes this area resemble the lunar landscape. We climb to the top of a large sand hill for a beautiful view of the valley and the “moon’ landscape. Once we are back in the van we visit the Three Mary’s a weathered rock that is meant to resemble the Virgin Mary.
Our final stop is the lookout over the whole valley along with the snow caped mountains in the background. As the sun sets, beautiful colours are thrown on the Andes Mountains and they turn many shades of red. We enjoy a juice and some nuts while we take in the view. Then its back to town and we go straight to the restaurant we had picked out, El Tocano. Unfortunately, there were only 2 people there, so we go on a bit further to Adobe which is busy. The atmosphere is nice with a semi open roof and a roaring fire pit. I have chicken with a brown sugar sauce and vegetables and Phil a steak. Very good food. A 5 piece band plays for a while, for tips. And from the doorway of the bar into the restaurant is a night view of the moon, venus and another star(?) which we took a photo of and we didn’t have to pay anything!