Frequent travelers have an odd relationship with the world’s most hostile climates. On the one hand, they’re aware that extreme environments—like the Sahara, Antarctica and the south of Tierra del Fuego—are essentially godforsaken lands. On the other, their absence of hospitality is exactly what makes them enticing. Nothing quite proves your indomitable spirit like a trip to a lifeless wasteland. With that in mind, our very own SeenThat, a native Israeli, wrote a wonderful journal about his trip to the Atacama Desert. Our Traveler of the Week has a knack for keeping it dry.
While introducing the terrain that NASA compares to Mars, SeenThat admits that sightseeing in the region is strange: “There is no reason for traveling to the Atacama Desert, or to any other desert. The drier the arid region is, the less it has to offer to the traveler and Atacama is the driest desert on earth.” The settlements on the desert are so isolated that visitors have to plan their trips according to the amenities available, rather than they’d prefer. The conditions demand a flexibility alien to Western travelers: “Laws seem to change faster than the weather and in a similarly arbitrary fashion. Ignore all these, don’t listen to local chit-chat, pack a small backpack and drop by the driest desert. There, enjoy some of the strangest sights on our rough planet.”
It's not quite true that “every self-respecting country has a Moon Valley,” but the fact that Atacama is the top choice of NASA gives Valle de la Luna a little more credibility. SeenThat made an effort to capture its bombed-out beauty: “The landscape of the valley is shaped by several types of sand and rock which has been eroded into highly irregular shapes. Knife-sharp ridges, rings of dry salt, and low mounds of irregular shapes and colors create a truly outwardly landscape. Somehow, you expect seeing a dry lake here, maybe due to the thin deposits of salt that cover almost everything; actually there is one: the Salar de Atacama is not far away.”
For a detailed look at the driest place on the planet, SeenThat’s journal is king. Go on, check it out.
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Posted by tdbeckwith (Thomas Beckwith)