When I first arrived in Santiago, Chile, there was a large poster on the wall just outside of the gate showing the Atacama Desert. It was vast and mysterious. I knew that I would go there at some point during my time abroad.
A friend of mine who had traveled to the Atacama before told me to rent from Wicked Vans, located in San Pedro De Atacama. I knew that was what I wanted to do because I wanted to be in control of my journey there and not go with a tour group or program. I wanted to camp way out in the desert with my friends!
The first place we camped at was Valle De Cactus. It was off from the main road and very, very quiet. One of my favorite parts of camping is the silence. When the loudest noise is the wind, it makes it a breeze to relax.
This photo doesn’t even come close to giving the stars justice. In the bottom right corner, there’s a short white streak which I believe is a shooting star. Within ten minutes of laying on my back and looking at the sky, I probably saw two or three shooting stars. It’s no surprise ancient cultures attributed so much spiritual importance to the sky, it’s truly a magical experience when you can see it on a clear night with no light pollution – especially in a place like the Atacama Desert!
The next morning we drove to some Salt Lagoons close to Valle De La Luna. We drove on a dirt road for about 30 minutes until we found it. There was absolutely nothing around, besides strange rock formations and mountains in the distance.
The high density of the water means that the human body floats like a cork. It is quite a strange feeling, swimming on top of the water instead of in it. The photo below shows my friend Gage floating with his feet sticking out. The water would push the majority of your body out of the water.
We made our way to a new camping spot that night and decided to visit La Mano del Desierto, or The Hand in The Desert, for our last full day in the Atacama.
The hand in the Desert was pretty far away, but we made our way there eventually.
The hand was quite large, and a total mystery. Why was it so far out in the desert? Who made it? Why did they make it? I’m sure there’s some interesting history about it.
After that, we headed back and camped at the same spot we had on the first day. I slept on the roof that night and fell asleep looking at the millions of stars above me. The next day we packed everything up, dropped the van off at Wicked Vans and made our way back to the airport: dirty, tired, but most of all, happy.