Whilst attempting to cycle to the Moon Valley, in the driest place in the world, I got ill from the lunch I’d had earlier in the day. It was definitely the lowest point of the trip thus far, as I sat by the side of the road and puked up everything I’d recently eaten. Two Dutch travellers were having a breather from their cycle ride next to me at the time (and probably wished they’d stopped further down the road). They asked if there was anything they could do, offering to help me back if I was still in the same spot when they returned from el Valle de la Luna. I managed to get back on the bike but I didn’t get to the Moon Valley that day, instead slowly cycled back to the town of San Pedro de Atacama – my first stop in Chile after Bolivia. It took forever to get back into town, going against the wind, being overtaken by literally everything on the road, at some points I wasn’t sure if I was actually moving at all.
But a couple of days later, after recovering from the bout of food poisoning (don’t order lasagne in this town!) I got to the Moon Valley before sunrise (45 minute cycle), and it was a beautiful sight, especially since no-one else was in the valley (all the tours head out here in the afternoon). Watching the sun gradually light up the surreal landscape was one of the high points of the trip so far.
I’d have preferred a car for obvious reasons but in this part of Chile hire cars are prohibitively expensive. So cycling, walking and going on the various tours on offer in town were the only viable option. As well as the standard Moon Valley tour, I did El Tatio geysers for dawn (was told off for not being back at the van for breakfast) and the sunset tour of the Salar de Atacama (Salt flats), on which I was punctual and didn’t get told off at all. You get to bathe (and float) in the salt lake and jump into a pool of water on this tour.