After I had to change my hostel unfortunately already after the first night I decided to take the following day easy and continued where I finished my last one, in the Valle de la Luna.
One advantage when traveling with an own vehicle is that one does not need to follow the crowds and so I skipped most of the expensive guided tours and did it DIY.
Valle de la Luna
After getting to the entrance of the park I had to pay a small fee to get access to the valley. While the paved roads finished, the adventure begun and I enjoyed driving on a gravel road along the stunning sceneries of a never ending moon-like landscape.
I stopped at the first possibility at some caves which were only accessible by walking (or crawling, lol) and I left my beauty for a short while behind. Exploring the caves took my breath away which was not just due to the tight openings of the rock formations, lol. My most memorable moment was when I was stopping on top of a small hill to soak up the spectacular view when I suddenly heard the rocks “speaking to me”.
This is the beauty of being alone. Like in a sauna the rocks were heated up so much that they were making interesting noises, like wood cracking in the fire. Absolutely phenomenal!
Continuing my ride I stopped already 5 minutes later and walked up a sand dune which revealed unbelievable beautiful views over the valley. This was not the last time my jaw was dropping off, lol. Words can’t describe this place and one not need but must have to visit the “moon valley”.
While enjoying the landscape the wind was blowing so much that I did not only almost lost my cap once but several times. I was sitting on top of the “mountain” and enjoyed as long as possible the landscape… I don’t want to repeat myself but I can’t otherwise than saying it was absolutely breathtaking.
The second half of the road lead me along large red mountains and sand dunes to the so called the 3 Marias which is in fact a quite interesting rock formation. After capturing the moment I continued my way to a former mining area but not before going heavy off-road. The deep holes on my way made it impossible to find a suitable line and I decided to check my bike on its core skills and increased the throttle. I was flying over the terrain while my bike was occasionally trying to break out but I managed the 700 GS very well.
Laguna Ceja and Laguna Ojos del Salar
The next morning I could feel my body striking but was burning to continue my discovery expedition at Atacama. I decided to check out several places with the “Piedra Rojas” – the red rocks – as my final destination. “Unfortunately” I left pretty late around 10 am and was wondering if I would make it back to the hostel before nightfall. My GPS told me I had to drive 3 hours there and 3 hours back, a 6 hours drive without stop. Hmmm… Additionally, I wanted to visit more than the piedra rojas. Well, I wanted to give it at least a try and hit the road.
Laguna Ceja and Piedra as well as Ojos del Salar were just perfectly located on my way and I made my first break there to enjoy the beautiful landscape. The lakes are protected and it is not allowed to use sun blocker when enjoying a swim in one of the lakes which got 10 times more salt content than the “normal” sea. I was looking forward to enjoy the bath which was in fact super cold, lol. However, It was brilliant to just float around and not to make a move while staying for all the time on top of the surface. I simply loved laguna Ceja with its beautiful deep blue colour and plenty of wildlife and I wished to have been able to stay a bit longer. Well, I had a strict time schedule that day, if I wanted to see everything… I became a bit like “Tick-Box” Chris, lol.
Laguna Ojos del Salar was basically just located next to Ceja and it took me no longer than 10 minutes to drive there while the road became more gravel-ish. It was very well manageable though and I discovered two small deep blue coloured lagoons which were nice to watch. However, at the end of the day I found out that in fact the most beautiful lagoon I missed out, hahaha. It was just another 5 minutes drive away which I did not realise. Damn it…
However, my main goal was to check out the red rocks and I did not hesitate any longer to make my way there. The well asphalted road at the beginning lead me along the driest desert in the world and plenty of beautiful 5’000 to 6’000 m high volcanoes to off-road terrain. I had to make the last 30 – 45 minutes on deep gravel, the famous “ripio” which is usually so typical for the national route 40 in Argentina about which I heard already so much.
Not 5 minutes on the gravel my bike suddenly broke out and I had difficulties to keep it on both wheels. Slowly I reduced the speed and luckily came to stop without falling. F*&K! What did just happen? I expected my first puncture but found two perfectly in shape tires… Instead I realised that one of my side pannier was missing instead!!!!! WTF!!!!! I found the pannier a couple of metres away in the gravel and of course my petrol container got damaged again. GREAT! Refilling immediately my bike I luckily did not lose any petrol.
I just had to ask myself what I would be doing with the pannier now. Apparently, the screws of the support got lose or got lost and could not hold anymore the weight of the pannier. I was wondering if my offload ride the day before was responsible for the damage. Anyways, I was disappointed that the Givi product left me alone again! Not my first choice again in future after the support made already big troubles during the first 15’000 km.
Luckily I had a spare elastic strap with me (the duck tape would have not been suitable) and fixed the part on top of my seat. It was holding perfectly fine for the rest of the day but had to urgently fix the problem ASAP!
Continuing my ride I discovered one of the most beautiful places on this earth after I came out of a curve and there it was: Aqua caliende with the piedras rojas!!!! I never saw such an intense turquoise coloured lagoon in my life which was perfectly fitting into the volcano landscape and of course the red rock formations. I was speechless and enjoyed the view for a while from above before checking out the place more in detail. It was like being in a dream! Surreal… beautiful… it was taking my breath away. I was in Paradise!
Anything else on my trip would just be second choice… I could not believe how many beautiful places I saw within such a short time. I got spoiled with amazing locations.
I still had enough time to ride back just before nightfall and I did not hesitate to visit also the altiplano lakes on my way back. This time the road was not gravel anymore but even better: sand, my favourite terrain! This time I had the right choice of tires on my bike and the tire structure provided relatively good grip on the terrain. I was happy to have changed the tires and the Heidenau rubber was doing a good job: both on asphalt and on gravel as well as sand.
Lagunas Miscanti y Miñiques
The two lakes were absolutely amazing, again a deep blue colour like I used to know it from places like Titicaca and any other water bodies above 4’000 meters as it seems. Just beautiful… WHAT A DAY!!!!!!!! I was simply thankful and could not believe how lucky and privileged I was to experience all of this.
On my way back I was trying to drive some off-road through the Atacama desert but decided very fast to continue my way on asphalt again. I had enough of sand and wanted to come back home in one piece, lol.
Geysiers del Tatio
The next day I had 2 tours booked and somehow I needed to urgently fix my bike in between. At 4:30 a.m. my alarm went off and I had to get myself prepared for the Geysiers del Tatio which were about a 1,5 hours drive away from San Pedro at approx. 4’000 m attitude. When finally arriving, we were certainly not the only ones and plenty of other tour buses were already on their way as well. It was freezing cold – around -7 °C – and I was glad to have made the choice to take my thermo underwear with me.
When entering the park we immediately saw the geysers from far away spitting the hot water clouds high up in the air. We got out of the bus and started exploring the holes in the ground which were colourfully ranging in size from a couple of centimetres to about 2 – 3 meters. Boiling water was bubbling everywhere, water steam, blue sky and a rising sun were building just the perfect scenery for an early morning at the geysers.
Driving back to San Pedro I felt immediately to sleep and got luckily woken up by the bad road conditions just to witness the beauty of the landscape which got lost on our way to the geysers due to the darkness.
Back at the hotel I tried to immediately find a solution for the GIVI support and researched together with the hostel manager for possible motorbike accessories shops in the area. Unfortunately the next one was located in Santa Cruz, just approx. 2000 km away. Argggg… I suddenly felt a feeling which I did not experience since a very long time. My stomach got contracted and I felt like not being able to move anymore. I was stressed, lol! Just the thought of not being able to move on made me scared… My plan to reach Patagonia was endangered and I did not find a solution yet.
I decided to visit the local mechanic and luckily to my astonishment he was able to find a solution for my problem and fixed the support by simply putting a couple of screws together and the support was like “new”. I was still planning to get a replacement in Santiago since I could not afford these problems on the rota 40 when no thing such as a garage exists for hundreds of kilometres.
Anyways, The problem was fixed for the moment 😀
In the evening I went for a stargazing tour and learned about the galaxy in which we are living in and the many different star and planet constellations. The milky way was just beautiful but to be honest… I was expecting slightly more, especially after the unbelievable mind-blowing night skies of New Zealand. However, it was very fascinating and my interest for our world and galaxy got newly rediscovered.
Atacama is one of the most beautiful places on this earth and needs to be on everyones bucket list. I felt in love!