Rainbow Valley (Valle del Arcoiris) was our first of five excursions from San Pedro de Atacama, all of which were booked through our hostel, Backpackers San Pedro for a very reasonable price. After being collected in a minibus, we were on our way.
Even the journey was enjoyable, because we couldn’t tear our eyes from this vast landscape. Uninterrupted open space stretched out as far as we could see and the mountains proudly rose above the seemingly endless landscape. We were also fortunate enough to pass a group of wild llamas going about their day!
On approaching Rainbow Valley, we drove down a bumpy and dusty track, along with the other minibuses full of eager tourists. Luckily each bus load of people were driven and taken to different spots to start their tour, so it thankfully didn’t get overrun!
Burnt orange, pistachio green and chalk white colours snaked their way in an uneven swirl across the prominent rock formations. So although not really ‘rainbow coloured’ by the well-known term, the rocks were instead layered more like a sandwich cake!
The bright blue sky complimented the colours of the rocks by adding a pronounced contrast to this stark environment. Each turn brought with it a new angle and an ever more grooved and cracked surface. We were surrounded by many different textured faces; exposing their age lines, yet still standing strong.
We let the rocks swallow us whole, becoming absorbed within them, and here their strength and vulnerability could more readily be felt. After spending around 2 hours exploring Moon Valley, we headed back on the winding, desolate road to a tiny, barely inhabited hamlet. Along the way we were treated to more spectacular views and cavernous gauges, carved through the desert.
After a thrilling yet disconcerting descent into the hamlet, we had a snoop about the dwelling (inhabited by only 24 families). Single level brick houses, some lived in, some abandoned, were dotted about in the base of this deep valley. Sustained by solar power and with one road in and out, it is but a grain of sand in this beautiful desert. No other tourist buses were here and having hardly seen any residents, I was for a moment here alone.