Close to sunset, I headed for the Valle de la Luna, the heart of the Atacama Desert. After parking my bike at a popular trailhead, I set off along a short trail that everyone else seemed to be following. Sand dunes along the path sparkled in the fading sun from the last remnants of light hitting the sand. The whole sky turned into a rainbow as I walked for half of a mile to the gathering place. It felt like joining a little club of people who on this particular night decided to gather for the sole purpose of witnessing the beauty of a sunset together.

The next morning, I rose early and joined a group to visit the Tatio Geysers, not wanting to waste a moment of the trip. Plumes of steam rose up in every direction from puddles of piping-hot water dotting the frozen ground. The boiling water sounded like thunder in the distance. The water was so rich with minerals that it created unique streams, some streaked with blue and green and others with red and orange. It was all so other-worldly, the tour guide practically had to drag me away when the time came load up the van.

On the way back to San Pedro, we stopped at a small lagoon. The salty water was so buoyant that you could lay flat and float with no effort whatsoever. The surface was refreshingly cold, but rays of sun sparkling through the clouds made hot spots that were heaven to float through. Stretching my arms above my head, I pushed out my feet as far as they could reach. Nothing I did changed my buoyancy, so I twisted and stretched, trying to release every ounce of pent-up tension.

The next morning, I went for a long run, around 30 miles. Leaving town, I continued down the exposed highway and out into the desert along a chunky red gravel path. The sun was beating down on my arms and face. However often I applied sunscreen, I still felt the burn in the high altitude environment. Soon, I was running through the heart of the Atacama surrounded by so many natural wonders that I forgot about the heat and strain of my pace.

Listening to the dystopian sci-fi novel 1Q84 on my iPod, I passed by sand dunes, dramatic cliff sides, rock formations stranger than you can imagine, and large expanses of nothingness. I felt like I’d been transported to an alien world. When I was just about at the end of the trail, I noticed that I was running short on water. I finished up the trail, since I was so close to the end already, and then hoped for some sort of store along the route back.

A mile passed, and then a few more. I was running through water faster than I’d hoped, as it was just so hot. It was 80 degrees, but it felt like 100 degrees, exposed as I was to the sun. I could feel my fingers swelling, as they do sometimes when I am under-hydrated. I still had 10 miles to go and my hopes for a store were running thin. Fortunately, upon exiting the Valle de la Luna, I caught sight of a few tour buses and found that they were stopped at a small rest area. I downed my last bit of water and headed inside for a refill. An hour and a half later, I was refueling again at the hotel restaurant, this time with a cold cherry Coke.

About Explore Unbound

Explore Unbound is a database of epic adventures. Think of it as a curated list of adventure ideas, ranging from the world’s hardest ultras to the most scenic ski touring regions. Depending on your style, you can explore by destination, time of year, or type of adventure. Poke around a discover the world’s top mountains, treks, ultra marathons, ski tours, and more!

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