Our final bit of exploring was one of Ben´s favourites.
The first place we visited was the Valle de la Muerte (Valley of the Dead). We were on foot and only explored the first part of the valley because Ben spent so long disappearing from sight up and down all the small canyons he could find.
The rock felt quite brittle and we could see down through gaps into hidden gulleys below. In some places there were hidden canyons which unfortunately we could´t climb up to safely.
The colours of the rocks and canyons were amazing although the bright desert sun bleached out a lot of the colour.
We think the main valley was an old riverbed with small gulleys coming off it.
The patterns and shapes of the rock that had been carved/shaped by the water and wind of the Atacama (it is really windy here!) were fabulous.
Ben and Finn both loved the exploring and we spent a great afternoon up and down and in and out of gulleys, small canyons, caves and through arches.
It would have been easy to lose Ben here and perhaps he shouldn´t have gone exploring in his new Argentian football top (it is not quite the same dazzling white anymore)! There was always one more gulley to find and explore and difficult to keep up with such a mountain goat.
This was the one place Ben really wanted to return to but we ran out of time, because firstly we rescued two stranded Brazilians with a broken chain on their mountain bike at the end of the Valle de la Luna and then our car broke down (battery connections shaken off on the bad roads and corroded with all the sand and dust).
What an amazing place to have found, a perfect playground.
Secondly we took the time to return to the Valle de la Luna as we had wanted to explore the caves there and had not had time before. Going in the middle of the day meant that we were the only people there and again it was a fabulous place to explore.
The caves and tunnels started with quite easy places to walk through. These tunnels were old water channels carved out a long time ago as an underground stream.
As we went further the tunnels became smaller and lower and we really needed the torches we had brought.
Inside the tunnels there were amazing salt crystals and more amazingly carved rocks on the steep sides around us.
Finn and Ben loved the exploring especially when the tunnels were getting too small for us to follow. In many of the tunnels it was completely dark as we followed the meandering dry streambed under the ground (it was a good thing my camera has a powerful flash as I couldn´t even see what pictures I was taking).
Finally at the end of all the tunnels when there was nowhere left to crawl we came back out into the sun and hiked back down.