. We passed some brilliant musicians and listened for a while. They were keen to have their picture taken and we exchanged names etc. They are already pestering Oliver via Facebook to email the pictures! Our most notable activity was an excursion to the Valley of the Moon. It was a really good trip. It started by stopping at the Valley of the Dead. This was supposed to be called the Valley of Mars but there was confusion with the Spanish words for Mars and Death and so people called it The Valley of the Dead. From there we were able to see the huge Volcano that we had seen from Bolivia, now from the Chilean side. The guide gave us a really good talk about the landscape makeup and also about a diving expedition that had dived the volcano to record the highest ever dive. Oliver was in awe! His first question - Can I dive it?! We then went to the north side lookout of the Valley of the Moon. The valley is famous for its resemblance to the surface of the moon, owing to its different stratifications and the salt formations that are caused by natural environmental factors and we sat for a while just looking at how fascinating it was. After entering the valley itself we walked through a canyon to some creaking rocks. As we stood silently we could actually hear the rocks crackling - from the salt in them! It was really weird but very cool. I wasn't brave enough to stand under them though. As we walked through the canyon we could appreciate the various stone and sand formations which have been created through the centuries by floods and wind and the impressive range of colour and texture - it was true, it was like the moon
! As we continued our tour, snacking on empanadas on the way (what else!) we visited the Three Marys. These formations are the result of intense erosion. They are composed of gravel, clay, salt, gems and quartz and are approximately 1 million years old. The 3 formations are suppose to look like 3 Virgin Marys but you needed some imagination. I could see her in 2 of them but the 3rd looked like a lizard to me! Ooopppss!! Our tour of the Valley of the Moon finished with an amazing sunset. We climbed up a sand dune, which also gave us a view over to an area known as the Amphitheatre. As part of the Salt Mountain Chain, it was formed by the horizontal accumulation of thin layers of materials such as sand, clay and salt, which were subsequently destroyed by movement's in the Earth's crust. The view of the peaks was just beautiful as the sun set behind. We climbed as high as we could up the rocky outcrops of the dunes too and settled at the top to admire the valley. The most amazing thing for me was the colours of the opposite Andean Mountain Range, in the moments following the actual sunset. It seemed to change from red to orange to blue and the most vivid pink! We tried to capture it on camera but it really doesn't do it justice - it was like magic watching the natural light do that. Back in San Pedro tonight I am still up and down with how I am feeling - I bet you are tired of hearing that! Oliver has gone for dinner in a restaurant with a big firepit in the courtyard that looks lovely. I am just not up for food though so I have stayed in. We have another lazy day tomorrow before our final night bus so I can continue taking it easy. These lazy, sunny days here have been a real treat and the town of San Pedro has been the perfect stop off! I like Chile already!
So, we have had a day and a half now of chill out time in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - our final country! The empaņada update is that since yesterday lunchtime I think he's had about 10 - well, maybe 5! Today, there were plenty of optional excursions like biking, exploring nearby ruins, horseback riding and sandboarding but we decided to have another day of rest. We were woken up early by a dog at the bottom of the bed! Not really - it just felt like he was the barking was so loud! It must have been right outside the window. I decided to lie in anyway and Oliver went for breakfast with Paul and Philip - boys stuff! They actually sat drinking coffee and having breakfast for 3 hours! Just after midday Philippa and I joined them and had a lovely brunch! It was warm in the sun and we sat enjoying the atmosphere. I had a plain tuna baguette that I have been craving for weeks! There are some perks to arriving in a touristy place! This afternoon we visited the handicraft market and then enjoyed the vibe of San Pedro de Atacama