Sun & Moon

The Valley of the Moon would more accurately be called the Valley of Mars.

That’s what the tour guide said on my expedition to Valle de la Luna. Unquestionably one of the must-see highlights of the Atacama desert.

The valley gets its name from the white flakes that cover the ground after a rainfall. It should be noted that rain is a rare event here. Evaporation¬†leaves behind what looks like snow. Except, obviously, it’s not snow. It seems pretty clear that they are salt deposits, sort of like how the underarms of my shirts turn white if I spend long enough in the Phoenix summer sun.

Otherwise, the valley is red. Kind of like Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Or parts of Utah. It would make a good location for a film set on another planet. Like Mars. The guide said that, in fact, the same white flakes that give Valle de la Luna it’s distinctive color would have been seen on Mars–whenever the last time Mars had surface water that evaporated, that is.

The last movie I saw about Mars was John Carter. I’m still not entirely sure what happened in that movie. But it does have Tim Riggins, a hot female lead, and special effects.

Watchmen had a couple of scenes with Dr. Manhattan in exile on Mars. I thought it was a great movie. That may not be a popular opinion. Especially considering the reputation of its director, Zack Snyder. I finally saw Batman v Superman on a bus in Argentina. It left me unimpressed. Maybe Hollywood needs to stop going to the superhero well for a little while.

Here on Earth, when I stood quietly in the Valle de la Luna, I could hear the rocks cracking. The guide explained how this occurs. Every morning, the sun hits the rocks, heating them, causing them to expand. Every night, as the sun dips toward the horizon and shadows grow, the rocks cool, and contract. These contractions are not always neat and orderly; sometimes, the rocks break.

The faces of the rocks were streaked with white lines, showing where cracks had already formed. I don’t think I was in danger of one of them breaking off and crushing me, but then maybe I narrowly escaped death. That’s an exhilarating thought.

Sunset was 7:00 PM. The bus took us to the highest point above the valley. I watched a shadow trace its way over a hill. The mountains in the distance changed from brown, to orange, to red, to purple, and finally blue.

I’d share some pictures, but the WiFi here is slow.

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