An hour’s drive out across the desert to our North took us to a particularly broken area of this vast panorama in which it is extremely difficult to gauge distance or scale – from the higher points (c. 3,000m) one can see at least 100km to the south across vast deserts and salt flats to the ring of volcanoes and mountains that are the real Andes (and the border with Bolivia and Argentina. The scale is such that San Pedro feels as if it is right in the shadow of the main volcano of the region (border with Bolivia), yet it is 45 km distant.
En route to the Rainbow valley we stopped in the approach valley and wandered up a llama track (actually at this altitude one does not really ‘wander’ when you have come from living at sea-level!) to see some amazing petra-glyphs (rock carvings) of llamas etc.
Rainbow valley itself might not possess all the colours of said rainbow, but it tries hard with amazing hues of green, blue, white and brown and some pretty impressive formations in the mudstone (Phoebe, of course, really appreciated the opportunity for the ad hoc geography lesson!). Everywhere, mica, gypsum and salt glinted in the sun whilst the temperature was a very pleasant 15-20 degrees (which is VERY cold for everyone else here!).
To add to the charm, on the way out we espied our first llamas (including a very newly born one) and later a solitary guanaco, before being brought back to our hotel for an extremely healthy lunch (we hadn’t quite realised just how much we were missing the salads!
(Having yet to get to grips with the discipline needed to maintain a weblog - precisely the reasons why I declined from maintaining one in my last job - a few days later I return to edit this particular part).
In the afternoon we went to the moon; well, we did if the local pundits are to be believed: we visited the Valle de la Lune, which as all the guides will impress on you is the area in which much of NASA's equipment has been tested (cue Phoebe to explain how in 'Creative thinking' at school they had to discuss whether the lunar landings had been genuine. Actually, they could have been filmed here...in fact I am sure that the Mars landings will be, as the landscape is so alien...) Yet more amazing scenery and rock formations and the privilege of being taken off the more beaten track and away from the crowds of other grockles to bet some really stunning views of the sunset - well, of the colours created on the mountains to East. Incredible!