Arica, Chile, and Its’ Magical Desolate Moonscape

23 Mar
The smaller valley.
The Loa River

Two fertile valleys point inland from the port of Arica, Chile. One contains a river, the Loa River, that flows throughout the year; another larger and greener valley has no continuous river but a better more humid climate.

The larger valley looking all the way to the port.

 I found traveling through these two valleys breathtaking. But not because of the greenery I saw, rather because of the giant mountains of rock and sand and dust that rose on either side of the valleys. The Atacama Desert rises high above.  And looks like nothing I had ever seen before. 

I was not surprised to learn that movies set in space are filmed here. I was not surprised to learn that NASA has practiced using its equipment here. I was surprised that people lived in this harsh dry climate. Nothing seems to grow on these mountains except for one dusty looking plant that gets its nutrients from the air. 

The ancient, native peoples left there mark on this land. On these mountains, ancient people left pictographs of llamas, animals and men.  These stunning designs, as well as the Chinchorro mummies that have survived centuries, bring us to another world. 

The ‘Eiffel’ church in Arica.

Back in the main valley,  we see the more modern world of Arica and the buildings design by Gustav Eiffel and brought to Arica from France. The three buildings I saw stand within easy walking distance from each other.  The most magnificent was the church. 

Arica is an amazing place of dichotomy. A bird sanctuary and wetlands just a few miles from a desolate, high desert. A valley filled with trees and farms beneath giant lumbering beige expanses of rock and sand. I cannot imagine waking up each morning to this world.  But you need to see it and feel it to understand the immensity of nothingness that is this desert.  You must see this beautiful, magical, and desolate moonscape. 

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