The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest desert on the planet. There are some places in the Atacama where no rainfall has ever been recorded. Nothing can survive there, neither plants nor birds or even insects.
It is not a typical desert where it’s just dunes. The Atacama offers much more. Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) has a unique rock formation carved by the wind and floods. Its colour and texture are similar to that of the moon surface. Valle de La Muerte (Valley of Death), formed many million years ago, is one of the driest, most inhospitable places on earth. No known life exists there.
The dryness and the vastness of the landscape give it an otherworldly appearance. It is as if nature has taken off its robe and turned naked to reveal all its beauty. Am I on Mars? I often asked myself.
Because of its high altitude, dry air, clear skies, and no light pollution, the desert is one of the best places for stargazing and hosts some of the world’s most ambitious observatories.
I cycled about 1600 km in the Atacama Desert, and it was one of the top highlights of my four-year bicycle trip from Argentina to Alaska.
I have always found deserts as magical places. I don’t know where my love for them comes from? Maybe, because I was born in the Thal Desert? Or, because in the vast expanse of a desert, I can escape and get a feel of nothingness?
Whatever the case, places like the Atacama do have a profound impact on our mental state. Their vastness and featurelessness wipe out the confusion and clutter from our mind turning it into a clean slate and giving us a fresh start. It is so still out there that nature directly speaks to you and solaces you.
Though deserts appear as barren, inhospitable, and intimidating, and yes, they are, but only in worldly terms. When you stay long enough in the desert, you eventually enter a state where all of your dreams buried deep in your subconscious visit you one by one in broad daylight. If you stop and listen to them, they will tell you stories you have never heard about yourself. They are here to take you on a spiritual journey and turn you into a mystic who disappears from this world and reappears in another. They want you to become what you always have been, long before you were even born!