If you really want to experience any place in full immersion then you have to do it on a horse……is what I told John the day before we both signed up to an 8hr horse trek around the Atacama desert….. I fully stand by that sentiment in every place I visit and the option of a full day on a horse exploring the ‘Valle de la Muerte’, the ‘Devils throat’ and the 3000 yr old ruins was too good to pass up.
We got to the ranch having written our riding experience down for them on our booking form, met two girls, Swiss/Danish, who were volunteering for a month there (green eyed jealousy monster showed up then!), got our hats and chaps on and got given our horses to get on.
John was given ’18’ yes that’s his name as he was born on the 18th October, the national day of chile 🇨🇱. He is the boss of the field and somewhat the boss of John on our ride, but also a very calm and sensible boy who looked after his riders if they were novices.
I got this incredibly handsome beast! ‘Ese’ who is definitely at the bottom of the pony pecking order in the field but with rider is much more confident and brave. We hit it off as soon as I’d got the hang of one handed western riding!
There was another couple on our ride, same set up, girl wanted to ride a pretty pony and boy had been convinced to go too. He definitely had not embraced the ride though and spent the next 8hrs looking petrified……
The ride was amazing. We left the yard and headed for the valley of the dead 💀 climbing up sand dunes and crossing rock faces on the way.
In brief 1) many years ago a young boy was herding his animals along the edge and the mud rock gave way and they all fell to their deaths. 2) There is no sign of life and nothing can survive in The Valley (although our guide Juan disputed this as there are birds, foxes, lizards, snakes all living there). 3) That when Belgian scientists came to Chile to study the geology they named The Valle de Luna ‘Moon valley’ and the Valle de los Muertes was actually Valle del Martes as in ‘Mars Valley’ but the translation was misunderstood and the second name stuck.
We then headed up to have and amazing ride along the ridge of both the valleys with breathtaking scenery everywhere you looked.
Luckily all the horses have done this trek 100’s of times so putting beginners of live animals on the edge of a sheer drop wasn’t as mad as it could have been……we stopped and hopped off for lunch at a viewpoint in the middle of the desert.
Shared our apples with our new horse friends and got our sore bottoms back in the saddle for the trip down the hill and through The Valley of the Devils throat.
The Devils throat is so named as it’s a thin fully formed though very rugged looking angry rocks that are too narrow and low for horses and riders to pass though together. So we hopped off our noble steeds at two points along the journey, and with a swift smack on the bum from cowboy Juan they bravely headed through the thin gaps to their riders waiting on the other side.
It was stunning riding and a lot of fun. Once we came out of the rocks we were on the home straight with some pretty greenery and so little canters we were back at the ranch. Slightly achey but very happy and having had an awesome pony party.