Hand of the Desert

Visiting Chile’s Atacama Desert Hand

Before leaving the Atacama desert, we had one last stop to make- and not an easy stop by any means. This stop was more of a 4 hour drive, 1 night, and 3 hour drive back detour. Pretty sure it took me longer to force Danny’s hand on this than it took us to make the detour. But there was no way I was going to spend a month in Chile and miss seeing the Hand of the Desert, so off we went.

Atacama Desert Map
Atacama Desert Map

By some miracle, both girls synchronized their naps and we had a pretty quiet 2 hours in the car. I have to hand it to them though – they did pretty well all things considered!

After what seemed like forever, we finally got our first glimpse of the sculpture from a distance. It was hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

Toddler and Dad next to Hand of the Desert
Hand of the Desert in Atacama

The closest civilization to the Hand of the Desert is Antofagasta, a town 75km away, right by the ocean. There is literally nothing else but a lone road and empty desert, which is what makes this stone stand out so.

The hand’s left counterpart is located about 1000km to the East, on the other side of the continent in Uruguay. It supposedly represents an underground giant holding South America in his hands. How cool!

Toddler and Dad next to Hand of the Desert
Hand of the Desert

The winds were insane when we got there, really out of hand. The hardly suitable flying conditions almost ruined our plans to take a drone shot. “Almost ruined” – considering the only obstacle was the Hand itself though, we decided to toss the drone up anyway.

Drone shot of the Hand of the Desert
Hand of the Desert Drone Shot

After we were done admiring the view, we drove the 75km back to our hotel in Antofagasta to spend the night.

The next morning we were out and on the road at 6am, since we still had a 3 hour drive to the airport. About half an hour into the ride, Toddler asks to go potty. Now keep in mind, sunrise is at 8am at this time of year, so it was pitch black, and we were in the middle of the desert. We pulled over, sat our toddler down on the potty, and then…

Night Sky and Milky Way in Atacama
Milky Way over Atacama Desert

The night sky was UNREAL.

I had spent 4 nights in San Pedro trying to get a decent shot of the night sky- but the combination of the moon being too bright, stray dogs barking at me, and the neighbor’s motion sensor light going off in the distance, would all work to ruin any shot I had of the stars. Not to mention I was awfully jumpy- at one point I scared myself into thinking I was going to get mugged with all my camera equipment laid out on the ground, when a man appeared from seemingly nowhere and briskly walked by me (!) in the field I was shooting in on the outskirts of town. Spoiler: he was really just walking by.

With all my haphazard first-time astrophotography practice in San Pedro, I was ready to capture the night sky here.

Danny handed me the camera and remote shutter and said “you have THREE shots. 5 minutes” knowing full well that each night shot is a long exposure that takes several seconds and constant adjustments.

Thankfully one of those three shots looked promising, and we got back on the road. I’ve learned quite a lot about night photography since then, but it was an incredible place to start out in.

We had to stop for one last (epic) potty break near what looked to be an old Inca village in ruins. We thanked our toddler for scouting out the great location and flew our drone up for a quick sunrise pic.

Having gotten our fill of the desert, we flew to our next more laid back destination: the beach!

Next Up: Beaches and Sand Dunes

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