Saturday 10th October 2015
When we left Hotel del Desierto, Laetitia and David were preparing their tandem bicycle, ready to shoot off too.
We took off and here is one of the first thing we ran into.
The road ahead of us.
We stopped first at the “Pampas del Siloli” where we saw the “arbol de piedra” (tree stone) which is about 5 meters high.
Here are similar volcanic stones around which have been shaped by the wind. This is the entrance to the “Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa.” There are very strong winds in this area and the temperature in winter can be between -20 and -25 degrees Celsius! We did feel the difference with the previous days and in the car, I added layers to be ready for the next stop as I had frozen on that one.
Off we continue
Some blue stones contrasting with the yellow bushes
We arrived at the Laguna Colorada. The night before we had chatted with some people who had been there in the evening and had seen incredible colours and hundreds of flamingos. But today we were not really lucky with the weather. It was only
fog and wind, and no flamingos and no colours!
A view from closer down to the lake. I saw there some Andean gooses and a few sterns but that`s it.
Next to the Laguna Colorada was a post of control where we registered for the national park entrance.
Inside that post of control was a picture of the Andean Cat. It is a very endangered specie which is seen very very rarely now. Its main food is the viscacha so he lives in rocky areas. He can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
There was a poster giving details about a Conservation Programme of the 3 types of flamingos. If you are ever interested in
volonteering with this programme, give it a go, the website is sernap.gov.bo and you could ask about it by writing at flamingosbolivia_at_gmail.com. Who knows, maybe they would be very happy to take volonteers!
We had a bit of snow that day but those tiny flakes were melting as soon as landing on the car or the floor.
We continued the drive.
We saw this tent and two bikes.
We stopped and one guy peaked his head out of the tent. He asked me straight: “Hey do you know the weather forecast for tomorrow?” I asked the guide and he said “It depends. It will either snow more and that would mean less wind, or be very windy and then no snow.” I translated that to the guy in the tent. He looked a bit demotivated. He asked: how long until x distance? I asked the guide and told him about 15-20 kilometers. Then I asked him: Hey do you have a blog? He said he had a Facebook page, called los andes en la bicicleta. I wanted to know more about their cycling trip. I haven`t been able to find that facebook page though…:-( I asked: Do you guys need anything, any water, any food? He said they were fine. Alright then, nice to meet you…We shoot off again. I was really impressed by what they were doing, the same as Laetitia and David. Not sure if I would be up for it myself though. Cycling the Salar is something!!!! Pretty tough!!!
And off we continued!
We arrived at the geysers de Sol de Manana.
This landscape was incredible. We walked around, careful not to fall into one of the boiling hot mud.
You could see the mud boiling and the mud jumping in most of those holes.
A little video. In the evening, when we reached San Pedro de Atacama, we learned that a Belgium woman had just fallen into one of these boiling mud holes in the Tatio geysers near San Pedro on the Wednesday, 3 days before. She was 68 years old, apparently taking a selfie, fell into it, got burnt at 80%. Her husband tried to pull her out from it and managed, she was taken to Santiago hospital and died on the Thursday morning. A short article here about it: http://brusselstimes.com/world/4291/chili-belgian-geyser-victim-dies
When you have just been walking around a similar place, and you hear something like this, it is shaking. What a horrible story, and how terrible for her husband who tried to save her and couldn`t. It must be super hard for him. Those geysers are dangerous and there is not much safety around them. The good thing is you can walk around freely and take all angles of shots you want, and get really close and experience them really well. The bad thing is that it takes one bad step to fall into one of those holes, get burnt, and die. Freaky.
We continued our drive.
Got to the Laguna Verde.
Seen from another angle
We stopped at a spot quite touristy.
People were swimming in thermal waters but to be honest, with the snow, it was pretty cold that day, and we were not motivated to change in swimming suits and jump in. Whatever.
We saw these viscunas when driving again.
Here is the video of the viscunas.
Continued the drive.
Paris Dakar road hey, 4WD only, rough dry road, awesome landscapes. Pretty good choice.
I loved the subtle colours of this landscape.
View to the right
View to the left
And another view
And one more
4WD road, youhouuuu!!!! How stunning hey?
Got to that lake. Oh maybe that`s the Laguna Verde. What was the one before then. Lost track.
Pretty cool colour water.
5 kilometers away from the border, the battery sign went red. The guide driver went out to go check what was going on.
Some cables not connecting.
He used some duck tapes, it still took about an hour to fix it, but at some point, all good and ready to go again.
View of that laguna from the other side.
We got to the border.
We queued up. There was another group of tourists who were going from Chile to Bolivia.
After we got the exit stamp from Bolivia, here was the road. Argentina? or Chile? Ok, let`s go to Chile.
Off to San Pedro de Atacama.
Those two foxes came to say hi. They were not shy, didn`t run away, and same as the viscachas, we could tell they were used to be fed by humans.
4 wild donkeys. Always hanging around there probably. Not sure they are that wild.
At the entrance of San Pedro de Atacama, we got our entry stamp and entry little paper for Chile. They also checked our bags to make sure we were not bringing fruits or veggies.
I liked San Pedro de Atacama immediately. Lots of little roads just made for people to walk on, very few cars driving around. Houses and roads made of mud. Many many tourists in there but a hippie vibe too, an electric atmosphere, something in the air which makes you feel energised, dogs hanging around, massive dogs actually, much bigger than in other cities. Guitarist sitting on the side of the road. Painter taking his time. Nice place! Maybe I liked it also because of the fact of seeing some people after 6 days of seeing only landscapes? Who knows. It reminded me a bit of Villa de Leyva in Colombia, with the difference that it was not cobble stones on the pavement of the street, and that the architecture was not as pretty and the place was smaller, but a certain vibe there was similar.
We got into a hostel my dad had found in…Le guide du routard! The French guide. And for sure, when you go to a hostel recommended in a French guide, well…it is full of French people!!! My parents took a double room and I was in a 4-bed dorm with…3 other French girls!! Now, that was a first in 3 months and half of travels. Funny. Besides the fact it was a French recommended hostel, San Pedro de Atacama seemed full of French people too, an invasion similar to Arequipa. Must be a very popular destination at the moment. Sunset time.
We went for pizza for dinner and then decided that the next day we would chill out and go to hear Alain Maury, the French astrophysician talking about the stars and the universe.