If you have already acquainted yourself with the places from the first part of the Atacama Desert story, then the next great destination are the geysers El Tatio.
The geysers El Tatio are a true test for one’s stamina.
The first challenge are the waking hours, you get up between 3:30 AM and 4:30 AM. That is necessary because the geysers should be reached before sunrise when the geysers erupt and the steam is best observed. The second challenge is…
…the altitude – you reach 4.200-4.300 m, so the best course of action would be to hold your pace and refrain from drinking too many terramotos (terramoto is a popular alcoholic cocktail, its name also means earthquake) the night before. The third challenge are the freezing temperatures early in the morning. Many people admit to never having experienced such cold their entire lives. The truth is, nobody expects 0 °C in the desert and the body has a hard time adjusting. Once you’ve overcome those challenges you are able to feast your eyes on the view, looking like a scene straight out of a movie.
You are more than ready to visit the hot springs. In the water people get to know each other closely, everybody wants to be right in the middle of the hottest water. The moment you come out of the water you run, shake and jump around, till you get dressed. You don’t know yet that after an hour you’ll be wishing for the cold.
On the way back we observed llamas, vicuñas and viscachas, the happy residents of this beautiful home.
The road passes through the Machuca village, where several families recently came to the decision to build their homes. It is cut off from the rest of the world, no roads or electricity. Now it flourishes. The ten families living there take turns serving the hungry tourists bread and grilled llama meat.
|Look at it run with its head hanging|
The trip takes about 8 hours. The warm clothes are obligatory in the morning, but they should be easily shedded for the way back during the hottest hours at midday. Each of us paid 28,000 pesos, including breakfast in the field with geysers. Some make gourmet breakfasts with eggs and pancakes, cooked on a geyser. The park entrance fees are paid separately.
Sanboarding is the most obvious activity, when taking into consideration the fact that you are in the desert. Normally, you’d pay for the transport to the nearest dune and equipment. There is a guide who explains the technique of skiing down the sand. When a professional does it, it looks easy but sliding on a board on sand is a hard task, no matter how much grease you smear. Several seconds of sliding should make up for several long minutes of dragging yourself up the hill. Sometimes the descend turns into rolling downhill instead of gracefully sliding on the board.
Something like a sandstorm came about after the first two hours. The millions of sand particles that hit your uncovered skin on the top of a dune really hurt. The ears and mouth soon fill with sand. However, the weather was on our side. Everybody was already exhausted from 3-4 descends when it started to rain. We got out of there fast and avoided finding for ourselves if Valle de la Muerte could literally mean Death Valley.
|The hardest part, the climb|
|Walking on the edge, literally|
|The view below|
|A volunteer showed the rest how it is done|
Several agencies offer sunboarding. Normally it takes 3-4 hours, including the journey and the instructions. You can go in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening at 10 o’clock. We chose the most popular agency and that cost us 15,000 pesos a person. The cost includes a video of your performance on sand.
Lastly, Lagunas Altiplánicas and Piedras Rojas remain for us to visit.
Lagunas Altiplánicas and Piedras Rojas are reserves with mountain lagoons, salty and sweet-water lakes, rock formations of volcanic origin and many more creations of nature that are hard to name but easy to photograph and show.
The one-day trip cost us 38,000 pesos including breakfast in front of the Miscanti lagoon and lunch in a traditional restaurant. Again, the entrance fees of the parks are paid separately. That was the most relaxing trip. We didn’t have to perform much physical activity, but the results were amazing. We expect the next best film to be from there!
|A staircase of cacti|
Tips for all trips:
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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