Meeting right ol’ Geysers at El Tatio – Day 477
Getting up at 4am demonstrates our dedication to the cause of showing you sights across the world. We don’t do it often, we are certainly not early birds. Why so early? We’re meeting some right ol’ Geysers at El Tatio, that’s why!
As well as getting up so early, we were going to 4,320m above sea level and with a freezing temperature of minus 10 degrees. With tights, leggings, thick socks, t-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, one and only cardi (you must be sick of seeing this in photos), trusted puffer jacket and raincoat I was ready, as was Tim. Just at the last minute, I suggested we took our woolly hats and gloves. Phew!
The four young students were also coming on the trip, and when our bus arrived, there also was our new friend Rex. We were off to El Tatio, near to the Bolivian border, the world’s third largest geyser field with 8% of the total and, no surprise here, also the highest in the world.
We were informed that ‘El Tatio’ means ‘Grandfather’, which is weird as on Duelingo I have been taught that ‘Abuelo’ means this. According to legend, the volcanic mountain known has Grandfather has protected the local people.
The journey was a good 90 minutes in the dark, and for most of the drive, I could see Venus shining down on me. Rather apt as it was International Women’s Day.
We arrived, and yes, it was freezing. It was quite eerie to walk along the stone marked path passed bubbling holes with steam rising up into the night sky.
We got chatting to Sharon from Stevenage. She was a right geyser, swearing every other word and such a laugh. We had a great chat about travelling, and she wanted to know all the good places that we’ve been to in South America. It’s so lovely sharing notes and Sharon had just come from Bolivia, where we will probably head off too after Macchu Picchu. Her photos looked amazing.
Breakfast of Pan Amasado, traditional Chilean rolls, with scrambled egg, cheese and ham for the meat eaters, and a hot drink. That was very well received. Suddenly we realised that the sun was rising which gave us a beautiful view of the Andes.
We walked around some more of the 80 active geysers here, chatting with Sharon and Rex, enjoying the scenery and making sure we stuck to the path. We certainly didn’t want to fall into the boiling hot water and end up looking like lobsters. With the scorching water hitting the sub-zero temperature, it was fun to see the clouds of water vapour rising. Sharon was a tad disappointed as she was expecting the geysers to shoot right up high into the air, similar to what she saw earlier on her trip. I do understand. She also has travelled a lot, and we're both trying not to become blasé about places, seeing the beauty in the moment.
As well as walking around the geysers, there were hot springs here too. I was slightly miffed with myself as I forgot this was here. I think I got muddled up with another trip we decided not to do. The four students had sensibly brought their swimwear and took advantage of the lovely natural hot pool to warm themselves up. Would we have gone in? Yes, we would have done. Not sure I would have enjoyed getting out in the cold, but that’s all part of the experience.
It was time to head back to San Pedro de Atacama with a few stops on the way. Photo opportunities to see some wildlife, including rabbits with very long fluffy tails, some Llamas and the more delicate Camelids, Vicunas.
We stopped off at a Lagoon which looked beautiful against the blue sky, mountains and yellow grasses. There were large black coots nesting and feeding; our guide seemed surprised that we have them in Britain. Later we made a quick photo stop at a small lake with a few large flamingos. What curiously amazing creatures they are.
Our final break was at Machuca, a small village high up in the mountains which is home to a generation of one family apparently. We were greeted with Llama kebabs cooking over the half tin barrelled bbq. The village was very quaint with small thatched cottages and a pretty church on the hilltop. They must have such a simple existence; I wonder if social media has infiltrated their lives yet.
We finally arrived back, being dropped off in town, meaning that we had to walk to our Airbnb in the heat of the mid-day sun, gradually peeling off the clothes that we could. It wasn’t long before we were having a nap, catching up on sleep.
In the evening, we met up with Michael and “X” who we met at the Astronomical evening. I am not going to mention this lovely lady’s name. She is crossing a border today with feathers from Easter Island and a kg of Merkén. I am sure you can imagine the laughter we had about her feather merkin! (Having read the Entry Requirements and Customs she will be fine).
Michael and X met in Easter Island recently, both happen to travel to Atacama and both happen to live in New York. We had such a lovely conversation with much frivolity, covering usual topics of travel, politics in the UK and USA, and aspects of having our own business. X is a photographer. It turns out that Michael used to work at BNP Paribas before he retired, the same as me! Small world.
We left the restaurant and went back to X’s Hostel for some wine that needed to be drunk. Michael had an early start in the morning, so hugs all round. Our conversation, and wine, continued to flow and in the end we were politely told to “shut up” by another resident. Time for us to say “Buenos Noches” and see you again some time, don’t know where, don’t know when. Good luck X, you’ll be fine.