Today we are up at 4.30 as we are being picked up at 5am to go to El Tatio Geysers. There are 10 of us and we travel in the dark to get to the geysers near dawn. Most of us nap in the bus as there is nothing to see. We arrive at El Tatio, 3rd largest geyser field in the world. El Tatio in Quechua means ‘old man crying’ and is also the name of the nearby active volcano. It is freezing, about -8, a really cold wind and our faces are very cold. Could have done with the thermals and a beanie this morning. We wander around the geysers which are caused by the eruptions of underground water above a lava field, which when mixed, gives huge plumes of steam vented from cracks in the earth as it has nowhere else to go. We notice it is so different to the geysers in Bolivia, less dramatic, but these are the highest altitude geysers in the world. The Chileans are more safety conscious with paths, walls and railings. There are some spectacular eruptions of both water and steam. Some are continuous, and some are at intervals. We stand and watch one that erupts every 1 minute 20 seconds. Once we have done a circuit of the geysers we go back to the bus where the driver has made scrambled eggs and we have this along with some lovely baguettes, ham, cheese, cake and most importantly hot, hot coffee. It gives us a chance to warm our hands, lips and get some feeling back into our very cold noses.
We are then back in the bus for a short drive to the thermal pools. These are natural pools using some of the underground hot water from this volcanic activity. We get to soak for 45 minutes before we get changed and then back in the bus for the return journey. Along the way we see several flocks of vicunas and stop at a small wetland area where we see many birds including the blue beaked duck. Along side this wetland is a village that mines the salt from this area. We stop at the village of Machuca for a toilet stop. This village almost disappeared, and we see the remains of the original village on the outskirts of the new village. Now as more tourists are coming people have moved back and some villagers had bbq’s going with skewers of meat but perhaps more could be done by the locals as there was a ‘captured’ market here that they weren’t taking advantage of.
Our final stop is the gorge that the thermal waters from El Tatio flow down through. There are cactus here and deep in the gorge some vegetation which up until now has been very sparse.
We arrive back in San Pedro at 1.30. We shower and change and wander down to Roots Café for a lovely salmon baguette and some good coffee. It has been a long day and an early start so Phil has a snooze and I sit by the pool and catch up on my journal.
At 6pm we go to Sol Inti restaurant. Good homely food. Pork chops, potatoes and vegetables for me and chicken, quinoa and vegetables for Phil. Huge serves, half the price of Adobe which was exceptional, but good hearty food. The roof of Sol Inti restaurant is an open weave straw and above it we can see some cats wandering around. The couple over the other side of the restaurant don’t like cats and the cats get a bit feisty. The next thing is there bits of straw are being dropped in their drinks. A quick change of table and a new beer and they are resettled and the cats get shooed away. Home to be at about 8.30. Party animals that we are!!!