Four am came quickly. David informed us that it was -7 degrees celsius outside. We all packed up and dressed quickly...most of us wearing the same clothes we wore the day before (and some of us to bed) , except we wore our bathing suits underneath.
After having a basic breakfast of hot drinks and bread we loaded the jeeps and headed out into the darkness. Dawn broke as we were driving.
At 4,900 meters above sea level, the geysers were our first stop. The magma in this area is only 17km from the surface which is considered very shallow. It was still really cold out and steam from the geysers rose all around us. None of these geysers erupt at regular intervals but they bubble and hiss continuously.
Our next stop was the Dali Desert. They call it that because the mountains look like they are melting.
There are no roads anywhere we have been travelling, only jeep tracks.
Our next attraction was the hot springs. I asked David if there were heated changerooms. His mirthful laugh gave me my answer.
There were changerooms but they weren't heated. I quickly stripped down to my bathing suit in the cold air and got into the hot springs. They felt wonderful. Because our bodies were so warmed up, getting out wasn't as bad as getting in. Fully clothed, we headed to our final attraction.
The green lagoon, nestled between numerous volcanoes was stunning. The green colour came from arsenic and copper. Then too soon it was time for us to say goodbye to our fellow travellers on this awesome tour. David took a group picture and then those of us going onto Chile got into one jeep and everyone else got into the other jeep heading back to our starting point in Uyuni, Bolivia.
The jeep took us to the Bolivian border post where we had to pay 15 Bolivars to get our passports stamped. We were told this is not an official fee but something the border agents decided to charge. The jeep then drove us to the Chilean border where a bus was waiting. We transferred our luggage from the jeep to the bus and carried on a few kilometers into Chile where we stopped at the Chilean customs post. Immigration into Chile took awhile because there were a few buses ahead of us. There was much chuckling and laughing when the border agent found Bob the rubber chicken in my backpack. He said animal products weren't allowed to pass but he would let Bob through.
Upon entering Chile, we were in the Atacama Desert. We continued to go down in altitude as we made our way to San Pedro de Atacama.
From starting the day at -7, we found ourselves in the high 20s. We checked into our hostel- La Casa de Matilde. John and I decided to wait out the heat in the shaded courtyard of this family run hostel. I was able to use their outdoor laundry sink and with a few hours on the clothesline, our clothes were dry.
Chile is a lot more expensive than the other South American countries we have been to so far.
At 6pm we headed out into the main town (5 minute walk). It has an old New Mexico town feel with its pitted, dirt streets, one or two story buildings and dogs running all over the place. Almost every second business is a tour company. More tour companies than restaurants. The old Adobe church in the square was lovely.
After going to a bank machine and booking our next three days of tours, we found a restaurant. I just ordered an empanada which I was able to finish and John ordered the supper special which would have been enough for our whole family. Although it was pricey, the food was disappointing.
While eating, a peaceful demonstration parade passed in front of the restaurant.
We are still trying to get information on Santiago which we are scheduled to go to in four days.
TIPS & COSTS
La Casa de Matilde- $56 CAD per night
Grado 10- tour company- 3 tours 70,000 Chilean Peso (about $125 CAD)- this is after we had negotiated them down a bit because we were booking three tours. You can get 3 tours for as low as 45,000 Chilean Pesos but you often get what you pay for. Our tour was highly recommended on trip advisor. We had some very good hot meals included and our guide was excellent; very knowledgeable about the geology a d spoke excellent English, Spanish, French and German.