El Tatio Geysers, San Pedro de Atacama

Trip Start Mar 15, 2006
Trip End Dec 20, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I found out last night that I got the job I wanted, and will be back to work at my old hospital.
Got up very early this morning to join a tour to the El Tatio Geysers, about 70 km from San Pedro. We reached El tatio before sunrise, as they are at their best between 6aqm and 7am. It was a chilly -12 degrees C, probably the coldest I have ever been! Being so high (roughly 4300m) it did heat up once the sun came out. I had been worried about the altitude because I was so unwell crossing the Andes from Argentina into Chile, but had no problems whatsoever. Iīm not sure if it was the extra time I spent aclimatising, or the copious amounts of coca leaf tea and coca leaves I consumed, but something worked.
They geysers are quite beautiful, some are delicate puffs of white steam floating like cloads against the clear blue sky, but others were more violent with cauldrons of boiling water. They are also minimally fenced off from the tourists, so people can basically walk anywhere they want, over the steaming fields or right up to the geysers. As a result there have been a few deaths when seemingly stable rock has given way and people have fallen into the geysers.
After breakfast a couple of us took a dip in the thermal springs, which was a lovely way to warm up! Then we drove to a town called Machuca. Along the way we spotted various camel relatives including vicunas and llamas, as well as pink flamingoes! The scenery was stunning, with arid desert in the foreground, and snow capped peaks and perfect conical volcanoes in the background. At Machuca we got a bit closer to some of the domestic llamas. Some of the villagers were selling llama kebabs, which actually smelled pretty good, but I couldnīt bring myself to do it.
Tomorrow I head north into Bolivia with a 3 day tour through more salt plains, cactus islands, flamingo lakes and geysers, which promises to be equally as spectacular.
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