Fevers and Flamingoes

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Flag of Chile  , Antofagasta,
Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Day : 288
Temperature : 30 degrees daytime
Weather : Mostly sunny

We had hired a car for the 28th February with the German couple that we'd met in our hostel. Last night however, I suddenly started to feel achy all over and generally unwell. It was very strange. During the night I developed a fever and the glands in my neck became so swollen and sore that I could barely swallow. When morning came, I decided that there was no way that I could get out of bed, let alone go sightseeing for the day. What was more concerning was that we were due to leave for Bolivia the following day, and there was no way that I could risk going up to altitude feeling unwell.

Fortunately Kevin was on the case and managed to postpone our Bolivia trip as well as our car rental for a day, since Margit and Ulli were happy to rest that day anyway. We must both be a bit run down, since this is the third time that I have been sick in less than two months and Kevin is also feeling pretty exhausted all the time. We've been on the go more or less non stop since arriving in South America, having lots of long journeys, hard days trekking in Patagonia, then all of the action and excitement of Antarctica, and then travelling up to San Pedro. We both feel that we really need several days in one place to rest and recuperate.....when do we get to the beach????!

Anyway, I spent the entire day in bed, eating paracetamol like they were sweets, in an attempt to get my fever down, and thankfully by the evening I was starting to feel better. In the mean time, Kevin had teamed up with Marie, a French Canadian girl, and one of the guides from the hostel, and they went out to explore the area by bicycle, hitch-hiking their way back when they were too exhausted to use their legs any more.

The following morning I was feeling somewhat better, although the glands on my neck under my jaw were the size of golf balls and I was really struggling to swallow. We decided to take the car out and explore the area anyway, and I would just take it as easy as possible. First stop was Laguna Chaxa where we would be see some Flamingoes. The area is home to three species of flamingo, The Andean, The Chilean, and the James. Unfortunately, we didn't see the Andean flamingo, although we have been reassured we will see it in Bolivia, as at this time of year it prefers higher altitudes. As well as the beautiful flamingoes, there were avocets and sandpipers and some other little birds that I have yet to identify, as well as the only rodent living in this region, a small mouse, and the odd lizard.

We could have spent hours here watching them, but we were pushed for time and so after an hour we left for the Laguna Cejar, a lagoon so salty that it is possible to float in it.  Kevin, Margit and Ulli all went in for a dip, whilst I sat on the side taking photos, watching as much hilarity ensued as they tried to adopt several different poses whilst floating in the water.

We headed back towards San Pedro, bought some sandwiches for lunch and headed to the Puritama Hot Springs which sit around 1000m higher than San Pedro. I'm not entirely sure the word "hot" should be used here, since the water temperature was around 32 degrees, only 3 degrees warmer than the average swimming pool back in the UK...definitely not warm enough to bathe in!!  Kevin, Margit and Ulli once again stripped off and bravely took the plunge, assuring me that it wasn't as cold once you were in!!! I spent the hour with some of the staff at the springs, looking through their wildlife book, and doing my best to have a conversation in whatever Spanglish I could manage about the wildlife that we'd seen here.

Next stop on our day was a valley near San Pedro where we went to visit a sculpture of a face which had been carved into the rock several hundred years ago, before then heading back south to Laguna Tebinquiche for sunset. Unfortunately we hadn't followed the map correctly and turned into the salar a little too early. We could see where we wanted to get to, but the roads had dwindled into single lane tyre tracks bumping across the land, which went round in circles going no where in particular. As the sun was getting lower and lower in the sky Ulli put his foot down and we raced across the salar, bouncing and bumping along, tyres barely hitting the ground as we were desperate not to miss the sunset. Eventually, after about an hour going round in circles we found our way to the Laguna just in time for one of the most spectacular sunsets we'd seen on our trip.

Exhausted, we returned to the hostel around 9.30pm. We'd had a marvellous day. San Pedro de Atacama had certainly not dissappointed us.

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Antony on

Looks like your were floating in the water - bit like thed dead sea where the salt makes it so buoyant. didn'y read that in the blod (or maybe missed it!!) but looks fun.


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