Floating on salt...

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Apr 08, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, February 17, 2008

But our other attempts to experience and appreciate this seemingly uninhabitable ecosystem are met with success....and more salt.   We join a group of people heading out of town to float on the water of these 5 ponds that miraculously appear on the desert plains.   They are between 30 and 40% salt so no effort at all is required - it's like laying down on a couch. .  And it doesn't require any effort to kick back a few Pisco Sours either...the group becomes friendlier as the Pisco Sours flow...we watch the sunset over the salt flats of Atacama.
And as geysers are always a big draw, we venture out on an all day trip to the Tatio geyser field.  This means leaving at 4 in the morning...I'm not sure why....a geyser doesn't know whether its 4 AM or PM....but that's the plan.  And after a long and very bumpy ride out there in the dark, the geysers are awake and steaming and bubbling, each with their own unique personality...and it's well worth the early morning departure.   We're up at 4800 meters in altitude (about 15000 feet)...these are the "highest"geysers in the world, and in fact, at least 3 people are feeling altitude sickness so there must be something to this.   After traveling for a while, you notice that everybody proclaims theirs as the highest, or the driest, or the wettest, or the most beautiful....and on and on....right from the guide books to the locals.  And one gets skeptical regarding these claims.   From my own experience, nothing I've yet seen beats the geysers of Iceland...but that doesn't have to detract from this experience.   We also visit some mud boils which are very cool....no doubt...but I do think they've got some stiff competition from the mud boils of our own Tully, NY. 
There's this initiative to tap the power of the geysers...gather up a bit of geothermal for San Pedro...makes sense to me.   But there's conflict between tourism people and energy activists/energy developers.....the most visible community organization is focused on preventing this initiative, the fear being that the power of the geysers will be trapped and diminished....no one will be able to drag tourists out here at 4 AM unless the show is worth it.  Now that's practical, but the most constructive perspective I hear comes from a local businessman..."it will happen (they will tap the geysers), so why don't we just guide the process so that the needs of both interests may be met...they'll retain the beauty of Tatio while developing alternative energy".  Also makes sense....and while we're looking at alt energy, how about intensifying the solar collection in this clear-skied region?  Might make a warm shower more likely...

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