It was time to leave Chile, but before that happened, there was no way we could bypass San Pedro De Atacama - the destination we wanted to visit before we arrived. We had heard, read, and viewed pictures of this unique little town in the middle of the desert, surrounded by geysers, lagoons, rock formations, volcanoes, salt valleys and other mysterious places of hearing and the eye.
We arrived there after changing a few dads, cars and overnight at the cheapest hostel possible. Getting out of the car of the last man to pity us, we found ourselves in a fairy tale or in someone's written but unfinished story. Typical of a desert city, but not typical of one of Chile's largest tourist attractions. The two of us walked steadily down the dusty streets of the town, between mud houses, shops and hostels. San Pedro has won us over since its entry. I always thought that the writings on the internet exaggerated the superlatives for this place because the Chileans put a little more enthusiasm into the descriptions of San Pedro, but this time they all turned out to be right.
We had set up a few campsites before arriving in San Pedro, and were excited to head to them. Some of them were closed because it was not the tourist season and others were very expensive to our surprise. After some touring we found the cheapest campsite with hot water, internet and kitchen - only against 5000 pesos per person! They won us! We camped and headed out into the dusty streets to explore the new territory. We wanted to visit some of the city's outskirts, so we set out to explore tour prices and offers. We were a little disappointed. Our budget did not exactly match our desires - the Geysers Del Tatio, the Altiplanica Lagoon, the Salt Desert Salar de Atacama, and most of all the Vale de la Luna. We had to choose only one of these options. The choice was difficult, so we decided to wait for the moment so exciting for us - to meet our friend Sarah, whom we had previously arranged. Sarah and I met at a college in England while we were preparing to volunteer for Africa. We spent 6 months together and then, for our luck, we chose the same country for a project - our beloved Zambia, where we also spent half a year together. We were looking forward to this so exciting meeting with joy and impatience!
Sarah has arrived! The emotions around the meeting did not give us rest, so with trembling we began to think what we could do. She had seen geysers before. Therefore, we shared our interest only in the Valais de la Luna (the path of the moon) and the Altiplanica lagoon, rising at 4200 meters above sea level. We also shared our lack of interest in buying insanely expensive tours. Together we decided to do it our way, and whatever happens. Anton and I were looking for another way to visit geysers, but there was no way. We had to travel 100 km, at 5 hours in the morning, up into nowhere, at 4200 meters above sea level, to be able to see them in their full beauty. We had no choice but the office of the cheapest Del Tatio Geyser Tour - 15000 pesos per person + breakfast. We booked for the next day and started considering options. How to face the setting sun of Vale de la Luna without paying 10000 pesos? We were leaving town, whatever it was! We told ourselves. And it came to pass! He stopped a pickup truck with his family. We were very happy to find that they were headed in the same direction as ours and quickly jumped into the trunk of the pickup truck.
Vale de la Luna is a desert, with a vast area of rock formations and various points of visit and admiration for Mother Nature, in such a unique place! Our first stop was a small path in the lowlands of the Valle de la Luna. Getting out of the car we took the path. The feeling of being in a fairy tale was increasingly overwhelming. Rock formations, or rather, lava formations, along with quartz, have, over the years, formed unique shapes that one can hardly accept as a reality, and then hard to forget. We walked along a well-marked path. In some places it was a corridor of rock formations, and in others it even turned into a tunnel where we had to use our duck walking skills. Gradually we ascended upward to the light that came from outside and pale our faces.
We didn't know any other places to visit in the Path of the Moon. This further increased the joy of our luck in finding this family. We were told about other rock formations called the Three Marys. They asked us if we wanted to join them, and of course we gladly accepted.
Later, we headed to the highest point in the area from which a great view was opened. Smooth sand dunes opened before us, abruptly descending from the high sharp rocks and saddles. People were waiting for them, waiting, in the same desert, sandy, windy and cool rhythm, for the hour of the setting sun. The next day was before us. We also visited the Geysers del Tatio, the third largest and tallest in the world.
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We had never seen geysers before, so we didn't know what to expect. Our ideas were based only on pictures on the Internet and advertisements of tour operators. The name Del Tatio means "crying men." When the locals discovered the geysers, they tied them to the rocks around them that looked like pressure men. The geysers are spread over a huge area. About 80 are active geysers and their water rises to 7-8 meters in height. It is preferable to watch them at sunrise (then the temperatures are lower) and this is exactly what made them fall in love with a tour (something unusual for us). Geysers are formed from groundwater, which meets magma, as a result of which water begins to boil and gases form. They make their way to a cracked surface and water and gas escaping from there. In some places the water is closer to the earth's surface, so we could see the jets rising above us. The water has a temperature of 70-80 degrees.
After our walk around the geysers, we headed to our next stop - the hot springs. A pool of hot springs with a temperature of 15 to 40 degrees, depending on the depth, has formed near the geysers. The difference in temperature outside was huge, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the springs. A few hours later we were descending back to San Pedro, surrounded by some of the inhabitants of the desert - vicuñas (a kind of wild llama). We returned to San Pedro and immediately began to plan: How can we visit the Altiplanika lagoon on "ours"?
Altiplanik Lagoon - 4200 meters above sea level, strong wind, freezing temperatures, beautiful and unique, standing surrounded by volcanoes and waiting for regular tourists to enjoy it. We headed to the lagoon without thinking much. We had asked the locals and everyone said that we had no chance to reach the lagoon without an organized tour. "Nonsense!" - we told ourselves all three (I, Plamen and Sarah). We grabbed our backpacks and set off looking for new adventures besides the lagoon. We were preparing for a long and tiring journey. It was about 12 hrs. We were late and seriously. If someone had told us that at 14: 30 we would be at the lagoons the same day, we would not have believed it. We left San Pedro and started to stop. Upload us a Belgian couple. To our great regret, they had visited the lagoon the previous day. Now they were going elsewhere and left us at one stop. Getting out of the car, we noticed that a white pickup truck was coming. Thumbs up and the car stopped. We climbed the three and found ourselves in the company of a young Chilean couple who had nothing against the three foreigners. They went exactly where we wanted. They were even glad they could help us, and we were jumping in the car like first graders. Before reaching the lagoon, we stopped at Salar De Atacama, and he assumed that it became an organized tour. The lagoon greeted us "friendly". High winds and freezing temperatures. We dressed as much as possible and plunged down to the "blue challenge", surrounded by active volcanoes that complemented the beauty of the lagoon. So our disorganized tour ended. We had to find a place to camp. Two hours later, we were already counting the stars in the canyon of the Hera River, near our true blue tent. Once again, we became convinced that we did not need expensive tours to visit the destinations we wanted, but only the will, the positive thinking and, of course, luck.
It follows: In Che Guevara's footsteps