Day 3: Geysers and Volcanoes of Bolivia

Pictures speak louder than words and word cannot describe day 3 too adequately.

We were abruptly awoken at 4:05am, too early for all, especially with the cold that we faced when getting out of our beds clothed with our numerous layers and covered with 4 thick blankets.

Either way we had another exciting day ahead as Laura and I had been looking forward to the thermal spring that made a natural spa. This was scheduled at 7am when it was still cold to get maximum benefit of the warm water in such a cold climate.  When we left the “hotel” we were in for our first surprise, the stars and complete, 100% blackness of the night, with no polluting lights from anything.  There were more stars in the sky than we have ever seen before.  In just 5 minutes of standing in awe I saw 4 shooting stars cutting sharp lines through the immaculately clear milky way.  Segaterius was standing proud while Leo was on its back, setting upside down.

Breakfast was not until 7am so we all headed off in silence, gazing at the stars, many people dozing, heads flopping around as we continued bumping around the dirt roads of south west Bolivia.  In an hour and a half of dawn break, stars being gradually replaced by the crisp blue of dawn above the sharp black lines of the rolling peaks, we eventually saw steam pouring out of the earth in front of us.  We had arrived at the moonscape of the geysers of the park.  One was a strong vertical jet, while others were slow emanations from large cracks leading directly into the heart of the earth.  Incredible.

Bubbling volcanic mud in the Reserva Nacional Eduardo Avaroa

There was everything volcanic in one scene.  The bubbling of volcanic mud (above) with small spews of suphuric gas rising out of tiny vents around it, while others were large areas of gas that sounded like a furnace, what I´d imagine hell to sound like.

The geysers spewing gas and steam from the core of the earth in the Reserva Nacional Eduardo Avaroa

Perhaps the most amazing was the actual geysers that fired steam high into the air, especially because I managed to put my hands right into the jet and with my poncho on, someone commented that I looked like a wizard!  I´ve always wanted to be a wizard! 

The geysers was another first for us and it was only 6:30am!  We did however want to spend a lot more time here and take in the atmosphere, the absolute stillness, combined with volcanic gurgling activity.  However that was not an option as we needed to make our way to the thermal springs before the heat of day broke.

We headed off with the multicoloured sky adding to the atmoshpere of the site and climbed out of the crater we were sat in, as more jeeps turned up to the site.  Our hands were white with cold and I could barely carry the camera as making a fist hurt.  We were all shivvering profusely under the cloudless sky.

In barely 30 minutes we arrived at a steaming lake that was produced from underground chambers and saw a man made pool, which was a disappointment as we expected a natural pool as we had seen in other pictures.  Yet it is good that this was somewhat separate from the rest of the lake to ensure that the habitat was left alone as much as possible.  The only problem I saw was that the water from the man made pool poured into the natural lake, so perhaps this would not be too effective afterall.  We sat in the cafe and was brought the usual bread and powder coffee combo, but this time we knew we had pancakes and eggs- a treat.  We saved ourselves somewhat for this, but then the driver abruptly informed us that the pancakes was actually a cake (spherical, fluffy… you know a CAKE), oh and that the eggs that had been transported around were IN the cake.  What a joke, we were looking forward to hot food.  All the other groups around us had their “American breakfast”, we were stitched up.  Not impressed he then told us we had 30 minutes in the thermal waters, so not enough time now to eat more and fully enjoy one of the attractions for us.

Only 3 out of 6 of us ventured out and stripped off to get into the water for fear of freezing over when they got out.  Getting in however was ace, but certainly not a tranquil affair with at least 8 other jeep groups doing the same as we were.  There were the obligatory Americans crudly “biting the bullet” for the other to chat up two petite french girls who were “raggable”.  So all in all we had high expectations for this parft of the trip, that were not met, but it was still another first for us to bathe in a thermal spring.  Getting out also turned out to be less painful than we expected and we ensured we were in there for as long as possible.  An hour it turned out as nop one came to get us.  One driver very unimpressed.  Oh well.

We set off for the next of the days sights, which just seem to keep turning up and delivering surprises.  We were back crusing along the desert with just tracks as guidance to our direction.  Soon we ground to a halt and were told that this was Dali´s desert, a bland expand of yellow sands, a lot finer than we had been driving along previously which was a lot courser grain.  Standalone rocks in abstract shapes reflects some of the landscape scenes that Dali produced, unsurprisingly hence the name.  The driver was clearly in a bad mood however as he told us we had time for just a photo and left us in a poor position.  That was that then!

Next we made our way further south until we were on the tip of South West Bolivia on the boarder with Chile to the west and Argentina to the south.

Pictures speak louder than words and word cannot describe day 3 too adequately.

At this point we reached Laguna Verde and the Licancubur volcano (above video), which towered over 6000 m above sea level.  It was copper this time that gave the lake is resonant colour.  As our final stop before two of the Brazilian guys headed off across the boarder into the Atacama we had a group shot and reminisced what a good trip we had all had.

So, next we had to drive to the boarder through sand banks and stopping for the oncoming trucks that were belting down the sand roads trailing grit and and intense sandy dust that rcked the jeep with each one that we met.  After saying our goodbyes and having a sandy loo stop we headed back homeward bound.  We thought we were picking  up other people to taxi them back to Uyunni, but this never naterialised.  Instead we could stretch out and Laura and the French guy, Gerard, fell asleap.  I was left looking at the other sides of the mountains that we had seen on the way down, as we took a slightly different, more direct route.  I cracked open the Coca and chewed away with a dull fuzzy head with lack of sleep and slightly drained by the heat of the now midday sun.

We past Dali´s desert again where I requested a stop for a better picture and then we continued on for 3 hours this time until we reached our second to last stop, Valle de Roche.  Another set of volcanic rocks that had been sculpted into strange shapes, some “recognisable” as faces and animals.  We had seen a few of these now, but to think that clusters of them exist in the middle of a massive of expanse of desert we continually tried to appreciate.

Our camera battery finally died after taking all the necessary pictures of the last stop and so we just sat back and enjoyed the view of the passing change fo scenery, which becomes gradually more water baring the more north we travelled.  We passed a smaller salar, where trucks were carving up the land to send to people´s dinner tables.  Dust devils continued to swirl up and seemingly are attracted to the heat of the roads as they seem to like crossing them playfully.  One even crossed literally 2 meters in front of us, as the driver rubbed his cross once more.

We stopped for our final lunch, which was another surprise.  Corned beef.  The Brazilian had never tried it and so we recounted its part of English history.  It was a good meal, probably because we had a meal for 6 to share between the 4 of us.

We rocked around up and over a section of the Andes surrounded by “punk plants”, tufts of grass that looked like a punk had been buried upto its hair.  These extended as far as the eye could see until we started heading back down into the valley, where we crossed our first flowing body of water in 3 days.  I finally managed to sleep, as we all did until the 4 hours passed that took us back to Uyuni.

Dry, exhaused and really needing the loo we all collected our bags and it was then that Laura and I realised that our bus was at 7pm and not 7:30.  It was 6:10pm now and we needed food. A quick pit stop in the vans that lined the central reservation where all the bus companies operated and we were suddenly on “new place mode”.  Ejected out of a surreal journey packed with “firsts” and constant amazement and then onto a bus to Sucre.  We had some remains of snacks from our tour and so were happy we had supplies, but when we got on the bus tghe front row seats we secured because of past experience that this had the most leg room was unfounded on this bus.  Instead we had really loud Bolivians to content with, who have no concept of what level their volume needs to be when the lights are turned off.

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