Geysers, fumeroles, and Salvador Dali
30.04.2013 - 02.05.2013 32 °F
This is a three day tour that crosses a tremendous variety of environments surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. There are deserts of dirt, sand, and salt; abundant wildlife and areas devoid of any wildlife; and a series of lagoons which have their own unique colors. It is an area of extremes: the largest salt flat, the most lithium, and the driest desert. Sometimes there are roads to follow and sometimes there are none. At times, it seems we are the only people on earth and then suddenly, we are among 20 other 4-wheel drive vehicles filled with camera-carrying tourists. Come along and see some of the sights!
Snoring...cold trips to the bathroom...it's 5am before we know it. We have agreed to get up early and skip breakfast so that we can get on the road and beat the rest of the tour groups to the first few sites. It is so dark that I can't imagine how Reynaldo (our guide/driver) can even find his way. We are all dozing ff when we suddenly come to a stop. Reynaldo nods to the right. There is a geyser shooting into the air. I don.t bother to take a picture-- it's dark and I don't want to leave the little warmth offered by being in the vehicle. It appears that most everyone else feels the same so it is a surprise when the young French kid (who is not asleep for once) jumps out. We wait for him to get back in after a few minutes, but instead, he starts walking toward the fumeroles in the distance. It becomes obvious he is not coming back and after several minutes we can no longer see him. The fumeroles are our next stop, so Reynaldo starts the vehicle and heads that direction.
Again, I choose not to get out. Reynaldo seems disappointed, so I take a few pictures through the windshield. It's still pretty dark and d__n cold! Besides, morning has never been my best time. The French guys seem to be of the same mind. The French father is fussing because it is too dark for good pictures (though the sun is now coming up) and the French mother is fussing because her son is not to be seen. They both get out, but after awhile they are back. Their son is still missing. By now, we should be moving on. Instead, we are turning around and going back to the geyser in search of the kid. We have now lost the advantage that we sacrificed for...we could have had another hour of sleep or eaten breakfast. We were one of three tour groups, now we are surrounded by at least a dozen other vehicles and more headlights are coming down the road. Reynaldo and I exchange meaningful glances. Eventually, we find the kid and hit the road...eating the billowing dust of the caravan which is now ahead of us.
By the time we come to the thermal hot springs the masses have already arrived ahead of us. The two French guys quickly strip. put on their bathing suits and jump in. The French family is nowhere in sight. My two buddies are calling out to me and waving at me to come in...it is still cold and I am still in slow motion, but eventually, I change and go in. Once I am in, I don't want to leave the hot water. I am the last one to arrive at our table for breakfast. For the rest of the day, I have trouble staying awake as we pass more volcanoes, more vicuñas and llamas and stop to see the Desierto de Salvador Dali. It is a large desert with absolutely nothing-- except for a row of odd rock structures looking like a row of statues on display. Once again, we have no road to follow. We cross over streams with no bridges. The town where we were to have have lunch is unable to accommodate us for some reason so we keep going. Later we stop at another group of larger rock structures that seem to have identifiable shapes as people and animals. The highlight of the day was when I spotted two condors. Reynaldo pulled over so that we could watch them and eventually there were four of the magnificent birds.
We finally stop to have lunch at the small town of Alota. While it is being prepared, I wonder off on my own. I find the town square and church. I also find the local 'telephone' service with big discs and a solar panel out front.
When we finally return to Uyuni, I am very happy to have time alone again.