27.01.2015 - 30.01.2015
We had decided to go to the El Tatio Geysers the next morning, requiring a 4:30am departure. We got kitted up and ready to go only to find out that there was a car parked in the drive of the hostel and we couldn't get our bikes round it. There was nothing we could but go back to bed and try again tomorrow.
Petrol stations in San Pedro did not sell engine oil and our bikes were clearly running dry so we had to make the 3 hour round trip back to our favourite Calama to pick some up. On the way back we stopped off at the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), one of the driest places in the world with some areas not receiving a drop of rain in hundreds of years. Our first stop we got off the bikes and followed signs for the caverns. We did not realise that this would require us to make our way through small dark tunnels and we were lucky enough to catch up to a tour group who had torches to help us get out. Not great fun with helmets in hand and bike jackets on. At the next stop we got to see the full extent of this spectacular landscape of various sand and stone formations in the valley. We then stayed to watch the sunset over the hills in the background. We can't say that we agree that this valley resembles the moon, but it was very impressive and well worth the trip.
We left our bikes in front of the car and this time our 4:30 departure was successful. We had been told by many people in our hostel that the Geysers were cold but neither of us could have expected what was to come. A drive up to 4,320 meters above sea level at -5 with wind chill left our hands unable to operate the clutch properly, which was problematic as the steep climbs and altitude required first gear more than once. When we arrived and our hands stuck in 'the claw' position we spotted a thermos' of tea. Unfortunately these were for the organised tours but one friendly tour guide saw our pain and offered us one while telling us we should not have come up on our bikes.
Fortunately, the geysers themselves were very impressive and well worth the 90kms of pain. As the sun finally rose, we were greeted with hot water spraying out of holes in the ground all around us and vapour trails that covered the entire field. We used this hot steam to warm up our hands while admiring the natural phenomenon. The bubbling pools of water were too hot to swim in so we swam in a more controlled natural spring, finally getting all our joints working again.
Whilst at the geysers, we were caught admiring a very cool Jeep. Both extremely jealous of the well-kitted out jeep, we eventually made friends with its owner and were thoroughly impressed by his story. Travelling from Brazil to New York, homeschooling his two kids and their friend en route. Very cool and extremely nice and well-spoken kids. Maybe one day, when our budget allows, we may upgrade the 125s and do something equally cool.
The drive back to San Pedro was an unbelievable ride. The sun revealed everything we had driven passed in the darkness that morning. There were huge fields of llamas and pink flamingos in flats of water around every corner. We even stopped off in a small town en route for barbecued llama, which we would both recommend.
Another early start awaits as we try for the Bolivian border tomorrow. So another chorrillana and an early night was in order. San Pedro de Atacama has been the most touristy town we've been too but was not over the top and still had some charm about it.
San Pedro de Atacama