Geysers, Hot Springs, and a Missing Jeep

June 10, 2010 (Day 23)

It's five o'clock in the morning. Time to wake up. We're leaving in 30 minutes. 
Yes, morning has finally arrived!

We boarded the jeep and made our way to witness the sunrise amongst the geysers and hot springs.

It was time for breakfast and the other jeep wasn't behind us. Perhaps, they stayed back at the geysers a bit longer. Maybe the Australian girls were still in bed at the lodge. Maybe the jeep got stuck.  These were all theories that passed through our minds as we waited for our English-speaking tour guide and cook to arrive with the other jeep.  Our Spanish-speaking driver did not have a radio to communicate with the other jeep, and was just as clueless as the rest of us.  We had to be at the Chilean border by 9:45am to catch our bus. Time was quickly ticking away. Around 8am, our cook arrived and informed us that the other jeep broke down by the geysers.  She hitched a ride to the cabin to prepare our breakfast while our guide and that jeep's tour group stayed behind to attempt to fix the jeep. Luckily, we weren't in that jeep.  We rushed through breakfast and continued on our journey towards the border.  Our driver was flooring it. Even though the jeep's speedometer did not work, it was evident that were driving much faster than the posted speed limit. I still don't know why they have speed limit signs there but perhaps it just meant that we were slowly approaching civilization again.

We arrived at Laguna Verde, where the water is a hint of green in colour. Once again, definitely not as vibrant as in all the photographs, but beautiful nonetheless.

We then headed off to our final destination, the Bolivian-Chilean border, where we waited by a little building until our shuttle bus arrived.

Now for a quick review of Andes Salt Expeditions Tour Operator:

On the plus side, we arrived at our final destination safely and on time without any incidents.  That being said, I found that our tour wasn't very time efficient, and from what I could see (and what do I know), our entire tour could have easily been completed over a 2 day / 1 night period.  By the time our tour started, it was already past noon on the first day. We could have easily started earlier and traveled further on our first day (or stayed longer at the two main stops to take even more funny pictures or further explore Fish Island, if the location of our lodges was the reason for our late start). The second day definitely ended too quickly as we were at our lodge by 3pm with nothing to see or do for the rest of the day. We could have easily continued onto the geysers and hot springs for a late afternoon dip before heading back to the lodge.  I assume the location of the lodges was again the issue but since they were so basic, why not build new lodges in more convenient locations.  But anyways, this is probably an issue common to all the operators. As for our English-speaking tour guide, he was in the other jeep so we really didn't benefit from any of his services outside the few comments he made at the stops. He also did not hang out with us at the lodges in the evenings. Luckily, we didn't pay too much extra for his services because we ended up relying mostly on the explanations our Australian friends received from their personal English-speaking Peruvian tour guide. As for our driver, he was a bit adventurous, taking the road less traveled in many instances, which was more than fine with me, yet he wasn't too friendly or considerate. He was never drunk and did get us to our destination safely so that should be recognized as we heard tourists talking about a drunk driver (from another tour operator) who apparently flipped a jeep the day before our trip began.  You definitely don't want that to happen when you're in the middle of nowhere in a salt flat or desert. As for the jeeps, ours was ok, despite the band-aid on the passenger door ;) These jeeps take a lot of abuse under a variety of conditions so it is to be expected that they wouldn't be in the greatest condition but it should be noted that the other jeep had mechanical problems that disrupted the tour.  All in all, Andes Salt Expeditions showed us the sites as promised so while they might not be the best organized tour operators, they managed to get the job done for us.

Now, back to the day's events.  We crossed the border into Chile in what can only be described as one of those modern airport shuttle buses you see in North America, 

and made our way down a paved downhill highway to San Pedro de Atacama, where we got our passports stamped and belongings thoroughly examined by hand. The officer checking my backpack noticed my first aid supplies, and asked me if I'm a doctor. I giggled under my breath and said no.  Apparently, if you have a first aid kit in Chile, you're automatically considered to be a doctor!

Welcome to Chile!  Home of the $5000 pitcher of beer!

The menu prices are, of course, priced in Chilean Pesos, but besides the extra zeros involved in the currency conversion, things were still considerably more expensive than in either Peru or Bolivia.

San Pedro de Atacama is a quiet little town, once again geared towards tourists, as it acts as the Chilean starting point for a lot of eco-tours and outdoor expeditions.  Unfortunately, we didn't have more time to explore the local natural attractions as we were soon on our way on our next overnight bus trip to Arica, Chile.

1 comment:

  1. The time-lapse video at is one of the many reasons I wish I was better prepared for stargazing adventures in the Atacama.


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