After breakfast and helping to pack up the van, we had a quick wander around the small village of Sol de Mañana where we’d spent the night. It was a freezing, but nice walk through town. Where else would you see llamas running across a football pitch?
Wilfredo took us through the plans for our Salt Flats tour day 2 and we were glad to hear there wouldn’t be as much driving today. Hooray!
The landscape today was very different to yesterday. There was now frost and ice all around, which was beautiful and also added a bit of adventure to the drive, with the ice cracking as we drove over the small streams that crossed the roads.
I’m not sure what our first stop was called, or how to describe the landscape of the morning. Perhaps islands of grass surrounded by ice? We had great fun jumping between the islands and trying to break the ice.
Today was the coldest day we’d had on our trip so far, an icy wind was blowing and we were going higher still. We were dressed in all the warm clothes we had and we were still cold. (If you’re interested, we each had on thick snow socks, thermal leggings and jeans on the bottom, and a long sleeved thermal top, t-shirt, fleece jumper and our jackets over the top, along with scarves, beanies and gloves).
What better way to warm up than a dip in the thermal waters of the Aguas Termales de Polques. So far we’ve only had our swimmers on in ridiculously cold conditions – here’s hoping one day we get to wear them in warmer weather! The thermal pools were amazing and we were lucky enough to have them all to ourselves. The water was beautiful and hot, and helped revive our tired bodies. It took a good 5 minutes or more to work up the courage to get out into the cold again, in our wet swimmers, and change back into our many layers of clothes.
Once we were dressed and suitably warmed up again, we set off for Laguna Blanca & Laguna Verde. Laguna Verde was our lunch stop for the day and the view was spectacular, with Volcano Licanubur as the backdrop. We hid between the rocks to try and avoid the bitterly cold winds, while we ate another delicious lunch.
Next stop were the geysers, and the drive there took us past some stunning colourful mountains, covered in a fresh sprinkling of snow.
The geysers were one of our favourite stops of the tour. There was bubbling mud spitting up from various craters, and steam coming up through various vents in the ground. Health and safety hasn’t made it to this part of the world, which meant we were able to get a bit close for comfort to the bubbling pools of boiling hot mud. The edges were slippery and wet – it didn’t take much imagination to see yourself slipping into the boiling waters.
It was here we also reached the highest point of the tour, an altitude of 4950m – let’s call it 5000m. The feeling of being at altitude is hard to describe, but for me it felt similar to being at the end of a long haul flight with a seriously big hangover. You have a dull headache, feel lightheaded and tired with little energy, your body and face feel swollen and your skin, eyes and nose are all dry. It’s a strange feeling and hard on your body, but nothing so bad that it impacts the trip.
Next stop was Laguna Colorado, the famous red lake. Sadly the flamingos that usually inhabit the lake had all migrated to warmer climates in Chile – I don’t blame them. There were some reminders around that they had been here earlier…
It was onwards to accommodation for the night, another cute little village called Villa Mar with the requisite church and football pitch.
John got roped into a quick game of football with one of the local boys, but couldn’t move too quickly with the altitude. It was funny to watch.
As we walked through town to get some essential supplies for the night (wine), everything was blanketed in a bright purple and pink light – a stunning end to an amazing day.
Going out to look at the stars later that night, we felt a long, long way from anywhere.