Monday 23 October 2023

The wildly beautiful Ruta de Las Lagunas

After leaving the Salar de Uyuni, we headed south through the Ruta de las Lagunas, a trail of lagoons leading to the Chilean border post (though the lagoons were probably there before the border!). The route took us through canyons of sandstone which were occasionally lined by a stretch of grass, and, in places, a small river was running through! Compared to the dry landscape above, it all looked very lush and green. We also saw many llamas, just doing what a llama does...chewing grass :)

On our way south, we passed through the Valle de Las Rocas, a fantastic collection of natural rock formations dotted with the occasional chinchilla (a large rodent with a long tail, and an excellent climber, hoping up almost vertical cliffs). The chinchillas were not the only ones who climbed the rock though. Ismene and I climbed numerous boulders and I even climbed into a hole in-between a rock and a smaller flake - that was fun!

The crazy landscape continued, and, as darkness fell, we still hadn't found anywhere to sleep for the night. Worried that we would have to sleep in the car, we redoubled our efforts and, luckily, found a narrow valley above another salt lake, sheltered from the hallowing and chilly wind. Well, not quite sheltered, we still had to use Chiquita to provide extra shelter. All working our fastest, we quickly pegged out our tents (using our guy lines too), and soon, felt tired, yet proud of ourselves as our tents stood strong against the wind battering them with its strongest soldiers!

In the morning, after packing our tents, we set off to the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avoroa. We headed along the bumpy track to Laguna Colorada, and every time I bashed my head, I thought it was worth it just for the sight of the rusty-burnt-orangy pink lake! Laguna Colorada is full of flamingos feasting on the mineral-rich water and plankton which (as you might guess) makes them very pink! The flamingos weren't the only ones who benefitted from the lagoon though; there were also a few llamas who were there at the water's edge eating the delicious, well-watered grass!

But the ever changing landscape of the National Park surprised us yet again. After leaving Laguna Colarada, we headed further south to reach a group of large geysers named Sol de Manana (tomorrow's sun). This 4850 meter high geyser basin had bubbling mud-pots and a thick smell of sulphur (a bit like rotten eggs)! It was amazingly freaky because it felt real and otherworldly at the same time. Dan wasn't bothered by the smell but I have a pretty good idea about why that might be :)) Hahaha...

At the end of the amazing yet hard route, we reached the Termas de Polques, two small hot-springs which felt like paradise compared to the cold air surrounding us. They also offered us the quintessential view of vicuñas, flamingos, salt "flats" and volcanoes while bathing! The water felt clean and soothing after four days with no showers on the dusty and salty road. 

Heading down to San Pedro de Atacama and back to Chile tomorrow morning. I can't wait to get to a lower altitude. Bye for now!

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