Alas…. we had come to the last day of our Salar de Uyuni Tour in Boliva. The past 2 days had been filled with a myriad of terrains, lagoons, mountains, deserts, rock mountains, flamingos, salt flats, cacti and the list goes on. Alberto, our driver, wanted us to be ready to go by 5.30 am. I could not sleep the whole night as I had a mild bout of attitude sickness as we were at an altitude of almost 5,000m above sea level. I could not breathe easily and found myself taking quick and deep breaths throughout the night. Yet, it had not dampened my spirit as I got ready for more amazing sights. It was freezing cold and due to time constraints, we quickly gulped down our hot beverages and took a quick bite of our bread. Martha was so cold that she had the sleeping bag wrapped around her in the car.
Even before we arrived at the Sol de Manaña geyser basin (elevation of 4,850m), we could see smoke rising up to the sky. As we approached the geyser area, this shooting geyser was hard to miss. Alberto told us it was safe to touch but it was with much trepidation when we did that as the loud sizzling sound was a tad intimidating. It was like touching thick warm smoke which left a bit of moisture on our hands.
Sol de Manana is a collection of bubbling sulfur pools and geysers, normally visited just as the sun is rising. It extends over 10 km² at the elevation of between 4,800m and 5,000m. Do take extreme care when walking around the geyser basin. There were no fencing around the extremely hot bubbling thermal pools and needless to say, a severe scalding awaits anyone who falls into them. We were given a mere 15 minutes and it was really way too short a time for us to really take in the full extent of this phenomenal place. The sun started to rise and turned the mountains golden yellow. Oh, how I wished I could have savored this magnificent sight at my own leisurely pace …..
The sun was slowly climbling as we made our way to our next destination. We drove on sandy terrain and the sun rays casted a soft glow upon the mountains and small lagoons.
Alberto had informed us beforehand to pack our swimming gear if we wished to have a short dip in the Termas de Polques hot springs. Initially, I was not keen as I am very susceptible to the cold and it was about 6.30 am in the morning. I changed my mind at the last minute and withstood the freezing cold ( below zer0 deg C ) as I changed into my swimsuit. With my teeth chattering away and goosebumps all over my body, I slowly dipped my foot into the hot pool. As quickly as I had put in my foot, I withdrew it just as quickly as the water temperature was scalding hot!. Well… it was either the freezing cold air or the boiling hot water. Swiftly I went into the water and at first, the heat seemed too much to bear. But it became more bearable after a while and before too long, my body had conditioned itself to the heat and it actually became very soothing indeed. Now I can tell you guys that I was in a hot spring at an elevation of 4,400 metres. Alas, we were only given 10 minutes inside the pool and we had to quickly change to our dry clothes as others were waiting for us. There was a small hut next to the hot spring for changing of clothes at a charge of 6 Bolivian boliviano. My advice : Get into the hot spring – you won’t regret it! I was very glad I did. We were there early and therefore we had almost the whole pool to ourselves.
As we drove on to our final destination, I was truly captivated by the amazingly beautiful mountains. One of them had a shiny sparkling sheen and even looked good enough to eat. Others had sprinkling of snow on them making them looked like icing on a long chocolate cake! It was truly a grand feast for my eyes!
THIRD AND FINAL STOP
One final group photo at Laguna Verde before we bade farewell to Alberto and Bolivia. Looming behind us in this picture is the Licancabur volcano and the Laguna Verde. Wikipedia states that Licancabur is a highly symmetrical stratovolcano on the southernmost part of the border between Chile and Bolivia. It is located just southwest of Laguna Verde in Bolivia. The volcano dominates the landscape of the Salar de Atacama area. Now the interesting fact about Licancabur Volcano is that the lower two thirds of the northeastern slope of the volcano belong to Bolivia, 5,400 m (17,717 ft) from the foot at 4,360 m (14,304 ft), while the rest and biggest part, including the higher third of the northeastern slope, the crater and summit, belong to Chile!
We were finally at the end of our tour culminating with a satisfying finish at the exquisite Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon). Just like the other lagoons, Laguna Verde is also a salt and endorheic basin at the elevation of 4,300m. It is located at the foot of Licancabur volcano on the Chilean border. The Laguna Verde covers an area of 1700 ha, and a narrow causeway divides it into two parts. It is at the southeastern extremity of the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve and Bolivia itself. It has mineral suspensions of arsenic, lead, copper and other minerals which renders color to the lake waters. Its color varies from turquoise to dark emerald depending on the disturbances caused to sediments in the lake by winds.
All good things have to come to an end. So it’s Adios to Bolivia and hola to Chile! …