“Unsuccessful” Visit to the Geysers del Tatio

One of the tours I wanted to make based on all the recommendations I got was to see the Geysers del Tatio, very close to the Bolivian border.

The day before the tour, as I was visiting the Lagunas Altiplanicas, our tour guide kept telling us how some people have gotten killed and a few more badly burned when they fall into one of the geysers.  I couldn’t quite comprehend at first and then became slightly horrified as he kept describing scenes he had witnessed of people who fell in.  The gory details of what happens after someone falls was not settling well with my stomach and I think my arms and legs were hurting just from thinking about burns.

So, with that talk as an introduction to the geysers, I prepared myself the night before for a wakeup all of 345AM to be picked up so that we could trek over to the geysers and catch them in their early morning glory, when they “blow”.  The pictures of the scene and others’ recommendations made me sign up for this torture of little sleep.  I did not realize the road there was going to be its own version of hell, not because of scary curves and cliffs but because it was very very rocky.  Now, I have been on dirt roads for hours in places like the Andes and Tanzania but this was way worse than anything I had experienced.  Perhaps it was my body not feeling well with the lack of sleep but I could swear I could feel my brain bumping against the inside of my skull!!!

We finally got there and it was absolutely freezing (something I was expecting).  The altitude also could be felt but didn’t really negatively impact me.  What did impact me was that the geysers, for some reason, did not blow that morning.  Sure, they spit out a little but nothing like what was expected.  Weeks later I heard from someone else that this time of the year isn’t propitious for visiting them – but the tour agencies in San Pedro de Atacama would never tell you that in advance…  I did get to snap some neat pictures that captured the colors the various minerals bring to the soil and water pools and the coffee the bus driver served us was heaven-sent on such a cold morning.

Geysers del Tatio in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Geysers del Tatio in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Geysers del Tatio in the Atacama Desert, Chile

The way back was not as bad as the way up because we went another way.  Thank God!  We visited a small village where the highlight, for me, was the church on the hill.

Having gone through no sleep, the bumpiest road on earth, and no “geyser show”, sure, I did regret taking the tour (something rare for me).  I am not sure I would gamble it again should I return to the Atacama.  I would say the landscape was pretty impressive, short of spectacular but to see it, one does not need to wake up that early!

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