Today I get up early, I have some tours planned and I am very excited. I have breakfast and prepare my backpack with water, put on sunscreen, hiking boots, warm clothes, sunglasses and my inseparable hat. They are all essentials, Atacama extends for 105,000 km and is the driest place on earth so it is FUNDAMENTAL to be well equipped. Its nights are cold.
Everything here is so easy, as I told you in my post about San Pedro. The night before the tour Atacama Magic, the tour company creates a WhatsApp group that includes the tour guides and the nomads signed up for that day, they give us all the information we need as well as the pick-up time, so 0 stress.
FIRST TOUR: The hidden lagoon of Baltinache, tour guides Javier and Pancho.
They take us in the comfortable van along paths that open to a beautiful spectacle of this part of the planet but beforehand, we do a pit stop for breakfast, the views are already beautiful, and the table worthy of queens and kings. I chat with some fellow tour members. An advantage of travelling solo is that you have the opportunity to meet other intrepid travellers.
We continue and arrive at the salt lagoon that lives up to its name, because it is really hidden. At the entrance we pay 40,000 pesos and walk on a wooden path, pass the first lagoon, the second arrives and I am ecstatic with its incredible colour, no human body has ever entered its waters. They want to preserve their purity, and only allow us to dip in the cold and salty waters in one of the lagoons destined for it, which is why it is important to use environmentally friendly sunscreen, or any other body products, for that matter, as they all damage the waters of our planet, food for thought.
We see Bolivia and Peru in the east, and the mountains that lie in front of the Andes and the Pacific in the west. Javier explains how these gaps formed, you can listen to him on the stories of my Instagram. He encourages us to try the salt at 2300 metres of altitude, and of course, I try it, it is salted at “stratospheric levels”.
We arrive at the lagoon where we will take the bath, it’s essential to bring a swimsuit or even the neoprene/wetsuit, as Ricardo did, a young Mexican who is now one of my friends. We laugh a lot when we get in, first because it’s freezing cold and then because of how much we float, Silvia warned me about that as she went a few weeks before me, she also said that she almost drowned: “imagine – she told me – I would be the only person in the world who has drowned in a lagoon full of salt”- we laughed a lot at the anecdote, indeed your legs stay half way up when you get in, it is a strange feeling, and as I mentioned, very funny.
They have just installed some showers to remove the salt that are not yet operational, but you should see how creative Pancho was in bringing a portable one.
SECOND TOUR the Valley of the Moon, guides Cristina and Nacho.
They bring us back to the centre of San Pedro at about 13:00 hours from the lagoon and I go for another walk around the town. I chat with a native atacameño who walks Cabo Blanco, a llama mixed with guanaco and Luna, a white llama. They are adorable. I am against the abuse some animals suffer when used for tourism because they usually live in terrible conditions of stress and other nightmares, so I take the time to talk to him and meet them, to make sure that wasn’t happening. He tells me that his ancestors have had these animals for 400 years and he was walking the path they did. Both were raised with his children, the food is expensive and he is thankful for any help but doesn’t ask for any money.
I go to the hotel to fill my bottle of water, in the chat they tell me that they’ll pick me up at 2:30 p.m. and from there we’ll head to a real sandy desert. The tour is very interesting. Cristina explains how the place has been formed, she tells us about each sediment, rock and plant, in one of the corners the large rock wall is hollow, we stay silent and we can hear it creaking. It is fascinating. I haven’t travelled to the moon yet, but I imagine it would look quite similar to this valley, hence its name.
On the way back we stop at a place with beautiful views for a delicious snack and from there head where we will watch the sunset in the middle of the desert. You’d think that facing the sun is the most beautiful scene, wouldn’t you? Cristina recommends watching the opposite side, where the beauty really is, where shadows and different shades of light walk over the coloured lands and create a spectacle out of this world. Simply stunning.
After these first two tours I’ll take a break to tell you about the book that I was reading in this part of the world, it is a short story of one of my favourite authors, “Letter to an unknown” by Stefan Zweig. She writes him a letter, narrates her love for him from the first time she saw him occupy the apartment next door. His son has died and she has no reason to live, only to share with who has been the love of her life every moment, every expectation dreaming about his presence. Zweig boasts of his condensed writing, gets rid of the ballast and leaves the quintessence. He knows how to limit himself to the most concise forms while preserving the essentials, and the result is a magnificent and moving story.