Hello again, let’s continue with the tours around Atacama that I am enjoying so much. The places and guides are wonderful and my travel companions fantastic, they recommend the night one, I do not know very well what I will see there, but they speak wonders of it, so after the first tour I book and pay for it.
THIRD TOUR: Astro Magic, guide Lasse.
After receiving the information through the WhatsApp group I meet Ricardo for a cuppa in a beautiful restaurant with friendly staff, in front of the Atacama Magic agency, which will be the meeting point this afternoon at 7:30 p.m. At that time we all get on the van on the way to a very magical place,
You wouldn’t believe how glad I am to have done this tour. We arrive in the dark, climb a couple of steps illuminated by Lasse’s flash light and when I look up the wow that comes out of my lips cannot be equated to the joy that my heart feels to see that celestial dome so great and with such opulence of stars.
They accommodate us in a semicircle inside an Andean cross, with a small pool with water in the middle that reflects the stars, as I said, magical.
I am well equipped but the night is cold and we each have a blanket with fluorescent stars, very cute and warm.
There is no moon and that favors Lasse’s mission, which is to point for us using the laser the constellations and stars. We see the Southern Cross, Scorpio, amongst many others which are the ones we know and have learnt from the Greeks, but it also shows us the Andean version of the firmament. The Andeans did not join the points of light of the stars forming figures, they followed the dark path between them. I can see a snake, a condor, a shepherd … I am ecstatic.
They offer us a hot snack and through two telescopes we can see two stars. When we return, they drop each one in our own hotel. We take away a full heart and a feeling of insignificance in front of such greatness.
FOURTH TOUR: Geyser El Tatio, guide Rodolfo.
Today the pick up is at 4:30, they recommend us not to have any heavy food nor alcohol the night before. I don’t drink, but I love my tea, so I have some coca tea before bed and in the morning; the Andeans use it for altitude sickness, they chew it or infuse it, as I did. I take some in my thermos bottle that keeps it hot and, as we are going to be at -11 degrees it will be comforting.
It is quite a long way, I do not feel the altitude, I close my eyes and rest. When we arrive, the sun is about to rise, we pay 15000 pesos for the entrance fee and follow Rodolfo who tells us many facts about the place.
The geysers have small smoke columns and when the sun rises the spell occurs, they begin to rise. They are wonderful. A local tribe looks after the place. Before people stepped where they wanted and some ended up scalded, so they have marked the area with stones showing the way.
There is a little stream where I put my hands and feel the warmth of the water. There are only two creatures that live in geysers, toads and flies.
Shortly after leaving we stop in a beautiful arid place where we can see local birds, which we NEVER feed, because they become humanized, they do not learn to hunt and when they are no tourists they do not eat and consequently, they die.
Rodolfo showed me a moss of thousands of years, it grows a millimeter a year and is called rayareta. He explained to me what it is for, since it can be infused.
When we get back we see vicuñas that cannot live below 3500 meters of altitude because they have too big of a heart and would not survive, and guanacos that can not live above 3500 meters. Both are wild, whereas the llama and the alpaca are domestic, as I told you in the previous post.
We arrive at the Vado de Putana. Vado comes from vocedal, it is what a wetland is called at more than 3000 meters. This one has a funny story: an Italian businessman discovered sulfur and hired workers to extract it, at night it was very cold, the workers lasted only a week, so the businessman decided to bring prostitutes once a week to keep them from leaving, and hence the name, putana in Italian.
We continue descending until we reach Machuca, a small town that was part of Bolivia before the War of the Pacific. General Machuca entrenched himself there, hence its name. Here I see the third oldest church in the country, the second as you remember, is San Pedro’s one.
We continue our way surrounded by formations of volcanic ash that have been eroding until we reach San Pedro again. When I arrive I meet Ricardo and we go for our last walk through the village, we visit the small cemetery where we see many small graves, some different, and most only have a wooden cross on top of a mound.
After visiting the market we go to eat at La Franchutería, a very nice café-restaurant with delicious food. I go back to the hotel to say goodbye and pick up my suitcase whilst waiting for the transfer van that comes to pick me up and take me to the airport of Calama.
I leave these places totally in love and with Stendhal syndrome on the surface, thank you for treating me so well Atacama. My companion of these last days is the book “The Three Weddings of Manolita” by the great Almudena Grandes. A story from her series Endless War, captures the harshness of living in a post war Madrid, where your ideals could lead you to jail or the capricious murder of anyone who wanted to climb up by accusing their friends. Manolita, like so many other women, visits the prison every week to give encouragement to the imprisoned men of her family, as she struggles to provide for her younger siblings.