Sur Lípez, Bolivia

I must be honest the morning after the night before was not the easiest to wake from. In actual fact, seeing as it was 4am when our alarms went off, it pretty much still was the night before…

We rolled out of bed and started to get ready for our early start. Laura had warned us that the temperatures at this time in the desert are freezing, below freezing in fact. We should therefore, wrap up as warmly as possible, she advised.

I, having only booked this trip two weeks or so before departing, was not prepared when it came to thermal clothes; as far as I was concerned I was on summer holiday. Where had all this talk of freezing temperatures come from?!

It’s safe to say therefore that I had to improvise, and by improvise I mean I had to wear practically every piece of clothing that I owned. My outfit for the day therefore consisted of: leggings, my pyjama bottoms, a t-shirt, a long sleeve top, a pair of trousers, a jumper dress, a cardigan, my coat, two pairs of socks on my feet, a pair of socks for gloves, and seeing as I didn’t own a scarf, my airplane blanket wrapped around my neck. Oh the glamour.

Having packed (or unpacked as basically was the case for me) we piled into our cars and made our way out into the darkness.

Our first stop of the day was at the Geysers Sol de Maňana which are located up high at about 5,000 meters above the sea level. This level of altitude makes this collection the highest geyser field in the world. Putting our moaning to one side it actually is really advisable to come up here as early in the morning as possible as this is when the geysers are at their most active.  This is actually the reason behind the area’s name; ‘Sol de Maňana’ which literally translates as ‘Morning Sun’.

The “geyser basin” is primarily a collection of mud pots. Some are wetter that others and are constantly spouting muddy water to a height of approximately 3 meters. Some of them have lava flow depending on the month too which is pretty incredible.

This area is characterized by intense volcanic activity and the geyser field is full of mud lakes and steam pools with little protection from the 200ºC to 250°C heat. The hot steam of the geyser can reach heights of between 10 to 50 meters, depending on the pressure.

Make sure you are careful walking around the geysers, this is definitely an area where health and safety hasn’t quiet touched and therefore there is nothing protecting you from the pools of molten lava. Make sure you mind your step and definitely don’t try anything crazy like jumping across the pots. One slip of a foot and I imagine the pain would be indescribable… that’s if you managed to get out that is!

That said, wandering around at 4am in -5 degree weather in my pyjamas didn’t half make me think that the idea of a quick dip in a warm pool actually sounded quite pleasant…

I think the photos say everything about the beauty of this area so I will let them do the talking.

Having spent some time at the geysers, we hopped back into the cars and made our way across to the stunning Salvador Dali desert. This desert earned its name on account of its incredible landscapes that are said to resemble surrealist paintings by Salvador Dali.

The valley is mesmerizing with red sand dunes, moonscapes, with just a little rainwater creating natural mirrors without a shape and size. Interestingly, given its extremely remote location, the region was actually forgotten by locals, but later rediscovered by foreign tourists exploring the area.  The regions highest peak, Nevado Sajama, is apparently Bolivia’s highest peak too (how on earth therefore did the area seemingly get forgotten?!) There have been many archaeological excavations in the area which have confirmed that the desert was pre-inhabited by the Inca Civilization. Not only this, several dinosaur fossils and footprints of brontosaurus amongst other have been discovered here. Super cool!

The desert has however another claim to it, in a similar vain to the Salar de Uyuni, scientists have shown that this area, now dry and baron, used to actually be an area of water. Certain theories and research claim therefore that Atlantis could be found right here!

Our next stop off, just in time for a bite to eat, was at the “baths of Polques” – the Polques hot springs. In these incredible pools the cold temperature of its contents contrasts and blends with  the thermal waters emanating from the volcano, creating a completely natural pool filled with perfect bathing temperature water.

The temperatures of the pools are generally around of 29 degrees (centigrade) and the high content of minerals in the water are believe to relieve the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism.

The pools are completely natural however have been paved around the edges, I assume, to prevent accidents for people hopping in and out. There were many people taking a dip whilst we visited, however for most of us the idea of getting undressed in the ridiculously cold weather outside was far too much of an off-putting prospect.

What was a better sounding prospect however? The fresh coffee and pancakes which were being prepared in the warmth of the nearby hut. So that’s where we all chose to be.

As this was our last day with our amazing tour guide Laura we took the opportunity to thank her.  Jameel did this perfectly by creating a speech by stringing together all of the various (mostly Australian) slang words we had taught her over the course of the last week. Safe to say – it was hilarious.  Laura had been an absolutely amazing tour guide going totally above and beyond the entire time. Her obvious pride in her nation of Bolivia was so apparent to see and it was brilliant learning all about this incredible place through her.

Having spent some time stuffing ourselves full of pancakes, we hopped back in our car to reach our final destination of the day; Laguna Blanca (the white lake).

The white lake is located at the height of 4 300 meters above sea level and afforded its name due to the unusual white colour of the water. The concentration of the minerals in the lake is very high, which is why the water is milk-coloured. Everything changes, however, when the wind blows in the mountains – it lifts the copper oxides from the bottom of the flat lake, and the water becomes emerald-green.

The lake is located at the foot of the Likankabur volcano. During the last research, a small lake was discovered in its crater. This lake still has no name, so the wonderful Laguna-Blanca is considered to be the highest mountain lake in Bolivia. It really was stunning!

Unfortunately, that lake was the last point on our trip and it brought our travels in Bolivia to an end. We sadly said goodbye to our driver Gonalez and our amazing guide Laura. We were dropped off at the border control which marks the crossing into Chile. The customs hall was nothing I’ve seen before – just a little hut with the Bolivian flag waving proudly. I’m not sure what we expected being in such a remote location in the desert.

Although were all so sad to be leaving Bolivia, we couldn’t wait for the next stage of our trip. Chile we were coming!

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