Saturday, December 12, 2015

Day 145 - Hot Pools at Sub-Zero Temperatures

The moon and Spica
Because we went to sleep soon after dusk at around 8 PM, we slept almost enough to start our tour at 4:30 this morning. Not such a bad time if you are used to times around 3:30 from the Australian Outback trip, actually. The only misfortune was that we had to stand up this early to spend 45 minutes picking up other hotel guests around town, and then had to drive another 1.5 hours to the El Tatio geysers over very, very bumpy roads.

Before we left the bus, our tour guide suggested to wear all the things we could, because it would be cold outside. Alright, we're in a desert, how cold could it be? We definitely didn't expect a total of -4.5 degrees Celsius that immediately cooled the entire organism down - our first sub-zero temperatures after almost ten months. The Tatio Geysers are on 4320 meters elevation, that explains the cold sunrise temperatures even in spring. What a shame that my dad forgot to bring his anorak, it probably would have been the only time he would have really needed it during the entire six months of travelling. For this reason, why carried it through the Japanese and Singaporean summer heat, and even through the Australian Outback, And I, I left my gloves and got that Raynaud shock again. As my pants were already burst at one knee (the second knee burst when I kneeled down for a picture), and I wore these "cool pants" with turned up pant legs, I really felt cold.

Enough the grumbling, it was really worth it. Especially after a few minutes when the first sun rays reached the valley of the Geysirs, it was nearly bearable. After half an hour at 4320 meters elevation (we were recommended to walk slowly), we had breakfast in the freaking cold. I wondered how they warmed up the milk and cacao until I saw a hot spring where a milk box was put in. Clever...

After having enjoyed a hot coffee and some bread (at least the others, because I was busy with warming up myself), we headed to the Pozon Rustico, a thermal bath or hot pool. Hot in inverted commas, actually it was luke warm and also had a fitting color with many people in it. So we undressed ourselves in a cabin next to the pool, wore our swimsuit and stood there, barefoot in a bikini at sub-zero temperatures... Been there, done that!!

Okay, enough freezing, the sun was already burning as long as you were protected from the wind. We stopped in a little village called Machuca comprised of (this time really) around ten clay huts and a adobe church on the hill behind the village - very picturesque. But even more picturesque were the llamas walking around (fortunately not spitting around) with their colorful ear decorations. At a food stall you could also buy llama meat sticks and sandwiches, but I found this a little too cruel, eating them while looking at them.

Eat my dust.

Shortly after noon, we were spat out of our bus exactly at the time and place where the 'asuncion' parade started. What looks like a village copy of Starlight express is actually a serious procession with a Madonna statue, a dancer with a devils mask (at front), a lot of 'angel' dancers and an ambitioned brass marching band.

We spend the evening in the Meteorite Museum of San Pedro. The exhibition was ultra interesting and the audio guide gave us a good overlook and explanation of the meteorites exhibited in the vitrines. We learned that meteorites can be more or less easily found in the Atacama desert, because there is no erosion here, and the meteorites just land on the ground and sit there until they are picked up. Meteorite hunters look for them with metal detectors, because most of them contain lots of iron. Some rare ones don't. One of the highlights of the exhibition is one of only 19 meteorites of a certain type known worldwide - and the only one that is publicly exhibited. Another highlight was that we could test ourselves the different iron content grades of three different big meteorites with a magnet -  and even touch them! What an experience.

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