3.30am the alarm started screaming. That was just awesome, since I had gone to bed less than 2 hours before. Silviu and Boca got up first and I managed to crawl out of bed after a short while. To my ‘delight’ there was no drop of water running in the bathroom, so not only did we not have our shower, but we couln’t even properly wash our eyes. I had heard that hostels in San Pedro sometimes stop the water… You know, being in the middle of the world’s most arid desert and all, it’s understandable why this would be a scarce resource.
At 4am we were in the van on the way up to the geyser, a 2 hr ride they said. When we got there it was still dark and totally freezing, but by the time they prepared our breakfast (sandwich, coffee, tea, milk and eggs boiled in geyser steam) the light had slowly started to appear.
We started our walk around as our guide was telling us the story of the place. We were shocked and saddned to hear that predictions were the place would not exist anymore in about 5 years time. It seems it’s been exploited so much that it was expected to collapse and become an active volcano in the next few years. This would impact the region tremendously as one of the rivers coming out of the mountain now is the principal source of water for the villages around and for San Pedro. Even with it, water is scarce. What is going to happen once it’s gone… that I simply don’t know.
There are more than 80 active geysers in the field – steam, water, mud. After a tour around the North region we were taken South, where a hot pool was waiting for us to bathe in. It had been -7C when we arrived at El Tatio. It was a bit warmer now, but definitely not swim suit warm. We were told the water temperature was 25-30C (which is not high at all by the way), and after only a second of hesitation we were in the water, looking for the hot spots.
Obviously the hard part came when we had to go out and get dressed. We kept hearing strange noises from all around us, all the ‘Uhh’ and ‘Aaah’ and ‘Ooohh’ and ‘Oh my Dear Lord’ and ‘This is not funny!’. At some point a guy said: ‘Oh man, my feet are so cold they hurt’. Another guy’s reply was: ‘Just wait for another minute. You won’t feel them at all anymore’.
Another one was looking at himself in amazement: ‘Look, i’m steaming!’. He literally was.