It was another early start for us and after breakfast on the salty tables and chairs, we threw our bags in the car and squashed ourselves in for more driving. The landscape had changed dramatically since the white and blue views of the salt flats from yesterday, though it was equally as beautiful. Similar to what you would see in a western movie, with huge rocks sprouting from the dirt ground and tumbleweeds floating past. Several volcanoes sat in the background and our driver said we were super close to the border of Chile – exciting!
Our first stop was a spot in the desert where we warmed up in the morning sun and looked out at the giant volcano of Ollague that surrounded us. It looked like we were back on the worn out tourist trail again, as there were other cars pulling up all the time. Jumping back in the car, we raced off to our next stop in hopes of beating the other cars.
We reached Laguna Cañapa and were instantly in awe of the beautiful sight. The reflection! The flamingos! The mountains! I’d expected to be a little disappointed because the photos I’d seen on the Internet looked so saturated and fake but the colours in the water were on point and just as pretty in real life. I was super excited to see flamingos as I’d never seen them before and they didn’t disappoint, there were hundreds!
We continued onto our next Laguna, the Laguna Hedionda, which wasn’t as pretty but had way, way more flamingos. Here we had lunch and laughed at the signs advertising Wi-Fi for 10 Bolivianos. It seemed so pointless to have Internet this deep into the desert but I guess some people really have to check their Facebook. After lunch we headed to the next stop, Laguna Chiakorta and while it was absolutely gorgeous, my tummy was starting to disagree with me. Unsure why I was starting to feel bad, I ignored it and trying to enjoy the stunning drive to our next stop – the Arbol de Piedra. This famous rock formation is known as the ‘Stone Tree’ and sat at around 7 metres high. It’s shaped from the strong winds carrying sand and eroding the soft sandstone structure. Just another funky bit of nature in Bolivia, this country was full of it! We climbed up a giant rock and looked out at the view. By this time I really was feeling awful and just wanted to crawl into a ball but I didn’t want to let it get me down.
We drove onto our accommodation for the night at Laguna Colorado, which was the windiest place on the planet! We had the option to walk out to the lookout of the Laguna, but all I wanted to do was sleep. Forcing myself out the door with the others, we walked the half an hour to the lookout where I took photos and tried not to get blown away. I don’t know what brought on the wind, but it was intense! After getting back to the hostel, I hid in bed and prayed for the pain in stomach to disappear. I hadn’t been this sick since Christmas in Vietnam two year prior and I’d forgotten how much it sucked. My night was just as bad and I skipped dinner and spent quite some time wrapped around the toilet bowl. Not exactly how I planned my last night on the trip! Luckily a couple of girls from the trip had some pills to knock the sickness out of me, hopefully!
The next morning I woke up feeling better but not 100%. We had woken up at the ridiculous hour of 5am to reach the geysers and hot springs by sunrise. The geysers were pretty spectacular in the early morning light – the smell however wasn’t. It was absolutely freezing so I spent most of the time watching the geysers from the warmth of the car. Team GoPro was definitely losing its enthusiasm; four days of desert living had worn us out! We drove onto the hot springs and quickly changed into our swimmers. As hard as it was to strip down, once we were in the hot springs I felt instantly better. Definitely worth getting naked for! We got to stay in the hot springs for about half an hour before having to haul ourselves out and back into the car. Time was against us a little as we had to catch a bus from the border at 9:30am. A quick stop at Laguna Verde, which was the most hyped up Laguna but definitely the least impressive and we were back in the car for the final time.
Racing to the border we got our passports stamped and were loaded into the bus to San Pedro de Atacama. There was only the four of us from the trip heading to Chile, the rest of the group were heading back to La Paz so we said our goodbyes and headed for Atacama. On our bus we met up with our friends from Copacabana and made plans to stay together in Atacama.
The bus ride took about half an hour to reach the town of San Pedro de Atacama, where we were officially stamped into Chile – I had now ticked off 29 countries! Woohoo! We found a hostel just outside of the main part of town where we were the only guests and promptly took over the entire place. The view from the hostel was awesome and looked out at the mountains in the desert. We wandered through the town of Atacama and bought supplies for dinner. It was a very touristy town and way, way more expensive than Bolivia, which was a shock to our wallets! We spent the rest of the washing clothes, catching up on the real world and relaxing. After four solid days of touristing, it was time to chill out – I could already see that we wouldn’t be doing too much in this place!