The view is fascinating in this part of shy Bolivia. We are in San Pedro de Atacama, close to the border, where there are just few buildings in the middle of the desert. This place is the perfect summary of a primitive Bolivia, strong and fragile at the same time, lonely as the soul of the travelers that arrive here during their inner trip.
Bolivia is still untouched, there is no tourist traffic yet. It is not possible to imagine it in a different way: we are breathless and astonished in front of a colorful gallery of pictures. At the border with Bolivia, we meet our driver Alberto and our companions: our jeep, a couple from Singapore, a Russian girl and a German boy. Our small crew will get on well for the next three days. The jeep is equipped with an oxygen tank and a first aid kit: distances are wide and our path runs at 4000m above sea level.
The volcano Licancabur, between Chile and Bolivia, is 5900m high and controls all the surroundings. Its red rocks divide the blue of the sky and the ochre of the Earth.
The jeep is prepared and we are finally ready to go! Mauri and I are in the backseats of the jeep, forced to keep the knees close, but it’s okay. As the street gets worse, we are shaked less here than in the front seats. Our jeep runs on the sand, discovering second by second a runway of magnetic colors blue, red and yellow.
Impressive shades of colours accompany exclamations of joy and astonishment. As we go, the wheels of our jeep lift the dust under us, free to dance in the air and mix with the absolut blue of the sky to then calm down and rest on the ground.
It is the contrast of the nuances of the desert with the colours of the lagoon that leave me breathless. The concentration of the minerals in the water is that high to give surprising and peculiar effects.
Not far from Licancabur, our car stops for a due break in front of Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde. How can’t we be not grateful to nature for such its masterpiece. The elegant Laguna Blanca has this peculiar white colour thanks to the high presence of boron in its waters. While Laguna Verde, ipnotic and charming, has this great look thanks to the high presence of arsenic, so pay attention to where you place your feet!
The magic of nature is here in front of me and I suddenly feel as a children at Christmas night.
Silent and shy at the first glance, it only pretends to be reserved and static. Thanks to the silence, we are able to hear the simmer of titan-grey bubble mud coming from the geyser of Sol de Mañana. Small craters keep complaining as elderly people do, muddy bubbles explode allowing hot steam to escape. The air is heavy of sulphuric smell and it is better to maintain a certain distance from the craters, also considering the high temperature of the steam.
And who thinks that in the desert there was no life? The bubble dancing in the air in front of me confirm that there is a lively and dynamic nature here.
Further to the geysers, it is possible to bath in a natural swimming pool, a some kind of spa where water reaches 40 °C. I try to keep the sand firm under my feet, deeper the heath becomes burning. We take our clothes, still covered in desert sand, and continue our trip. The last stop of today schedule is full of red, yellow and pink. The Laguna Colorada surprises us with its rainbow waters. We start to feel tired, the kilometers we ran, the thin air due to the elevation and the shaking of the jeep, despite the perfect driving of Alberto, contributes to our headaches. And so shall we rest in the refugee loosing the chance to have a walk on the shores of the lagoon? Obviously not says Mauri! And here we are, with the wind beating our faces, going through small paths, walking on colorful sands spotted by small yellow bushes.
Few minutes later we get close to a group of pink flamingos, there are around 30.000 flamingos living on these waters. Some of the pink birds attempt to fly, but the strong wind take them to ground again. We seat and shut down to avoid bothering the birds, trying to take some pictures. Mauri keeps taking photos, a fall of shots as he was playing a war videogame. He will quit sooner or later! When he stops, two windy hours already passed. For sure, I share the same attraction he feels for those elegant and snobbish animals that add even more color to the lagoon. A big pink and white ballet, ready to be applauded by its audience. Back in the refugee, we have a simple dinner together with travelers from all over the world, drinking hot matè and chatting. A group made of strangers, discussing about the best places to visit and the coolest paths to go.
It’s finally time to go to sleep. A bed with heavy blankets in a shared room. Before going to bed, we put our hat and gloves on, here the night is very cold and there is not a heating system.
Before sleeping, we have to go outside to admire the deep blue and the sparkling white of this starry night. Star are so close that I feel they are all around me. In this magnificent silence, I feel part of the endless galaxy.