After leaving the Salt Flats, we got back in the van and wound our way further into the Andes. As you climb in altitude, the thin air makes you incredibly tired. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open, as did many of the other passengers in the van. So, I have no idea whether we drove 10 minutes or an hour . . .
But, our next stop was Aguas Caliente, which was a large body of water which is apparently shallow and not hot at all. At some point in time it was hot, however, as it was fed by some type of hot spring. The view was both beautiful and desolate.
We continued to wind our way into the mountains, stopping at various vistas to admire the view. And, after quite a few hours in the van, we arrived at Laguanas Miscanti and Mineques — two large bodies of fresh water that are fed by melted snowfall from the volcanic peaks directly behind them. We got out of the van, and our guide said that we had the option of hiking from one lake to another, or walking around a bit and then driving to the second lake. Everyone opted to walk, as the guide said that it was only 40 minutes, and that only one part of the walk was a bit of a hill. Of course, what he neglected to mention is that we were at almost 14,000 feet. So, while the distance was trivial, the air is incredibly thin. (According to my own personal Dr. Science, there is 40% less oxygen at this elevation than at sea level. From a practical perspective, the air feels thick and your lungs burn with even the most minor exertion.). The walk was incredibly beautiful, but most of us walked very slowly, particularly on the uphill slope! Thank goodness that we had the excuse of taking pictures, as that gave everyone an opportunity to also catch their breath.
After our stroll, we were treated to lunch al fresco — bread, cheese, sliced meats, tomatoes, cucumbers and smoked mussels. Arie and I like the smoked mussels, which they eat with a squeeze of fresh lemon!
We then headed down the mountain. But, our guide had one more stop — the sign marking the Tropic of Capricorn. At this point you are on same latitude as Namibia Desert and the Australian outback. I got a real kick out of taking Arie’s picture at the sign.Read more