November 4th San Pedro to Geysers de Tatio

I was in two minds whether to take this excursion, knowing it was off road, and with further research I discovered it was a 98 mile out and back trip. The alternative was to explore the town, but I knew this would be unfulfilling. So without too much thought I jumped on my bike and headed up into the mountains, with the option of turning around at any point, if it became too difficult. I soon lost tarmac and though rutted and gravelly, without all my heavy luggage it felt ok and again I appreciated how well mannered Bonito is.

The sand and dirt road up to Tatio

 

After 9 miles or so I came across a stream crossing, which we dropped down to with ease and were on the other side and climbing up the track before we knew it. Around a few more bends and we came across this little oasis - where to my joy were a flock of Pink Flamingos. I have seen them in wild life programmes and I believe their colour is derived from their ability to feed off the creatures that live in sulphurous water (but I could be wrong there). As this is a volcanic region maybe I'm just making assumptions.

Pink Flamingos feeding

I believe these are Guanaco, camouflaged well

 

Further up the track I came across many free roaming Guanaco, they are very timid and soon scarper when they hear my motorbike- so stopping, getting my camera out and taking a picture, means they will always be distance shots! The road up into the mountains offered stunning views, but I had to stop to admire them, otherwise I'd be in danger of coming off with every rut, loose gravel or pot hole.

One of the many volcanoes

 

After 49 miles I reached my destination which was a very underwhelming site, the place was closed but from what I could see there wasn't a lot of activity and they were nowhere near on the scale of those I've visited in New Zealand


Yes that slither of white are where the Geysers are to be found


 

Bonito ready to head back down the pass

I took my time going down and admired some of the sights I'd spotted on the ascent. Passing small settlements and abandoned ruins, as well as magnificent views over the Atacama desert.

This was taken hurriedly before their guard dog attacked me

Believe it or not, not abandoned, but lived in!

 

I was enjoying my ride down the mountain, especially the rising temperature, but at the back of my mind I kept thinking of the stream crossing. Eventually it appeared and I drove at it with speed and zoomed through the stone stream bed. When I reached the bank I was faced with an unanticipated obstacle - deep sand. On coming up the track I had dropped down to cross the river and the speed and momentum of the bike meant I didn't really notice this sand. Coming the other way, was somewhat different, there was a lot of deep sand and it was quite a steep incline. As I came out of the water I nearly slowed to a stop but at the last second, on seeing the sand, I pulled back the throttle and tried to accelerate through it - I did, but with much weaving and gripping of the handlebars. Riding through sand, is like someone is also gripping you handlebars and wanting to take you in a different direction. I got out of the sand and onto a flatter harder surface, after this everything else seemed easy.

Though the Geysers were disappointing, the ride up to them was not and I am a firm believer in the old adage, that it is not about the destination, but the journey to get there.

I've had a wonderful day and will be leaving the desert tomorrow - would love to come back one day and spend more time in this other worldly environment