Day 4: Hot Springs & Rocks
This morning’s exploration was to Puritama in the region of Guatin. Since we were scheduled to leave at 7:30, we were able to catch the sunrise, the moon, and Jupiter before breakfast.
Both Carlos and Nico were our guides and Sebastian drove us to the trail head. We started with an ascent up a rocky path in a volcanic canyon and followed the Puritama river. Yes, there is a river in this desert sourced from geothermic springs. Along the way, we saw volcanic rocks, rica rica plants, fox tail plants, and cacti. We also saw rock structures that were animal corrals and tambos – shelter for people tending to the animals.
We continued to ascend to 11,555 feet of elevation (958 of which were on the hike) and arrived at the Puritama Hot Springs. The entire area we hiked and the hot springs are part of Explora’s conservation reserve. Explora owns access to the hot springs and anyone can buy a ticket, so there were people in the 6 of the 8 pools. The final (and best, obviously) pool is reserved for hotel guests on this hike, so we had the hot spring to ourselves.
Of course, they also had snacks and drinks for us, which we enjoyed before getting in the hot spring. Carlos and Nico also told us about a Fanchop, a popular drink that is a combination of Fanta and a lager beer. With both ingredients available to us, we tried it and agreed it was very tasty.
The hot springs are full of sodium sulfate waters, which has been known to ease arthritis, stress, and fatigue. We can agree, it was quite peaceful and relaxing.
When our Survivor Reward ended, we took the van back to Explora. There was some road construction on the way back which created the most traffic I’ve seen here yet. There were like, 12 cars. Also this road is apparently already the “good road.”
Back at the hotel, we had a leisurely lunch and relaxed before our afternoon exploration of hiking in the volcanic Domeyko mountain range. This is a unique area as there is a combination of the older Salt Mountain Range geology of clay, salt, and gypsum, mixed with the younger Domeyko volcanic range with igneous rocks. The hike started just outside of a canyon that we hiked into. Throughout the entire hike, we saw evidence of the geologic history.
Carlos explained that millions of years ago, a subduction zone with a magma chamber created the land, Then a plutonic intrusion pushed up the land to cause the hills, tilts in the land, and created new rocks. Also millions of years ago (but not quite as many) and this area was covered in water. Over time, erosion carved the canyon to what it is today. Finally, the canyon became the driest place on the planet and all of the water left behind dry waterfalls and riverbeds.
We stopped multiple times along the way to look at cool rocks and admire the geology and view. The hike ended just as the sun was setting over the Atacama salt flats. We made our way back to the hotel for dinner and relaxation.