Day 5: Volcán Blanco
We left early again this morning to drive to the Volcán Blanco hike. Along the way, we stopped to see flamingoes. Because the temperature was below freezing last night and this morning, the water in their pond froze, and the flamingoes got stuck in the ice. As the temperature rises throughout the day, the ice melts and the flamingoes are free. Though they tend to repeat the cycle.
We continued up to the 4,000 meter in elevation range and made a stop to walk around geysers. We got to get up close to each one that were located in close range in a paved area and Carlos explained how geysers work.
After viewing all of the geysers, we drove a few minutes further to start the hike. The very first part was a 200 rise in elevation, only to go right back down. The downhill consisted of switchbacks on a fine gravel path all the way down about 500 feet. Located within the Andes Mountains, this area of geysers is the 3rd largest in the world, so we saw many geysers all along our route. We stopped at one that takes about 30 minutes to refill, hoping we wouldn’t have to wait too long. Luckily, we saw the eruption, which lasted a couple of minutes.
The next pit-stop was for lunch. We found an area near a stream and enjoyed our soup, sandwiches, and canisters. Once we were full, we continued on to the next part of the hike.
We arrived at Volcán Blanco and learned that it is not an actual volcano, but a large hill with a geyser on top, which caused white deposits on the side of the hill. As we continued, we were out of geyser range, and into wildlife range.
There was a large expanse of flat land with plants and streams. There were plenty of birds, vizcacha (similar to rabbits), and vicuña (similar to llamas) around, giving this area the nickname of Pumas’ Restaurant. Multiple herds of vicuña were all around the area, and we got very close to some as we passed. The vizacha were also abundant and sitting on the rocks along the edge of the water.
After 8 kilometers, we made it to the van and celebrated our last hike in Chile. Tomorrow we cross the border into Bolivia and will have to say goodbye to Carlos, Nico, and Sebastian as Bolivia only allows their citizens to work as tour guides and drivers. On the drive back, we ran into more road construction along the way.
At the hotel, the guide manager wanted to make sure we had all of our paperwork in line for the border crossing (we do) and had us fill out the customs form needed to enter (we did). We then had some free time to shop at the store one last time in search of any clothing with the Explora logo on it, fly the drone, and get a drink at the bar.
We leave early tomorrow to cross into Bolivia and to the first stop in Ramaditas. We may be without internet for about a week as we spend our nights in remote mountain lodges.