Day 6: Atacama to Ramaditas
Today’s agenda was an early wake-up call at Explora Atacama followed by a drive across the border into Bolivia heading north to the Ramaditas Mountain Lodge. The drive takes about eight hours, including a few stops. No problem! However, when we met Carlos and Nico, they told us that the border control office was closed and we would need to go to the downtown Atacama location to get our papers checked and stamped. We arrived at about 7:15am, and waited in line with the other tour groups until they opened at 8am.
We finally stepped up to the window at 9:20am and got the all-clear to proceed. Matt was ready to contribute a blog rant about Bolivia’s continued efforts to kill our time trying to get into the country, but as it turns out, this one was on Chile. We believe they closed their (indoor) border control due to “high winds.” After departing San Pedro de Atacama, it was a 40 minute drive to the border.
We said goodbye to our Atacama team and met our new guide, Oscar, and driver, Abel. Oscar helped us get our entry stamps and show the friendly Bolivian officials all the right paperwork in all the right places. Finally – three and a half hours after leaving – we were in Bolivia!
This part of Bolivia is located within the Andes mountains, a volcanic range. Our first stop was at Laguna Blanca. The lagoon is white due to the boron deposits. This area is also interesting because the rocks show both underwater coral and volcanic basalt. Other tourists not from the Midwest looked amazed to be walking on the frozen lake.
Next stop was Laguna Verde, appropriately named for its green color. The bacteria in this lagoon is green and becomes more vibrant with the sun and wind. A little later down the road, we stopped at an area called Salvador Dali mountain. We did not see melting watches, but we did see a variety of colors and vast spaces.
We then drove into Sal de Mañana, a caldera on an active volcano. We saw fumaroles, which are vents that release gas and steam. Unlike geysers that need time to refill and erupt, the pressure release of a fumarole is constant. We walked around many fumaroles of different sizes and bubbling.
The final stop was Laguna Colorada, commonly known as Red Lagoon due to its – you guessed it – red color. Similar to Laguna verde, the color is caused by the type of bacteria that thieves in extreme conditions. This is also where three types of flamingoes live. We walked along the shore and then stopped for lunch.
With another two hours of desert to cross before reaching our final destination, Oscar and Abel appointed us DJs. With this vital task, we turned to the two best playlists on Matt’s phone — Adam and James’ high school playlists. Oscar and Abel are both ~40 years old, so it was a smashing success. Well done.
Finally, we drove the last hour and half to the very remote mountain lodge. The only people here are us, one other family of three (who will only be here tonight), the guides, drivers, and lodge staff. We all had dinner together (family style) before getting ready for the night.
As always, the internet may or may not be available over the next week. Keep checking back!