The alarm clock rings at 3:30 AM. We are camping at San Pedro, in the Atacama Desert, the driest of the world. We wake up early in the morning for a trip of almost 100 kilometres that will take us to the Tatio Geysers, one of the highest located geothermal fields of the world. We will ascend to more than 4300 in just a couple of hours from 2300 meters above the sea level in which we find ourselves before staring the excursion. The objective is to arrive at the geysers before 6 AM, at that time the fumaroles of hot water and steam can be appreciated in its maximum expression.
Locals have told us that the path to the geysers is treacherous and with insufficient road marks, therefore we decided go with by bus with a tour guide. A few minutes after we were on road we realized that we had made the best decision. The gravel road is winding, uphill, and sometimes too narrow; the darkness of the early morning makes it even more dangerous. As we get closer to our destination, the first rays of sun light allows us to appreciate the distance vicuñas, llamas and rheas and the vegetation dominated by giant cactus plants.
We are recommended to wrap up warmly to withstand temperatures under zero of the morning, typical of the region and warned us that we do not run or walk fast to not feel the lack of oxygen product of the height.
The picture of the place is spectacular: boiling water jets emerge with such force from the fumaroles that can reach ten meters in height. We are not allowed to approach too much, because the land surrounding the craters is fragile and could break easily.
Due to the height and lack of oxygen, we shall take with more calm our expedition, but the remedy was a few steps from the geysers: an open air thermal bath in one of the surrounding lagoons, while contemplating the sunrise, was the best recipe to forget the headache and the coldness.
WRITTEN BY ALESSANDO ROMANINI