Suitcase and World: El Tatio.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

El Tatio.

Bro and I have been preparing for this one day for weeks!  We spent this morning at El Tatio, a geyser field located within the Andes Mountains, about a two hour drive from San Pedro.  We had been advised to dress warmly but we really didn't know what that meant.  Do we just need a sweater and a jacket or did we need more?  El Tatio is situated at an altitude of 4,320 meters (14,173 feet) making it among the highest-elevation geyser fields in the world which meant a chance of altitude sickness.

We had quite a few conversations going over what type of clothing we needed to bring with us and how we would deal with the altitude.  We both agreed the best approach would be to dress in layers so this morning, I piled on five on top and two on the bottom (a pair of leggings under my hiking pants).  I opted to leave the gloves and hat in the suitcase but Bro took his along.  By his count, Bro had an extra Diamox pill and he offered it to me and I gladly took him up on it.

The best time to see the geysers is around sunrise because the columns of steam that rise up are most dramatic against the cold air of early morning.  So we had an early pickup this morning - Bro and I were out at the front gate by 4a!  Before arriving at the El Tatio, we made a pit stop at what I would describe as the entrance to the park, to use the facilities.  The sun was not yet even up over the horizon when we arrived.  As always the ladies line is a mile long and stretched outside the facility.  It was freezing cold to just be standing around but thankfully, I had just the right amount of clothing on to fend off the chill in the air.

We arrived into the geyser field around 7a.  The ground was dotted with plumes of rising steam.  El Tatio has over 80 active geysers, making it the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere, surpassing New Zealand and the third largest in the world, after Yellowstone National Park in the US and Valley of the Geysers in the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia.

El Tatio is notable for having no significantly tall geysers.  Its geysers erupt to an average height of about only about 75 centimeters (30 inches), with the highest eruption observed being around 6 meters (20 feet).

Because the land around the geysers is not heavy in sulfur, there is no odor of the stinky gas as you walk through the field.  In fact, if you are close enough to the steam, it feels more like being in a sauna - you get a bit of a facial :-)

As he explained the geology to us, our guide took us around to a few of the geysers.  After that, we were set loose to explore the area on our own.   To protect the geysers, paths are clearly lined with small rocks so as long as you stay within the lines, you're good to go.  I have to admit, I am fascinated by geysers and volcanoes and anything that spews forth from the earth so I was very much  looking forward to coming here.  For me, it did not disappoint!  I took a ton of photos as I wandered around - here are a few.

By the time, Bro and I made it to the far end of the field, the sun was up in the sky and it was day break.

Still, you could see plumes of steam rising up all over the landscape and they still looked very dramatic, especially against the brilliant blue sky.  The tallest plume though is located at the far end of the field.  It's a short walk to get and so it's worth that little bit of effort.

Nearby the field, there is also a hot spring where you can go for a dip.  I had no desire not did Bro even though I know he had packed along a pair of swim trunks for this trip.  Too cold....seriously....too cold.

We walked in the field for only about an hour but for me, that was just enough time to get a good feel for this place.  Of course, one could always spend more time!  We ended our visit with breakfast by the van.  By now, we had been awake for almost 6 hours and hunger had long set in. 

I've really been enjoying all our al fresco meals.  No restaurant in the world can give you this magnificent view and it was worth getting up even before the chickens to get to see this!

Our morning was not yet over.