Monday, January 30, 2017

Lagunas Miscanti y Miñiques.


M

y motto is to always save the best for last and today, that indeed was the case.  It was early afternoon by the time we arrived at Lagunas Miscanti y Miñiques, two lagoons that used to be one body of water but are now separated by a land bridge.  Miscanti is the larger of the two.

Situated at an elevation of 4,120 meters (13,520 feet), it was the highest spot that we would be at today and I could most certainly feel it.  While the Tylenol might have lessened the pain of the headache that had hit me, it did not make it go away.  Thankfully, I wasn't feeling queasy; just  a bit of discomfort from the low grade headache.  I could bear through it.  All I had to do was look out my window at the incredible landscape we were driving through.  Someone (I'm guessing Pato) spotted some rheas grazing by the road.  He stopped the van so we could all have a look at these birds which are a species called Darwin's rhea (Rhea pennata) which are native to the region.




The sight of the crystal blue waters of a lagoon was the sign that we had arrived at our destination.  This is Laguna Miscanti.  Extraordinarily beautiful.


There was a lone vicuña slowly roaming around, checking us out at times.  It ended up being in many of my photos :-)




Turned out this was also going to be our lunch spot.   Could you pick a more magnificent spot for a picnic lunch?



While everyone went to explore the area around the two lagoons, Pedro and Pato worked on getting lunch set up for everyone.  There was pasta, rice, chicken, tuna fish, salad and drinks.  A simple meal but looking at the amount of food they had and the number of people in the group, I wasn't sure there was enough food.  Bro was nowhere insight when they gave the green light to dig in so I prepped a plate of food for him and then sat down next to Cecilia to eat mine.


I told Cecilia this was the best *restaurant* view I've ever had!   Lucky for Bro that I had a plate of food ready for him because by the time he wandered back, there was barely any food left and the guys were already beginning to pack up.  He had to gulp down his lunch.


Apparently, just as we had arrived, a young Asian (Japanese??) woman who was in our group came down with some pretty bad symptoms of altitude sickness.  She was fine at Piedras Rojas but the moment we reached this elevation, she immediately got sick.  They had her lay down inside the van but there was no way she could hold down any food.  I could tell that both Pato and Pedro were concerned but there was not much they could do as everyone still had to eat lunch.  We were suppose to also visit the village of Socaire but out of concern for the young woman, I think the guys decided it would be best to cut the tour short and immediately head back to San Pedro.

Bro went to check her out and unfortunately, there was nothing he could do for her.  Cecilia offered her a Diamox pill which she really shouldn't have done considering as the woman might have had a negative reaction to it.  I don't know if the woman swallowed the pill or not.  I had been sucking on the coca candies that we had bought yesterday.  I don't think they really had any effect on me.  Might as well been sucking down a LifeSaver.

The young woman had laid down in the front row of seats which had been occupied by two other women so several of us had to play musical seats.  I ended up sitting in the seat that the Asian woman originally sat in. I don't know how she managed because the guy next to me was so big, he basically took over part of my seat.  I was squashed in.  To make me even more miserable, I started to get really thirsty and wanted nothing more than a sip from my water bottle which was in my backpack several rows up.  Had the guy, seated next to me,  not been fast asleep, I would've have gotten up to get my backpack but I was too kind to wake him up.

It seemed like an eternity before we made it back to San Pedro.  We dropped the Asian woman off first - I handed her the stuff from the seat.  After that, the rest of us got dropped off in a large parking lot just about a two minute walk from Caracoles.  Cecilia's hotel was just down the street from our's so we walked back part way together.  Our denomades.com tour voucher had instructed us to stop by  the offices of the local tour agency, Tourismo Layana, that was handling our trip to pay the balance of what we owed for the tour.  So that's where we headed.  It was a brief stop though because the woman who was there was not prepared to accept credit card payments that day and told us to come back so we asked if it was okay for us to return tomorrow and she said that was fine.



Because we had skipped out on Socaire, we had arrived back into town a bit ahead of schedule which was actually nice because it gave us some time to relax before heading out for dinner.  Bro finally cut into the melon he bought at La Vega market in Santiago!  While he did that, I juiced up some of the limes for our water bottles.


Dinner was back at O2 Salon de Te and then we enjoyed a stroll through town.  By 5p or so, the sun has made its way down the horizon and the temperature is wonderfully cool.  There are plenty of people out and about and even though this place can get very crowded, everyone is very respectful.  I counted all of one bar on Caracoles and as you might expect, it was filled with young people.  The music was loud and I am sure the booze was flowing but other than this one place,  there really isn't anywhere to go if you are the partying sort at least not in this very touristy part of San Pedro.  Perhaps if you go to the local neighborhoods, it would be a different story.     


Tomorrow, we get to sleep in an extra hour as our pickup is not until 8a.  In the meantime, I'm going to look over the photos I shot today so I can recall all the breathtaking views I saw today.  I will say it again, the Atacama Desert is simply magnificent and more awaits us tomorrow!

Goodnight from San Pedro de Atacama!