(Again, no pictures here because of the slow Internet connection at my hotel. I will try to get them up over the next few days.)
(Edit #2: Finally added pictures!)
So today was another early start, as the tour is quite long and involves a lot of driving around to get to the various lagoons across the salt flats.
We woke up around 6:30 a.m. in order to get ready and eat breakfast in time for our 8:00 a.m. pick-up from our hotel. This was another shared tour, although there were at least a few people who we recognized from our tour yesterday to the Valle de la Luna and the Valle de la Muerte, including an Australian couple. The Australian couple will also join us for our tour tomorrow, which is nice, as they’re super friendly.
We first drove for about 20 minutes to the little town of Toconao, which is quite rough around the edges but has an old church and tower from the 1700s, if I remember right. The town is so small that the church doesn’t even have a permanent priest – one comes around every so often to do mass. Otherwise, the local nuns take care of maintaining the church and addressing religious concerns.
After a quick walk-around and pictures, we left for the Lagoon Chaxa, another 30 minute drive or so across the flats. There, we were able to see flamingos. They basically walk around the lagoon there and eat for most of the day.
From there, we kept driving – I don’t even remember how long exactly but it was a while. As we kept driving, the road wasn’t so flat and was quite rough and twisty-turny as we wound our way up into the mountains. We also had the opportunity to see some wild donkeys and llamas, which was pretty cool.
We reached Lagoon Miscanti just before noon. It’s an impossibly blue lagoon nestled between the mountains and it’s absolutely stunning. We got out to take some pictures and take a bathroom break. We also had the opportunity to walk along a path that took you closer to the lagoon but I opted not to, since I was being very affected by the altitude (about 4,200 meters above sea level; the highest I have been previously was a little more than 3,000 meters, and I was mildly affected by the altitude at that level!), so I just rested in the van.
We drove a little further on to reach Lagoon Miñiques, which is also an impossibly blue lagoon nestled between the mountains. Again, I opted to rest in the van since any sort of significant movement (i.e walking) made me short of break and slightly dizzy.
After taking our pictures, we drove back down to Socaire, a tiny hamlet on the side of the mountain, where we had lunch. The food was simple and typical Chilean fare but it was tasty and very filling. We had fresh bread with a spicy salsa-like sauce called pebre, then a hearty vegetable soup. Then was the main course – rice and chicken with a slice of tomato and some giant beans that tasted like lima beans. Our desert was peaches in syrup. We left very satisfied! At this point, I was starting to feel better from the higher altitudes.
We drove back into town, but we opted to get dropped off on the main street rather than at our hotel. We withdrew some more cash from an ATM, bought some souvenirs, and had dinner. We also looked into some activities to do after our tour tomorrow. Alana and Jess want to go sandboarding (basically, using a snowboard down a sand dune), although I’m definitely opting out of that one. I’m no good at sports like that and usually just end up falling! However, we also booked a stargazing tour for tomorrow night, which I’m genuinely looking forward to. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronomer and learned about stars, planets, and constellations. Then I learned that astronomers need to use a lot of physics and I found out I hated physics, so I changed my mind and ended up as a nurse instead.
So that was pretty much our day! We’re pretty tired and we start even earlier tomorrow morning, so we will probably head to bed early. Goodnight!