Continuing of the article Different colors of the desert and how Evit became a model
We get up after everybody else has already left (the tours get up at 5:30) and enjoy the loneliness, do laundry and wash ourselves in the sink. And we are moving … yes, like dealing with stupids – yesterday we told the lady that we want to have a rest here and that we are looking for something for two nights and today she has suddenly full.
At least we meet Polish cyclists in the another refugio. Perfect couple Edita and Pawel who have been traveling last 3 years and have countless funny stories. We go for a walk to the lagoon, make some picture of the pelicans, cook and till the late evening talk and drink tea.
Jan cannot fall asleep in the night because his leg hurts a lot and he’s got a fever. The pills help, but it continues in the morning and the painkillers become his best friend for the next days.
We talk with the Polish in front of the hostel till noon and then our ways split – they go north and we south. We fill water for 2 days – 19 liters – and the bicycles become feelingly heavier.
The road is bad and in these condition even worse. We stop to make some pictures in the red lagoon and our feet freeze – that water has maximum 5°C which is not surprising in the altitude of 4300m where every night the temperature drops below zero.
After 3 hours and only 16km we turn to a canyon where we stay for the night. Jan’s leg still hurts, he has fever, my lips hurt and I look like a monster.
Breakfast and the dose of analgetics make our day and we first go for a walk in the canyon which gets more narrow.
Today it should be cycleable but up and down with a pass in 5000m. 10km before the end is Jan feeling so bad that he’s laying on the side of the road and waiting till the pills start to work (it must looked that bad that a jeep stops to ask if we’re OK). He’s got something inside of the mouth and on the skin on the leg and it comes with fever.
The wind before the top is so strong that we are not able to stay on the bikes (like the altitude and sickness wouldn’t be enough). Last kilometer before the geysers where we want to stay for the night, Jan’s wheel gets stuck and we don’t know what happened … broken rack – great! Carefully we get down and start looking for some good spot for the tent.
Sulfur stinks here everywhere and I’m trying to find some flat place for us next to some exhaust – stinky, but warm.
It is without heating, but we find a windshield behind a big stone. I build the tent and Jan tries to make dinner – but just after boiling water for the tea we go rather into the tent, because outside is so cold that we want to cry. Wind shakes the tent but we are well protected from the conditions outside. The dinner is the cosmic food and we are thankful to the carabinieros for this present. The menu is great – pasta bolognesa, curry rice, meat with beans and meat pie. And as a bonus the heating bags also warm up the tent :).
We get to the sleeping bags and we know that this night will be even longer that normally. Here you just live with the sun and that means 11 hours of sleep which is really too much on our thin foam mattresses.
Our bodies hurt in the morning and when we open the tent with the first sun rays there are already 50 people with photo cameras running around the geysers. Fortunately their full schedule doesn’t allow them to stay longer than 10 minutes and in a while there is nobody just the noisy steam is rising from the ground to the height because there’s no wind and it creates magic atmosphere. Everywhere around is bubbling mud with many colors of gray and brown, red-orange mountains and rocks in the distance and blue sky above us … :)
Jan fixes the rack with found metal wire and when controlling my bike he finds the same problem. We put the wire also there and with the second round of LandCruisers we are leaving pedaling uphill. One more 5000m pass and then just down.
Around noon we reach another lagoon with thermal springs. Surprisingly the pool is almost empty (the polish guys have different experience) and so after long time we have hot bath. Our frozen bodies heat up and the skin on our backs gets down … unbelievably – like two monkeys we peel pieces of the skin and we are happy that nobody else is here with us.
Today we’ve made only 20km but we decide to stay here – inside with dinner and breakfast. Generally we get rests after the tourist but enough to go sleep with full stomachs.
The breakfast is also big and around 10 we are on the way again – Jan with fever and the skin irritation and I with painful lips. The first part of the days is in the desert of Dali which is a big sandy plane with many surrealistic rocks surrounded by orange-red mountains.
After climbing the really steep 4700m pass we see the snow-covered volcanoes in the distance. Long downhill, beautiful surroundings, sandy dunes and lagoons … just the roads are with the never-ending washboard. We go around the laguna blanca (white lagoon) and we are losing our nerves and last energy – this is not a road but a ploughed field! At the laguna verde (green lagoon) which has really nice color we think about the talk with the rangers if they’ll have problem that we stayed in the park more than the official 4 days.
Last refugio and after bargaining half price we are going to sleep inside. We cook on the alcohol stove in the room because it’s quiet and without smell (totally opposite to the gasoline one) – we prepare the traditional soup with pasta.
Morning, last few kilometers and the civilization is waiting for us! The ranger stamps the tickets without even looking at the date (he was maybe afraid of the discussion about the quality of the roads and why the cyclists even pay).
As usually the road is uphill and bumpy. The policeman at the boarder crossing thanks us for visiting his country on bicycle – nice :).
Last 5km and … and … and … TARMAC!!! Three weeks without this smooth gray surface were the most difficult tries of our endurance and also of the bikes. I dance a celebrating dance and we finish the last forbidden fruit – an apple (they would confiscate it at the Chilean boarder).
It takes us around one hour to do the 40km of downhill with altitude difference of 2000m. The air also gets at least 10°C warmer – finally :)!
We both are at the end of our energy and we know that this was probably too much – our bodies use the last forces and our immunity system is lower that ever … first thing to do in the oasis in the dessert which we are approaching – San Pedro de Atacama – will be definitely to visit the doctor.