Stinky geysers and colourful lagoons

The second day of the excursion started with a visit to a llama farm. This time, we were able to get rather close, give them a pat on the head, and take as many pictures as we wanted – as long as none of the farmers or their kids appeared in them. You could notice they were really not pleased to be photographed. Anyway, I was too busy trying to make new friends with the animals to be bothered with the humans. I liked the colourful woolen marks they wore on their ears. I guess they are some kind of identification, to know to which family they belong or something like that. It made some of them look like little girls with tiny pony tails and hair bows. Rather cuties. Makes you wonder if you really want to eat llama again any day soon.

Wooly friends with hair bows.
Wooly friends with hair bows.

Next stop was by the first of a series of lakes. With, this time, not llamas but vicuñas. While in South America, I had to learn to make the difference between llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuña, all cousins of each other and looking very much alike. But the vicuña is not as woolly as the llama or the alpaca. And it is not domesticated. That makes clothes made of vicuña wool very rare and expensive. During the Inca period they were a privilege of the royal family. A little further away, we also spotted our first flamingos.

Although we were mostly driving through very deserted and uninhabited places, each halt was a new rapture. Once again, I got to enjoy a thermal bath. But one with the most amazing views I could imagine. And, cherry on the cake, as we got there early, we had the place all to ourselves. On the other hand, there was only one pool, that wouldn’t probably   hold more than 15 people.

We continued our route towards the salt flats entering the Eduardo Avaroa national nature reserve, Bolivia’s most visited protected area.  The reserve’s major attractions are erupting volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles, mountains and flamingos.

We drove through the Dali desert. Rocks which seemed to grow like mushrooms out of the sand reminded us indeed of some of the paintings by the surrealist Catalan artist. It was impressive to see these rocks popping up out of nowhere.

The Eduardo Avaroa holds 5 different lakes, the first on our way being the Laguna Verde. Verde means green; and green it was. Or rather turquoise. I instantly fell in love with that lagoon: turquoise has been my favourite colour since I was a little girl. My dream world was not made of pink, princesses and unicorns but of turquoise, mermaids and dolphins. Although I always preferred the Dutch denomination of the colour: appelblauwzeegroen – literally apple blue sea green. A much more poetic way to name the same thing. The 4 year old in me could have stayed to admire this place another day or two. But no time for that. There were other things to see.

Appelblauwzeegroen lake in Bolivia.
Appelblauwzeegroen lake in Bolivia.

The geysers, for example, which you would prefer to see rather than to smell, as we had the pleasure of experiencing how the delicate fragrance of the steam, charged with sulphur, reminded one of rotten eggs. Being a quite rare phenomenon, due to the proximity of magma, geysers remind you that you are close to volcanic activity. Besides having the impression of walking on top of a gigantic and outdated piece of emmenthal, due altogether to the holes, the smell and the fumes, the activity of a geyser is quite impressive to observe.

Since I set foot in South America and started this blog, I have had a hard time finding enough  adjectives  to describe the beauty of everything I was seeing: gorgeous, superb, amazing, incredible, splendid, magnificent, marvelous, and so further and so on. And I would need all of them together to express what I felt when setting eyes on the Laguna Colorada. Just “wow”. Yellow, blue, green, red and white mixed together into one out-of-this-world lagoon, surrounded with brown mountains and filled with flamingos. I felt that my senses were  not enough to capture and hold the marvel of this world. I tried to get part of it on my camera. I wanted to engrave as much as I could in my memory. But I explained before what a frustrating exercise it can be. Because you cannot restitute in two dimensions what you are experiencing in three. And recapture with only one sense what you are perceiving with all five of them. That’s when I decided that, one day, perhaps for her 18th birthday, this is where I would take my godchild. That one spot in the world is the one I wanted to share with her. Because that’s also the frustration of the solo traveler: not being able to share a moment, a place, a unique experience with someone you care for.

I tried to view the lake from every possible angle. And made my travel companions wait for at least an extra 20 minutes. But, very selfishly, at that exact moment, I couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t have been able to leave the place without loading my own internal battery to the maximum.

The Laguna Colorada was the last halt of the day. Our hotel was in another small village nearby.

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