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Five friends and a pick-up

September 2017, Atacama desert, Chile

There were five friends and a pickup truck, and for ten days we traveled along the dirt roads of the Atacama Desert, in the north of Chile, in the Antofagasta region, the year when, after lots of years, it had returned to bloom.

To date, the most incredible and evocative place I have visited. The starry sky of the Atacama Desert, far from all the light pollution of Europe, is impossible to forget.

We woke up at 3 a.m. One of the most unpredictable days of the entire trip awaited us. Our plan was to arrive at an altitude of 5000 metres and see the incredible geyser phenomenon. The Geysers of Tatio are located about two and a half hours from San Pedro de Atacama: eighty craters emit immense eruptions of white steam that can reach 6 metres height. Despite the cold, we were completely petrified by this spectacle that nature gives every morning before dawn. The vapours reach a temperature of up to 85°C and it is therefore recommended not to get too close. Amidst coca leaves to combat the altitude, the cold diminished thanks to the vapours that blew up every five minutes. We were so amazed, we started our day in the best possible way. This was how I celebrated my 23rd birthday.

On the way back we came across a small Andean village, the pueblo Machuca, which is 4000 metres above sea level and where temperatures can vary from 14° to 3°C every day. I still remember my amazement at getting out of our pick-up and admiring that little village, made up of about 20 small houses and a white church with a thatched roof and doors painted blue. The altar of the church was covered with flowers, and Mrs Gonzalina (one of the inhabitants of this village), told us that every day they pray to never run out of water.

Their main activity is breeding llamas and alpacas. Here we first tasted llama anticucho, an incredible skewer of llama meat.

An Andean gentleman wearing a hat and a colorful apron was there, grilling for us - curious and hungry tourists.

To end this awe-inspiring day, we stopped for a snack, laid in the sun in the back of our pickup truck, tired from the few hours of sleep. The view gave us a mountainous landscape full of giant cacti. The palette was an incredible contrast between the yellow, the brown of the land and the blue sky. In this poetic moment, we realised that a tyre on the pickup, almost as tall as us, was punctured. None of us had phone reception.

Our pick-up lost in the flowering desert

The desert in bloom

El Tatio Geysers

El Tatio Geysers

El Tatio Geysers

Pueblo Machuca

Pueblo Machuca

The church

Antichuco de llama!

Flat tyre and what happened next

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