Published: April 11th 2012April 10th 2012
I am writing this entry 2800 metres above sea level high in the Andes. The sky is as blue as I have ever seen it and the mountains are every shade of white yellow red orange brown and purple that you can imagine.It is truly one of the most amazing experiences. It is so hard to describe what I can see, but I will try and paint the picture. I am sat by a bubbling river that is golden yellow from the mineral deposits. I have just bathed in a natural hot thermal bath. In front of me is a mountain 6000 metres high and the border with Argentina. Behind is the steep valley I have just spent an hour trekking to get here and beyond that the Chile border. I am in 'No Mans Land'.The land and mountains are arid and dry, almost lifeless, but they are alive with the colours of the spectrum. It is breathtaking. Lunch has been served and I have a few minutes to gather my thoughts on the day.
Met up with my three other adventurers for coffee before we set off on a two hour ride and one hour trek into the high Andes.
in awe at the landscape
This was what I was hoping to do on horseback but the prices were extortionate and with the Chile Peso so strong against the Pound it makes it even more so. So instead of a one horse power trip it will be a 4x4 three thousand horsepower adventure.
So shared a coffee with, Aki, his wife Andrea and Eric. Some introductions, though I did briefly described Aki and Andrea in my last blog.
Aki is from Japan and is without doubt one of the funniest and kindest men I have met on my travels. A sprightly 60 years old and standing a mighty 5'6", he has a lived in face, grey hair and beard and reminds me of the kind instructor from the film The Karate Kid, Mr Miagee.
He laughs at his own jokes even before he says what he is thinking. He also has the quaint way of sometimes pronouncing his R's as L's the wrong way round, especially when excited or happy, which from my observations is all the time.. Absolutely full of life. He met is wife Andrea in Napal some 40 years ago. She is an Australian with that classic Aussie accent.She looks like my
rooks like old japonese mans balls
own mother when she was in her 50's. Kind, patient and a big heart.Aki calls her Anji as he believes the short version of her name, Andi, is as boys name. They too have been the victims of theft on their travels in South America, falling prey to the 'squirt something on the jacket/steal the bag' routine in Beunos Aires, so we have a bond.
Erik is from Amsterdam. Stark features and a pencil thin line of hair from his lower lip to his chin, he has an air of slight arrogance about him. A man I suspect who is easily irritated and gives the impression of being toilet trained at gunpoint e,g was annoyed when he could not pay for the trip by credit card. A minor issue but one that annoyed him as there are no ATMs in Pisco."this is so invonvienient, why can't I pay by credit card? Now I might not have cash for the weekend"
So a trip to thermal baths 2800 metres in the higher Andes, a anally retentive dutchman who is easily irritated called Erik and Aki, the Japonese man who mixes his R's and L's. This has the makings of a good
with a blue car
Our guide for the day was Alejandro. From Santiago he is the partner of one of the hostel owners. A very placid chap who was also at the Foo Fighters concert last week.
Having checked out passports at the Chile border control we drive up the dusty road created by miners and mining companies looking for gold and other minerals. Reaching 3000 meters we pulled over and prepared for the trek to the thermals.
The views were astonishing. Not a cloud to be seen, the sky was a pure a blue as I have ever witnessed. The air was clean and free of the dust that was evident at the bottom of the valley. I could see far into the distance. The Andes rising from the surface of the earth, great valleys with sheer sides created glaciers a millennia ago. Every conceivable colour was meeting my eyes. It was a though an artist like had mixed his oils with all the colours in the spectrum and then used his skills to brush the mountains and valleys with his paint.
Having applied the suncream, put on sturdy boots and sun hat we set off down to the valley floor. We
had two valleys to negotiate, traversing them when too steep.
After 40 minutes we reached the summit of the last hill before descending to the valley floor.
It was truely breathtaking. The dry and lifeless valley side, of yellows, reds, orange and blue descending down to a valley floor with grasses of every shade of green, yellow and white. Running along the valley floor was a river of golden water.
It was as if we had landed on a new planet.
Aki of course was in his element. Like all Japonese they love to take photos, and Aki is no exception. Landscape pictures, comedy position pictures. "Elik, smile Elik". "it's ERIK" came the reply.
Walking along the valley floor Aki could not help move things. The broken skeletal bone of an animal he would turn 90 degrees, move rocks, place rocks on top of each other in a pyramid shape. " do you always alter nature on your travel Aki?" I enquired "yes", he replied "it's a Japonese thing" as he placed another stone on his pyramid and chuckled to himself.
After an hour of altering the landscape we all arrived at the natural thermal baths, on the valley floor
with the vast and steep slopes on either side.
A huge stalactite was hanging from a cliff edge which had a familiar shape. Aki, ready laughing to himself said to me
" rooks like an old Japonese mans ... How you say, how you say?"
"Testicles?" I answered.
To howls of laughter from Aki "yeah old Japonese mans testicles. A pair of old mans balls"
Laughing out loud we took a closer look.
It was true. A huge 2.5 meter yellow scrotum of mineral deposits forming over the centuries from the slight overhang on the valley wall getting darker and more bulbous where the blackened gonads hung. Water was flowing down it, but in a complete freak of nature the water on one side was very hot, the water on the other side very cold, and yet it was water from the same source.
Alejandro tried his best to explain but his english was as good as my Spanish. I just left it as another way that mother nature amazes me.
"Take my photo Dave"
I turned found to see Aki's little arms wrapped around the stalactite shaped nut sack with laughter filing the air."velly funny, velly funny".
up to the natural baths. Three holes filled with hot water, the water a deep ochre colour from the minerals in the soil. Piled into them. It was amazing. High in the Andes sat in a natural hot tub with views down the valley and the colours I have tried to describe.
As the water was so dark I knew I would not embarrass Anji and so whipped of my kecks to really get back to nature. Fantastic.
After a while Aki and Anji left to walk to another pool on the valley floor leaving Erik and I in the pools.
I asked him if he had seen the procession the night before and how I felt I was on the set of Life of Brian.
"enough of the story, I wasn't there" he said. My first impressions were proving true. So I kept quiet and relaxed in the pool. Erik left shortly after to join the others in the mud pool. I just floated in the pool, with the sun beating down, and shut my eyes. Total relaxation. In fact I was so relaxed I started to turn natures own hot tub into natures own jacuzzi. 'Whataboutahotwaterbottlewaddle' was the
bubbly sound emerging from the depths of the water. Giggling to myself, Aki's infectious laugh now affecting me.
So lunch is served and sat on a collapsible stool, which I tested to destruction before finally risking it.
Glanced up to see Aki bent over getting changed trying to put his dry shorts on. It's true. The stalactite does look like a pair of old Japonese mans balls!
The walk back was hard work having been so relaxed. Aki and Anji taking their time and stopping frequently. They are 60 and 55 respectively after all and there is no prize for reaching the car first.
"why do we keep stopping?" said the tetchy Eric "you're blocking the path and I am starting to lose my temper. I will get to the front" I would like to think that if he had said those words in Dutch then they would not have been so harsh, but it was a cruel thing to say to two of the nicest people I have met.Aki has had six operations on one knee and one on the other. I bit my lip. 30 degrees heat, no shade,and thin air at 3000 metres, was no time to start an argument. All my energy was needed to climb back up the valley and with Aki being Aki I knew what comes around goes around.
At the car Aki decides one last photo is required but chooses to do a video instead. I was leaning against the van trying to enjoy a fag at 3000 meters drinking cold papaya juice provided by Alejandro.
"Anji, Dave" said Aki waving at us for our attention. We waved back.
"Elik, Elik" said Aki trying the same.
"IT'S ERIK" shouted the annoyed Dutchman.
See, no need for an argument. Aki triumphs.
The journey home Alejandro asked I play my mp3 player. "Some good road songs" said Anji. So we rocked all the way home, to various beat combo's, saving a # off Foo Fighters song for entering our quiet village of Pisco Elqui. Stereo on full blast the whole car rocking out. Great way to arrive and to end the day.
For the record I played the song the Foo's did not play at the concert. D.O.A, the first tune I ever dowoaded from I-tunes. Still my favourite Foo ditty.
Mi gusta tu trabajo y mi gusta la vida