Wednesday 18 June 2014

Day 37: Laguna Chaxa and a Smoky Mountain

Laguna Chaxa with Volcan Licancabur in the background
Task number one: roll out of sleeping bag.  Task two: jump in cab (fast).  Task three: turn on heating (maximum setting).  Phew.  With more habitable conditions on the way, we drove to Laguna Tebinquiche and Laguna Chaxa, where flamingos dieted on salt-water shrimps and visitors took their portraits again and again.  It was a peaceful morning.

The volcano to the east, Volcan Lascar, didn't share the sense of tranquillity.  After an earth tremor in the night, someone had started the bellows in its innards (Mr Mantle stands accused) and fumes billowed from the crater.  Was this Lascar's usual way of saying good morning to the world?  Or was the mountain in a fouler mood than usual today?

We started driving towards it, having planned to camp at its base and climb it the next day.  With each turn in the road we drove more slowly.  Then we stopped.  And turned around. If Volcan Lascar refused to obey the National Park's no-smoking rules than I would rather it smoked into an empty campsite than an inhabited one.  Back to San Pedro we went.

But not to worry.  The Atacama is full of volcanoes so Lascar need not think we missed its company beyond endurance.  Instead, we headed up the pass towards Argentina to climb Volcan Toco, 5,604m.  At 4,800m we found a secluded spot on the shoulder of the mountain, looking out over love-affair volcano, Licancabur, and pitched our tent.  Another stunning view; another cold night (a balmy -10 degrees inside the tent).

Licancabur again!
Salt Flowers at Laguna Chaxa
Flamingo flies past Volcan Lascar (note the fumes!)
Lascar... fuming
Wild camp beside the track up to Volcan Toco
Licancabur sunset from the tent

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