After exploring the extreme southwest of Bolivia, getting within a few kilometres from the border with Chile, we stop at a spa which is fed by hot water coming from the ground at the Laguna Chalviri. In the distance, we see dark clouds bring showers on the mountains, while our bodies get warm in the clear water. We have seen lots of volcanoes, and these hot baths make it clear again: this is a region with lots of volcanic activity. After lunch, our next stop is the geothermal field of Sol de Mañana (Morning Sun). When we get out, a strong wind tries to blow straight through our clothes. We are at some 4800m, and it definitely feels chilly outside. The entire area is pockmarked by craters, as if it has been heavily bombarded. But these are natural craters, and this is where all that geothermal activity under the crust of the earth comes out.
We make sure to closely follow the guide: nothing is what it seems here, and what might look like a stable ground could just as well be unstable and open up when you step on it. We walk straight to a plume of steam blowing out of one of the openings in the earth, and walk past small and big holes. Some are tiny vents with a minuscule steam cloud; when you put your finger on it, it burns. Some are big pools of fiercely boiling mud in brown or grey. It is funny to watch the mud plop and explode, until a new bubble of air comes from below and plops. It is actually pleasant to warm ourselves in warm air at the craters. The crust of the earth is white in some parts, or green, or brown. We make sure not to breath too deeply, as the fumes of these fumaroles cannot be healthy.
The Sol de Mañana area is linked to the Tatio geyser geothermic field in Chile which I visited in the early 1990s, and the two are connected through a fault. Apparently, there is a geyser here that reaches 50 metres high, but can only be seen in the morning. The sun manages to pierce a hole in the cloud layer, and the landscape becomes much wilder. The light contrasts with the dark, almost black clouds in the background, and the steam blowing across the area gives it all an otherworldly appearance. We leave the bubbling pools behind, walk through the steam curtain again to safer ground, and continue our journey through the landscapes of the altiplano with its mountains and volcanoes. But we will not see the wildness that lives just under our feet again: only Sol de Mañana offers that opportunity.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sol de Mañana geysers (Bolivia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sol de Mañana geysers. Read more about this site.