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Ivan Knaepen, Jo Vandeberg and Willem Peeters

IVAN KNAEPEN,
JO VANDEBERG AND
WILLEM PEETERS


COUNTRY  Flanders (Belgium)
TOUR  Adventure Atacama Desert Trek
DURATION  8 Days
ITINERARY  San Pedro de Atacama and surrounding area - Lascar Volcano
ASCENTS  Lascar Volcano (5605m/18390ft)
The purpose of the this trekking that we had planned in the Chilean Atacama desert, was to prepare ourselves for the expedition that would follow afterwards in Argentina; the ascent of the highest mountain in the world besides the Himalayan mountains, Mount Aconcagua, 6962m. So the goal of this trekking was dual, first of all we wanted to acclimatize and on the other hand we wanted to see something special, but different in South-America, not too far from the Aconcagua region.

So we opted for the Atacama desert because we could combine here a trekking with high altitude and lots of special phenomena like the Vulcan landscape, desert, hot springs, geysers, altiplano, ... After thorough selection of different organizations we chose for SPONDYLUS because they reacted as the most flexible on our different requests and they were also very pro-active and showed a lot of experience when suggesting or when advising against certain of our demands. When looking back at our trip, we can only confirm that we have made the right choice!

Our visit to Atacama and the accompanying guidance of our guide, Adrian was really great. It was a perfect mixture of a cultural visit, a trekking throughout the different typical landscapes, natural and geological phenomena in the neighborhood of San Pedro de Atacama, the ascent of a Volcano Summit and a permanent acclimatization, moving up every day a bit higher. On top of that it appeared that our guides were "chef de cuisines" when it came up to cooking with basic means.

We started very relaxed, very low (2400m) and very cultural in the City of San Pedro where we visited the local archeological museum (big surprise for us when we saw that one of the drivers for this museum and the archeological research in the surroundings of San Pedro seemed to be a Belgian Father,  Le Paige). Here we learned about the different people that populated this region throughout the centuries; the Atacamenion people,  Tiwanaku, Inca people, the Spanish conquerors and the later European immigrants.  How they lived and the different natural sources that they were using, like copper,  to be able to develop their working materials, ...

From San Pedro, we followed the Rio San Pedro and the Rio Grande with its magnificent narrow canyons and salt rocks to arrive in the Beautiful San Bartolo camp (2600m).  From San Bartolo, we continued following the river bed, passing along old copper mines  (must have been very dangerous and unstable in these salty and plaster based rocks).  This day we were also able to see some petroglyphics from a shepherd with his lama’s. After a very hot and dry traverse, we were for the first time confronted with the enormous Cardon cacti.  We arrived then in the city of Rio Grande (3200m), with it’s very typical cemetery.  Even in January it is as if the remembrance (November the 1st) just has taken place.

From Rio Grande, we again started following the river valley, ascending a lot of meters and moving from a very green landscape(small vegetable gardens), close to the village, towards very rude and dry, going over via some pampas into the altiplano.  We were now reaching 4000m, meeting with the lamas and the guanacos. We were approaching the village of Machuca, a very special and typical altiplano village, it consists of mainly one street, with its typical church.

From Machuca we made a small transfer to the Puritama valley, that we followed upstream towards the Puritama hot springs. The sources of the Rio Puritama were like warm baths (thermes) and that we could appreciate after some very hot trekking days. We continued now towards El Tatio (4300m), enjoying the flamingo’s, coots, guanaco’s and others around the altiplano waters. In the background, we had beautiful views on the sculptured volcano’s; Lincacabur (the sacred mountain), Sairecabur, Curiquinca, Ojo del Torro, ...

In El Tatio we woke up early so that we could enjoy the fumaroles, geysers and other steaming phenomena.  This is really something impressive! Afterwards we descended towards San Pedro again, preparing ourselves for the last goal of this journey, the ascent of Lascar Volcano, 5605m. The past days we already had seen very rude, sharp and dry mountain and volcano landscapes, but this was really the limit!  Although Lascar is not that far from San Pedro (about 75km) it takes you a 3 hour drive to come and go; the last 2 hours would even be difficult for a tank! But the place makes it more than worthwhile!  The sunset, Laguna Lechia that contains the projection of the volcano’s due to the sunset. And then, the impressive family of volcano’s, one next to the other!

As you can see, we were perfectly acclimatized, and ready to start in optimal condition, the second part of our trip! Thanks again to Adrian and Hans in guiding, assisting and informing us during this trip with their knowledge, experience and dedication!

Muchas Gracias guys!!!

Ivan, Willem and Jo


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