Our intrepid little group had spent the night under piles of blankets, without electricity, as the temperatures plummeted. It's quite amazing how warm 4 layers of fleece will keep you. But getting up at 5:00am made us face the cold. I munched by breakfast wrapped up in layers and wearing mittens and shivering as the feeling slowly left my fingers and toes. It was dark, and it was below freezing, but we had a long way to go, and we piled into the jeep before dawn to set off across Bolivia's high altitude desert lands.
We were heading for the Sol de Manana geysers, and we bounced along, without need of roads as the sun crept over the horizon. The most incredible sight awaited us: vast plains, mountain tops, snow on the ground and steamy clouds erupting from the earth.
It was surreal to wander through the clouds, one minute on frozen ice, and then next through boiling mud. The landscape was barren: nothing grows here. And yet there was still a huge amount of natural beauty to behold.
And I was able to defrost my fingers a little bit.
Inevitably, we had to pile back in the jeep and move on, now much more awake and in awe of the views around us. And very much looking forward to throwing off all the chills at our next destination: the hot spring!
I had come prepared that morning! I was wearing my swimming costume under by clothes, a decision that had seemed ridiculous at 5:00am in the freeing dark. We had to buy a ticket but as there was no one around, I stuck my money in the box, tore off my own ticket, and flinging my clothes into a heap, leapt into the pool.
It was the most deliciously warm, luxurious experience imaginable. Just bliss. I can't describe it. Actual heat! Warmth! I could feel my feet again! None of us wanted to get out, and we spent a lovely time looking out over the lagoon, watching a curious flamingo who came over to investigate, and begging our lovely guide Marco for 'just 5 more minutes'.
We visited so many amazing places in Bolivia, and as I was on an Oasis Overland tour, it was so wonderful to be able to hop around and experience lots of different facets of this amazing country. I definitely need to go back to South America one day.
P.S. I had never been in a hot spring before, and so I'm very much hoping to repeat the experience!