Laguna Miscanti and Volcan Miniques in Chile's Atacama desert © 2014 Peter Marble November 21, 2008 – day 24 of our 2008 South America trip and our third day in San Pedro de Atacama. At an elevation of 2407 metres, in the driest desert in the world, San Pedro’s climate was so intense that I lost my voice for a couple of days.
We had already booked a daybreak tour for the following day to the El Tatio geyers (elevation 4,320 metres) – I’ll post photos of this on another day. Because of the potential for altitude sickness above 2,400 metres, guide books advise people visiting El Tatio not to drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal the night before. We like to think of ourselves as cautious people, so we planned to follow that advice.
Today’s plan was to drive to the alpine lake of Laguna Miscanti. After we were well on our way we realized that it is situated at 4,120 metres! (Years ago, friends of ours told us that while driving high in the mountains of Bolivia, Rosemary started to babble incoherently – a sure sign of altitude sickness.) Remembering this, we considered turning back, especially because if I started to babble, Lesa wouldn’t be able to drive the rental car that had a standard transmission. Our solution was that I would and did start verbally teaching Lesa how to drive a stick shift. (That should have been our first clue that it may already have been too late...)
Although we did pass a tour bus that had pulled over to give a passenger oxygen, neither of us started to babble, at least no more than usual, and we ended up getting a spectacular view of Laguna Miscanti and Volcan Miniques.