We spent 3 nights here at Camp Murray before moving up to Base Camp Atacama. There is no electricity here, no mobile reception, no point in me driving around in the truck and wasting fuel. But I never got bored… much!
Acclimatization is serious stuff, but we all seem to keep ourselves busy enough during the day. I’m always happy to make the meals and do the dishes. Doesn’t sound like much until your meals are based on what you can accomplish with a little MSR camp burner. And washing dishes is with the drinking water rations you bring in, so minimal use… and cold!! I personally would think if I was reading this, do they really need somebody there to help with meals? Probably not (but they definitely needed somebody to drive support vehicle and an official witness for the upcoming world record). Back to cooking.. the amount of time it takes to boil water at this elevation is crazy. Almost everything we have to eat involves boiling water. And then, particularly with pasta, it takes forever to cook and never really coooks right through up here because the water doesn’t reach the required temperature. Rice, I tried once and gave up on completely. The whole time I’m spending to cook and clean up, the boys are always busy with something. They are working constantly on preparing three bikes for a world record. I never see them just hanging around and glad they don’t have to waste time on the cooking bit. So I am happy I can do this one small thing.
If I wasn’t watching them tinker with the bikes, I would wander around in fascination of being is such a quiet, desolate and beautiful landscape. We are up high enough that walking fast for exercise is too hard. Walking slow for only a few meters gets us out of breath. There just isn’t enough oxygen, about 55% of what we breathe at sea level.
Walter and Lukas are busy changing out to their new sponsored Golden Tires while Barton spends hours bleeding his brakes. Hours…. 😉
I’m not real sure what they are doing here, but they’ve brought down my little stove from the kitchen and they are burning things, it involves tools, so I better get out. ;-))
When Lukas has a chance, he’s off riding around in the dirt. He’s like a kid in a candy store, having so much fun. I asked him about it and he said that in Europe where he lives, there is literally nowhere they have freedom to play and ride like crazy off the track. Everything is completely controlled and illegal. So he is enjoying a huge amount of freedom here.
The time comes where they have the bikes mostly prepared and want to do an exploratory run, test the bikes, etc. So they took off to check out the track to base camp Atacama.
Such a beautiful sight… motorcycles and mountains.
Luckily Barton gave me a book to read while I hang back and wait..
Here are a couple photos they brought back. Chijuajua! They do have a huge challenge ahead of them! I guess that was never really a question as it wouldn’t be world record stuff if it was easy.
I patiently waited until the boys came back… a bit exhausted! Not only from the ride but the time they spent higher in even less oxygen than we have here.
We had learned that there are hot springs at Laguna Verde, a high elevation 14,765 ft lake just down the road from our camp. Walter and I has discussed how great this would be after many days since our last wash in the Santa Rosa lake back at Tres Cruces. Barton and Lukas decided to hang back and guard the fort.
We drove the truck less than 20 km to the hot springs. There is a park attendant who lives there in a shack and he showed me two hot spring pools. Being cheeky, I asked him in Spanish, “which one is the best?” He pointed. Right. “Walter! You’ve got that pool over there.” I was selfish and took the best one, but I didn’t tell Walter I knew that (and he doesn’t understand Spanish). Ha! The two pools are quite close to each other and look the same, I wouldn’t imagine they are any better than each other.
I was so excited, but it was SO COLD up here! I was wearing my winter jacket and hat, but had to take them off in the very cold wind and jump quickly into the water. I’m not one to take a picture of myself in a swimsuit, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed to include this one, but I just had to keep a photo to remember I am in a remote part of the world in a hot spring. Such an amazing place. Unfortunately the hot spring was not hot, only luke warm. It’s better than nothing! And think about it, volcano or not, how hot can water be really, at 14,765 ft (4500 meters)?
I was enjoying my little piece of Andes heaven, until I hear, “Hey SJ!”.. yah? “Can I use your shampoo?” Yep.. “Can you toss it to me?” So he doesn’t have to get out in the cold air. Um.. that means I have to stand up in the cold air to throw it to him.. Sheez! That nearly hurt standing up in the wind with wet skin…!!!! OH well, did that. Sat back down in my nice warm pool. Ahhhh…. “Hey SJ”.. yah? (grrr…..) “This water is cold. How is yours?” It’s all right. After listening to him for a bit, I didn’t realize, but his pool is very shallow. I can at least get most of my body in the warm water but he couldn’t. “Can I come over to your pool?” Awww, man…..!! “Sure?” Haha.. wasn’t a problem, I really had no idea his pool was that much worse. As soon as he was in, he told me what a difference this one was. Doh.. I feel bad now.
It was getting dark fast. Luckily I brought my head torch. And it was freezing even more when we got out. Walter started the truck and had it warm by time I got there (thank GOD!!) And I drove back to Camp Murray.
Fuel in the truck is a worry. It’s between 1/4 and 1/2 tank. We had already dumped in the spare diesel fuel and I need enough still to move the truck up to camp Atacama tomorrow as well make it back to town a few days later. There is definitely not enough, but nothing we can do about it now.
Back at Camp Murray we carried on about what a nice bath we had to Barton and Lukas. Even though we plan to move up to the base camp later tomorrow, they still have time to go to Laguna Verde themselves in the morning.
AND, I had an idea! I had been aware there are Chilean road workers nearby (which in itself is quite weird.. there is a total of 2 cars that use that road per day. Might be extreme, but it seems like only 2). I can see them with binoculars and hear their tractor during the day. I asked the boys if they can scrounge up some spare fuel from these men on their way.
Walter woke up with a different problem. His eye is swollen, and he is in pain. I had a look, it’s super red, but I can’t see any debris in it.
We wondered if maybe there was a bacteria he picked up from the lagoon? Or it could simply have been from dust while riding the bikes yesterday. Not sure, but he is really hurting.
Barton had some eye drops, and I did my best to make a pretend eye patch.
Not sure what else we can do, but let him rest in the dark and hope for the best.
Walter was concerned enough, that he said if his eye is not better by tomorrow, I have to ride his Husaberg up to base camp Atacama. “What???” I can’t do that! Why not… “Well, your bike is far too tall for me for one. Secondly, I saw pictures of the track, it’s hard core and if I fall and break your motorcycle BEFORE you attempt a world record on it, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.” I am really really hoping that eye gets better quick. I do my best not to think about it, but I am beyond worried if I have to ride his bike tomorrow.
Lukas and Barton went off to have their dip in the hot springs, and here are some photos they brought back. I was really glad to see them myself, because I saw it mostly in the dark. How beautiful is it during the day!??
They got a photo of the petrified cow we saw last night. It’s a strange sight, but extra strange because there are no cows that live up here anyway. I wonder if somebody brought it up in a truck hoping it would survive for future food source. That water is quite salty, which can’t be good either. No idea..
Lukas in the same little pool I was in last night.
And the little shack where the ranger lives. There is an enclosed hot spring inside, the boys checked it out. Cool!
Even better, my idea worked. The boys were able to score some fuel on the way back.. Awesome! And what a relief!!
So we now have 4 clean people ready to make a final move up to base camp Atacama tomorrow. Other than the worry of Walters eye, the entire plan is going well.