No escaping the physical exercise today. Bill's excuses were all used up, and without further ado, we were given bikes and told to cycle across a salt flat. Easy, I hear you say - it's flat, isn't it? Well yes it is, but cycling through a few inches of heavy sand is not my idea of a lazy morning. By the time we arrived at our destination 17km down the road, Phoebe was wondering if she would ever stand straight again. (Mind you she had been given the bike with the adjustable saddle, but with no movement in the handlebars, so she was at a very odd angle. Bill and I looked upon it as character building, and children are very flexible aren't they?).
Anyway, it was all worth it. Laguna Cejar - a deep blue salt lake in the middle of the salt flats, fed by underground tunnels running down from the Andes. Clear COLD water, full of krill. Salt crystals for a beach - incredible. All the other visitors were in their North face best (It is Winter here), but the Aldridges were determined to swim in this beautiful place. It has to be admitted that Bill got in first, and managed to float (more salt than the Dead Sea), but I did launch myself finally, and stayed in for at least 2 s. It was the coldest water I have EVER experienced, and I was momentarily unable to speak which has given Bill some hope for the future. Having witnessed this tomfoolery, Phoebe sensibly tested the water to knee level and agreed that it was jolly chile (in joke).
Back to the ranch for lunch, and then a short dip in the hot tub (we like to look after ourselves a little), but no dozing under the cactus for us. We headed off to the Kari Gorge to walk through the most impressive salt formations. Tunnels, arches, caves, and simply massive and weird crystal conglomerations (have just put this in to make Phoebe laugh - she is merciless at my attempts to describe the stuff we have seen).Salt crystals growing in lines, bulbs, sheets - formations akin to the Giants Causeway, cathedral - like pillars - just fascinating. The crystal walls crack and groan like heating pipes, expanding and contracting as you walk through the gorge, and the rock sounds weirdly hollow. I am sure that GB health and safety would have a field day here. It would all be behind a big yellow fence before you could say chilean volcano..but we were OK-we dodged most of the sharp bits, and ducked when the bigger bits fell off unexpectedly; the problem with lack of water (and then unexpected rainfall), and constant freezing and thawing is rather an unstable environment. The best thing of all is that we do not seem to meet anyone esle on most of our hikes - we have much of this amazing place to ourselves..