Planet Hiker
2005-02-05 Geysers of Solar de Uyuni, Bolivia


The nice thing about 3rd world countries is their lack of concern for basic safety. Bolivia is no exception in this matter and tour companies don't even bother with presenting any sort of waivers as it is assumed that they wont be taking any responsibility for your safety, and that it's laughable just mentioning that word. So it was no surprise to me when the driver of the Jeep headed straight for the active geysers, ignoring the warning sign about volatility of the ground.

It was about 5am and I couldn't see what I was stepping on as it was dark and there was steam everywhere. Slowly, I made another step, but did not shift the wait on my front foot until I was sure that the ground is holding. I pocked around in front of me with the toe of my shoe and made another step. At this point, the shaking of the ground due to the roar of the geyser was getting too unnerving, but I had an itch for peeking down it. There was no clear edge to the monster's mouth. There was only acceleration to the slop of the cone, from which gurgling noises and steam were bursting out at random intervals. I made another step and the geyser gave me a warming, steam lick on the face. The little amount of light that was shining off the stars was reflecting off of the black boiling surface, letting me know that getting any closer would satisfy my curiosity at a hefty price. Thus, I set my camera up on the tripod, sat down, and waited patiently for the sunrise to pierce through the walls of steam with its red and orange rays.

There were many other geysers all around me and each had a different personality. Some were gentle, even child like, allowing to come close to them and warm the hands over the barely noticeable steam. Some had small openings with sharp vertical walls leading to their boiling pits, while others had shallow mouths, where steam was escaping through the sand, as if from the street wents of the New York subway. From a photographer’s perspective, this was a very exited landscape. With the first glow of the sun, I took one long exposure shot after another, creating ghostlike images of other tourists being dissolved in the rising white clouds.

Photos by Mie Lewis: