11th Apr 2012 - 13th Apr 2012
Chile to Bolivia
We were picked up from our hostel early on Wednesday morning to begin our three day adventure.
After an hour or so waiting at the immigration office in San Pedro to get our exit stamps from Chile, we were driven up to the Bolivian border (climbing up to 4,400 metres above sea level) where we were given breakfast and divided into the groups of six we would spend the next three days with. Unfortunately for us the couple we had planned to go with had been poached by some other travellers, so we ended up with a bit of an odd bunch. We met our driver, a sweet young guy called Japheal (like Rapheal but with a J...), and then met our (hopefully) reliable jeeps which would take us hundreds of kilometres over the next few days.
From there we were off!
Day one had a few stops - several lakes with different minerals in them, leaving them in an array of different colours. Supposedly anyway. They were all pretty much different shades of blue, but were very pretty. We stopped off at a natural hot pool which we gratefully jumped in for a quick dip, and stopped again at the Sol Mañana geysers (very similar to Rotorua, including the boiling mud pools and smell) at 5000 metres. The geysers were interesting...first of all it was pretty much where everyone started feeling ill from the altitude (it was our highest point on the trip), but also it was an OSH nightmare - there were no fences or anything around the pools...one guy from our group came VERY close to slipping in. I guess the combo of the steam, smell and altitude was a pretty potent mix.
Our final stop for the day was at lake which housed a flamingo colony (a nesting area for up to 30,000 birds from 3 different species) and then ending the day in a rustic lodge.
Day two was mostly spent driving through the Bolivian desert. The highlight (and one of our main stops) was to see the Rock Tree - a rock which has been shaped to look a little like a tree by the strong winds across the plains. There were a bunch of other crazy rocks....similar to rocks I guess you´d see at the Grand Canyon....cool shapes and some pretty daunting structures. The most bizarre thing from this day was the snowstorm we went through in the middle of the desert....very odd. Mike and I were both pretty excited to see snow....much to the bemusement of the Germans in our group. We also caught our first glimpses of llamas in fields.....but unofrtunately not one but both of our cameras died...so photos are a little sparce. We finished the day in a wee old lady´s house...a bit like a backpackers, but it was just us staying there. Mike and I got lucky and managed to be allocated our own room complete with ensuite...score!
Day three was our final day, but arguably the best. We started off the day driving for what seemed miles and miles down the liongest straightest road in history, playing sport thew llama for a good couple of hours. Our first stop was a train graveyard, which we had not bee looking forward to that much - who wants to see old rusty trains? Turns out it was a very cool place - they had converted a bunch of the old carriages into swings and seesaws, and it was all on for photo sessions. We were herded back into the cars about 45 minutes later and driven into Uyuni town to dump our bags at the office before heading to the Salt flats.
The salt flats really were the drawcard for me for the whole trip. I´m sure most of you have seen the photos from other travellers - because it´s the same environment for miles and completely flat, it´s brilliant for playing with optical illusions. After the first few photos though we were kicking ourselves for not done some research to come up with more ideas - I had inadvertantly left my two props in my pack at the office - a plastic tuatara and a kiwi soft toy. Nevertheless we played around for a while and then helped a few other people take their shots, before stepping back and really admiring the crazy environment we were in. It had rained the night before so the first 500m or so of the flats were under about an inch of water. There were local people there, shovelling piles of salt from under the water into heaps, so it would dry out and they could load it into trucks to take away. Mike and I had both also left our jandals in our packs and the salt is not good for trekking shoes (or any shoes really) so we were barefoot which was pretty weird. The salt itself was quite sharp....a bit like standing on ice except without the cold. A very very cool place anyway.
We were taken back into Uyuni town (after a quick stop at some local handicraft stores). We had booked an overnight bus to La Paz which didn´t leave for 5 or so hours, so we did what any good backpackers would do and headed to the local pub with some of our fellow travellers for some beers. We did manage to get on the bus safe and sound, and depsite the extremely bumpy road for the first four hours of the trip (no sealed roads here!) we managed to get some rest beofre arriving in La Paz at crazy o´clock in the morning (about 6am). Lucky for us we had booked a hostel which was used to people arriving at odd hours, so they checked us in and we were able to go back to bed for a few more hours.
|13th Apr 2012 Jess and Mike at the Salt Flats - Uyuni, Bolivia|
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