Lodgey and Life on the Road. Stories from South America.

17 May 2010

Salar de Uyuni and Bolivia!

Our tour into Bolivia starts off with a bang – literally. We’re not ten minutes out of San Pedro when a tyre blows on the trailer loaded with all our backpacks. We wait for a replacement tyre to be brought out and two muppets from the tour company arrive (minus the tyre) to concur with the driver that – yes the tyre has blown.

We arrive at the Bolivian border where I’m given grief about my passport by a mean looking meat head on border control. We then discover that the dodgy tour company hasn’t sent enough jeeps for everyone and, after much protesting, 15 of us are crammed into two jeeps.

Our first day is spent driving through a desolate landscape stopping at lagoons of different colours and a hillside that looks just like a Salvador Dali painting. We arrive at the world’s highest geyser where there is a lone Canadian man on a bike... cycling all the way through the high altitude desert by himself. I tell him he’s brave and he replies that he’s just crazy!

We arrive at a hostel in the middle of the desert and discover that the temperature is about to drop to -10 degrees. We are at an altitude of more than 5000m, it’s hard to breath and it is freezing. We are given watery mashed potatoes, something that I think is a sausage and moody looking tomatoes. The owner refuses to light a fire until the temperature has dropped well below zero when he gives us some moss and one log to burn. The four of us spend the night absolutely freezing, unable to sleep because our hearts are racing from the high altitude. There are no hot showers and no electricity. Hell on earth!
Unimpressed, we leave the next morning to see pink flamingos, red, green and blue lagoons, and a smoking volcano. Our accommodation that night is a hotel made entirely of salt – the walls, beds, even the chairs and tables are made of salt. The temperature is significantly warmer and they serve a great dinner with wine!
We are up at 5am the next morning to watch the sunrise over the salt flats – the moment we have all been waiting for. Not realising that our other jeep has a flat tyre we leg it across the salt flats just as the sun is rising. We are completely surrounded by the white of the salt and a pink sky. The sun eventually peeks over the edge of the salt flat and we can make funny shadows on the salt. It is so surreal.

I wish we can stay longer. But we have to go. I close my eyes to soak it all in and we catch the last bit of sunrise from Fisher Island, a tiny island on the salt flat with 1200 year old cacti.

We then drive to a part of the salt flat where the horizon is white against the blue of the sky. Because the landscape is all white we can create some pretty cool pictures. One of Geezer up close looking like he has miniature people in his hand.

And one of me climbing out of a shoe.

Our last stop is at a train cemetery where we can climb over rusty old trains like kids. My favourite train has ‘ASI ES LA VIDA’ graffiti-ed on the side – ‘SUCH IS LIFE’.

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