The salt flats tour

Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

We spent three days out on salt flats, desert and lunar like landscapes in the company of a great bunch of people. They included Adam the chef from Leeds, Joe the psychologist from Belgium, Chris the saxaphone player from Denmark and Belinda and Frank from Darwin.

After a bumpy ride in our jeep which was to become home for the duration of the trip we reached the edge of the salt flats. It is a dried up salt water lake that spans 12,000 acres in the middle of the Bolivian desert.

The first place we visited was an island of rock called amongst other names Isla Pescadora. On the island are cactaii that grow at an average rate of 10mm per year. One of them is over 1,000 years old. We had lunch and played a little football. Then we started taking photographs (see above). Suddenly the place was black with people copying us but I donīt think anybody got one as good as the fight between Pauds and Adam.

We stopped for the night on the opposite shore of the salt flat in a hotel that was made entirely out of salt. The floor, the walls, the bathroom and even the beds were made from salt. Strangely enough when we got dinner it wasnīt a bit salty so I donīt think the kitchen was made from salt. We ate Llama for the first time. Tastes like chicken! No really it is a lot like round steak.

We went to see a mummy that was entombed in a nearby cave. Our guide told us that it was a holy man that was entombed with all of his paraphenalia but I reckon it was the Worldīs Hide and Seek Champion that hid too well. Going on 800 years now.

On the second day it seemed like all we were looking at was lake after lake with the ubiquitous crowd of flamingos feeding in them. That is of course until we bumped into the crowd of lads from Israel. Never in my life have I met more ignorant lads. You will see why as I continue.

One of the sights on the tour is the Dali tree, as it has become known, due to its use in a famour painting by the Spanish artist Salvador Dali. We arrived to find the lads jumping around on it. They had all climbed it preventing anybody else from photographing it for at least 20 minutes. Despite everybody else grumbling and asking them to get off it they steadfastly refused to get down. We decided to leave before them so that we could enjoy the rest of the day without their interuption.

We drove onto Laguna Colorado where there is a red lake. Pauds decided that somebody from Munster must have just passed through and dumped a load of dye into it. We got our room and wouldnīt you know it we were right beside our rock climbing friends who couldnīt have made more noise if they were asked to. Since we were getting up at 4:30 the next morning nobody wanted to stay up late but the lads ensured we did.

Next morning as the moon was at its height and the sky was dotted with the brightest stars I have ever seen we rose and drove to the natural geysers. As the sun came over the horizon it lit up the desert like those photographs that are coming back from Mars (Conspiracy theorists will eventually point to the amazing similarity nodoubt). There is a fake blowhole that was built to give people an appreciation of what the geyser looks like as it vents its fury. Wouldnīt you know it the lads were already there standing in front of everybody warming their asses once again preventing anybody else from having a look at it. And true to form they wouldnīt move away until they were satisfied that they had pissed off everyone.

On to one of the highlights of the tour for me. The natural hot springs maintain a constant temperature of 30 degC throughout the year. Since our Israeli friends had already arrived and virtually ran into the biggest one we had to make due with a smaller one nearby. It was 0 degC outside and 30 degC in the pool so it didnīt take long for Pauds and myself to get into it. The rest of the group thought we were mad but since I was toasty warm in it and everybody else was shivering I had to ask who was the fool?

After drying off (very quickly and vigorously) we faced a 9 hour journey through the desert to the town of Uyuni. We ended out tour just before the town with a visit to the train cemetary. The sun was casting itīs last rays of the day and the reflection of the red rust of the carriage made for an arresting sight. Somebody had daubed Einsteinīs theory of relativity on the side of a rusting carriage. This coupled with the rusting trains and orange colour cast by the setting sun created a surrealness that brought an end to a tour where everything was a new experience of the weird and the wonderful. (The ignorant lads aside of course).
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