Simply Stunning Salt Flats of Bolivia!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Simply Stunning Salt Flats of Bolivia!  

Squat Practice, Ice cold and Landing in Chile... 

I take a night bus from La Paz to Uyuni which was very comfortable and I recline back in the seat nodding off whilst looking out into the night from the window. When we reached Uyuni it felt like we arrived at the end of nowhere. We found the agency, we as I met a girl on my bus who was on the same tour and headed for some breakfast and to sit around a gas heater as it was more than cold here. Our tour started late, but it was worth it. I met Christina from Germany and Lysanne from Holland and we all had fun straight away and got on very well. 
We visited the train cemetery for some photo opportunities and then saw the awe-inspiring, simply stunning salt flats. We had an alfresco lunch out of the back of the jeep and took awesome pictures with toys we bought in Uyuni and other props including my ever useful 'spork'. I had quite a few practices at outdoor toilets during this three day tour, my most interesting one being outside the jeep sheltered by other ladies in the group on the ice flats, yeah I know terrible but we had not see a banyo/ toilet for more than five hours and it was hurting in my stomach so much I could not even think straight. Once I had another girl called over and said did you just take a wee, I said triumphantly yes and I offer her our protection of a circle around her and coats held up and she happily squatted exactly where I had and relieved herself too. Seems I started a trend. After this first day I took no problem with squatting at any opportunity I got behind volcanic formations, view onto lakes etc as there are really few and far between toilets in the middle of nowheresville! The drive across the salt flats was so calming, peaceful, beautiful and the air was crisp and fresh. It is a beautiful place and my mouth was pretty much permanently ajar with the astonishment of how magnificent the landscapes were. 

That night we slept in a house completely made out of ... salt and it was cold, frightfully. They told us to bring sleeping bags so I got into my rented one inside the covers of the bed and shivered myself to sleep, in the morning when I woke I was surprisingly toasty, that was short lived once I had to go the bathroom, brr cold again

Our next stop on day two was a nice toilet stop, actual toilets and toilet paper and soap on the sinks, wow this was special. We arrived in San Juan where our tour was meant to be staying and take some pics with some very large cacti! I feel asleep after already a lot of hours of sleep in this beautiful scenery of salt flats, surrounded by semi and active volcanoes and we see one that is half in Bolivia , half in Chile. 

Highlight of the day was stopping at Laguna Ediondo, which means stinky lake, the sulphur making it smell pretty foul. Sun shone brightly down on the lake,  creating shimmers and reflections, whilst pink flamingos hopped around and made their calling noises to each other. All around were snow capped and other mountains, volcanoes of the Altiplano. Simply beautiful and very memorable, I think one of the highlights of my Latin American trip.  With any high point, there has to be a low point and this had to be the poor excuse for our accommodation, no running water or shower, so that will be a total of three days without a shower! Nice and I technically did not change my clothes in that time, just put them on in different order on the alternate days. We even had to all sleep in a six bed dorm, which I am used to it but it was god dam more freezing than the night before, in the minus temperature. Lysanne and I had saved a nice bottle of Chilean red wine and we all talked and huddled around the open fire till we slept. This was the first alcohol in any quantity I drank since probably Peru or even Colombia since I had been at altitude I have not drank very much at all. Without saying I got drunk on the wine I did drink and was told the next morning, even though I felt like I had not slept that in fact I must have because I was snoring.  

Day three and waking up at stupid o'clock to get going we looked up at the night sky and saw very clearly beautiful shimmering stars above and I spotted that milky way again. At 4.30am we set off with the sun still not up, in meant it was also chilly inside our jeep and we all shivered until the sun hit the car windows again and warmed us up. 

We saw natural geysers which with the sun not up yet was something out of a space adventure film.  We had breakfast by the natural thermal waters of Laguna Blanca, called 'polkes', it was bit pokey when I had to strip down to my underwear whip it off quick and expose my body to minus ten degrees whilst quickly putting my swimming costume on and getting in the 38 degrees hot bath.  The pool was overlooking the lake with steam rising and creating a mystical landscape. When I entered the pool it felt like when you get into a hot bath and it is too hot and you body goes bright red but you get in anyway.  As I was in the pool with looking out over the lake and the sun coming up,  I was also laughing at others reactions getting in 'oh it is really hot' no way? I thought, a guy smoking a joint, some others with beer for breakfast and generally I was thinking it was so nice to be in not just the first water, but hot in three days. Finally I had got warm again and my feet even with socks were no longer cold.  

Our jeep had to drive over to the border with Chile to drop Christina off and this is where again I got to practice squatting toilet technique and you could say I weed on new soil ;) in Chile! Right after this drop off we got a flat Tyre just as we were going to start our seven and a half hour journey back to Uyuni, Lysanne and I had a bus to catch at 6.30pm so we were a little anxious. 

 Our driver Milton did a great job and changed it over in no time at all, however to another very bald Tyre, that was the spare! We had some lunch and a stop on the way and gave a nice tip to our driver for being all things; guide, driver, cook, mechanic!  We passed through Bolivia's largest silver mine, San Cristobal and got back in loads of time for our next bus. Lysanne had decided to join me to go to Potosi and we ate a greasy egg hamburger for the road and our funny journey that awaited us
We left Uyuni at 6.30pm, the bus was packed all seats full and people in the gangway and up front next to the driver squashed in like sardines in a can. I felt a bit claustrophobic, full of local miners sitting in the aisle, there was diversions off the nice new road I was told about onto the bumpy dirt track. It was pitch black and no lighting to help the way for the driver to see where he was going. I was very tired and very cold. We got to our hostel about midnight so at least we were roughly on time despite the diversion. The dorm room was the most awful one I have been on my whole trip, if it was not midnight and no reception guard in sight I would have changed immediately. The people in the room were smoking inside it, there was a dog, yes travelers traveling with a pet dog they had picked up in Ecuador - for Christ's sake, the bathroom was gross. I did not sleep much here and went to bed cold and woke up cold, we were still at high altitude, here it was 4000 metres above sea level. 

**please check my photos on flickr as the best ones are loaded on there and not here**  
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