Crossing the Border into Bolivia

Trip Start Jan 08, 2014
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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Where I stayed
Eduardo Avaroa NP
What I did
Laguna Blanco
Laguna Colorado
Laguna Polque and Thermal Pool
Eduardo Avaroa National Park

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, January 17, 2014

Today has been quite the day...

Astrid woke up to take her shower and I got up to get ready at the same time.  She was luckier than I in that she had hot water this am.  We packed up and were out to meet our pick-up at the appointed time of 8 am.  We waited and waited and finally at almost 9 am a pick-up truck drove up and stopped.  Astrid checked to make sure it was our ride, we put our backpacks in the bed of the truck and got in the back.  The driver drove us to a hotel where we were told we could have breakfast.  We didn't expect it until after the border.  After we ate, we waited around outside while another big group was taken away.  I asked and was told by one leader that our transport would be there later.  The woman who had signed us up for the trip came by and gave Astrid some info:  it seems the border was closed and we would have to wait.  Not too much later, we were ushered into a van with two young Brazilian women and a Chinese man - we have quite the international group now.  Our driver was Gino from Florence Italy who has lived in Chile for 18 years, or 17 years.  Astrid and I started to make alternative plans if the rain of yesterday was snow in the mountains and would prevent our crossing into Bolivia.  We thought about Argentina, and then Peru, buses and flights, and different ways of getting to La Paz for our departure flights.

 At some point Gino took us to wait near the border, but we really didn't know what was happening.  This looked more promising though.  Astrid asked if we could go and mail my postcards and he said yes but hurry.  Astrid did a forced march to the post office as I lagged behind.  She ducked into the post office before I realized it and then popped out as I discovered she was missing and started to backtrack since I had overshot the post office.  There was a line and it seemed to take forever for me to get my sticky stamp labels, put them on the cards, and stick them in the box...with Astrid's help.  We reversed the process - with Astrid in the lead.  She made some kind of hand signals to me as we neared the van, but I couldn't understand them.  Actually, they were to signal that I should get into the immigration line at the Chile border.  So I found that out and went back and got in line with the others, got my exit stamp and off we went to the Bolivian border.  There I filled in the immigration form, got into the visa line, filled in the visa form, gave them my photo and $135 US, and got my visa for Bolivia and my passport stamped - and then we were off again, now with our new driver - we think his name is Jorge but he is called Roger.

We could certainly see the snow on the mountains - a gorgeous sight - probably much more stunning than bare mountains.  There was sort of a dirt road, but more like tracks going off into different directions.  It is kind of odd - broad flat areas between the high pointed volcanoes covered in snow.  There was a dusting of snow in the tire tracks and we were pelted with hail almost immediately after starting out.  I am not sure whether there was more than one pass but we did not reach the highest point of 4900 meters until much later.  We stopped at Laguna Blanco - which is white because of the calcium deposits.  Then we saw Laguna Verde which is supposed to be green from magnesium but didn't look all that green because it wasn't windy enough.  Later it was windy enough.  I can't remember but I think we may have seen a few Andean flamingos and maybe some vicunas by then. 

Then we made it to Laguna Polque, or something like that, where there was a thermal pool and the young Brazilian women went in - they said it was great - I  hadn't packed my bathing suit to be accessible so I didn't feel like going in and we only had 30 minutes.  I may have missed something we saw or did after that..

Oh, somewhere we saw a volcano that Jorge/Roger pointed out to me.  We found out that we wouldn't be having lunch for 2 more hours so we snacked a bit as we were driving.  Then we came to Laguna Colorado which has an orangish tinge because of the algae and here there were quite a number of flamingos.  We had to go around the lake and it took quite a while - we had gone to an overlook of some laguna - it think it was Laguna Verde - in any case, we finally rounded Laguna Colorado and came to the lodge where we would be having lunch and staying overnight.  First we had lunch.  Some Bolivian people helped prepare it and serve it and one at least was dressed in traditional clothing.  After lunch Astrid wanted to get closer to the flamingos so Jorge/Roger said to walk to the white house up a hill.  I set off behind Astrid but didn't attempt to keep up with her.  I stayed closer to the shore of the lake and tried to get closer to the flamingos although my Nikon lens doesn't ZOOM enough and I can't see the screen of the Lumix to know what I am taking a photo of.  I liked the way the orange showed up on the laguna with the mountains surrounding it and the different colors and sunlight on the flamingos and the grasses.  So there was enough to keep me occupied.  I tried to walk to the white building but gave up when I saw I would have to cross some water on stepping stones.  I started heading back to the lodge.  It took me a long time because I got winded from the altitude and there was a strong headwind.  I finally made it back after finding some vicuna scat and some little animal holes and checking out several types of plants.

Once back, I ran into the Brazilian girls and sat down to have a hot drink.  By then Astrid and Howard had come back too.  I had the coca mate tea.  We all sat around talking - mostly about traveling - the girls are quite the travelers and Howard has been lots of places with his work.  We talked until after 7 when dinner was finally served - a very nice soup with bread, Bolivian wine, and spaghetti.  We kept on talking for awhile.  Astrid said it was too early to go to bed.  She went somewhere - I decided to be antisocial and do this blog and then everyone got up and started getting ready for bed and now everyone is turned over and ready to sleep.  It is not quite 9 pm but it is now my turn to get ready for bed too.

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