An odd, but beautiful start!

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, August 31, 2006

Trundled up to the tour agency for 8am as requested and drove with our fellow travellers to the border to get out of Chile and head north to Bolivia (we are coming back to Argentina and Chile at a later date by the way). Unfortunately someone somewhere had decided the road to Bolivia was shut due to snow so we had to spend a frustrating few hours waiting to find out if, and when, we could cross. We killed sometime eating breakfast and then went into town. By this time it was nearly midday and we would have to miss out some of the sights if we left much later and it would be a real rush. To make matters worse all 13 of us on the tour had to collectively agree what we wanted to do ie change route, add on more time, etc and this involved trying to not only co-ordinate several peoples itineraries but also speak several languages (Spanish, French, English). Thankfully we finally resolved it all by agreeing to leave today but spend an extra night between here and Uyuni so we did not have to rush. Not a great start but we got there in the end. Fortunately not long after the border opened so we were on the road!

Had to go in 4 x 4 due to the snow (of which there was not much!) we stopped in the middle of nowhere to be stamped into Bolivia. Possibly the strangest border crossing I have ever seen with a bus carcass on the side of the road, sorry that is an exaggeration, wilderness. God knows how the drivers know where they are going!

After another drive of 20 mins or so we got to Laguna Blanca which is a lake which actually looks white (surprisingly enough!!) due to the minerals in it apart from the odd pink dot which are actually flamingoes. Were dead surprised to see them here as thought they wouldnt live in such cold and high conditions.

We then stopped off at the refuge we were staying at tonight looking over the lake. Beautiful landscape but a bit basic inside ie no showers or any running water but we knew what to expect. At least there were plenty of blankets as it gets v cold at night as no heating. After a nice sandwich lunch we piled out (13 of us mixture of French, American, British, Irish, Swiss, Australian and Austrian) to be taken by our driver/guide Carlos to the lake for photos. He was lovely and only spoke Spanish but v slowly so we could understand him. Next off we went to laguna verde which, guess what, was green. However instead of it being pretend green ie you have to use your imagination a bit to see it, it really was green! Again a mineral thing. Then we were off to the nearby thermal springs, something I had been really looking forward to although I hadnt anticipated it being quite so cold up here. We rushed into the pool in our cossies and lounged for a while trying to stop having to get out in the cold afterwards. It wasnt as bad as I thought but was still bloody cold.

Late afternoon we went back to the refuge for a tea break where I indulged in more coca leaf tea for the altitude. After several games of cards we had dinner and wondered what to do with ourselves a bit with it being freezing cold too. In bed before 10 to get under the blankets. I had on thermal top and trousers, 2 pairs of socks, a hat, sleeping bag and approx 6 blankets and 2 covers plus Dave and I shared the single bed so we could be warmer. Took ages to warm up - was about 6/7 degrees according to someones thermometer. Then in the middle of the night had to take some of the blankets off as were too hot!
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