The Salt Flats

Trip Start Aug 16, 2008
Trip End Dec 22, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, October 6, 2008

I know conor already sent an email about this so I´ll try and keep it brief but it was one of the most amazing tours I´ve done in my life. We started ours in Tupiza and it was a four day tour. The first day we set off into the mountains and saw some really unusual rock formations. Then literally drove over this huge mountain in our 4X4 (not a great one at that). There was two other girls on our tour, one English, one Italian. We were so lucky cause the Italian girl was a translator and seemed happy enough top translate everything the guide said. We had lunch in the middle of a llama farm and then continued on through the mountains for the rest of the day. We passed through two villages, one population 150 another 320, one with a mummified donkey and a money box to raise money for the school. It was a bumpy ride but the scenery was stunning. Its hard to believe a landscape that is so barren can be so colourful. The main event of the day was getting stuck in mud (the only bit of mud we saw for 4 days and we got stuck) The guide immediately jumped out, grabed a spade and started to dig us out. While the chef took a pick axe and started hacking away at desert grass to stick under the tyres. Once we were dug out the spade broke and unfortunately we were still stuck. So the guide started to walk back to a village we passed (he would have been lucky to reach it in an hour). However after 30 min another tour group saw him walking in the distance and gave him a lift to the village for the shovels and with their help we got out of our sticky situaltion. So almost 2 hours behind we set off to our final destination.

The next day we rose at 4.30 and were glad to see our engine had started (the guide spent hours the previous evening working on it). It was 15 below and we set off on our long, bumpy journey to reach the national park. Once there we saw the most imcredible site, sky blue coloured lagoons with scaterings of Flamengo´s in them. This was with a desert mountains back drop. No photo can do it justice. We saw some small salt flats and then arrived to the thermal bath, yes in the desert. It was pretty nnippy due to the altitude we were at so jumping into a boiling thermal bath was most welcome. Then we went to see the green lagoon. It was a really vivid turquoise and again a bazaar thing to picture in the middle of desert. It is green due to the suns reflection of the minerals in the water. Next we saw all the geysers, which were strange bubbling, sulper smelling volcanic holes in the ground. they were at an altitude of just below 5,000 m so breathing was tough.

The third day we began with a red lagoon. This was a few km in diameter and unlike the green lagoon its colour is due to the algae that live there. Flamengo´s feed on this so it was the most densely populated lagoon in the area. The was also thermal ponds on the outside that were steaming away and the flamengo´s spend the night in them to stay warm. After this we saw an active volcano and had lunch on the volcanic rock remains from its last erruption. After this somthing fell out of our engine so as the ignition no longer worked. 

Fair play to the the guide, he worked away for 30 minutes and off we set. Except we had to push everytime we wanted to start the jeep. As the piece was broken and we were in the desert we had to push start for the next day and a half! This on top of a few flat tyres made us the laughing stock of all the other people doing tours that we met. However we had the best chef so we didn´t mind that much. 

Our final day was another early start to see the sun rise on the salt flats.This was the great salt flat of Uyuni which something like 15,000 km sq. Its pristine white desert as far as the eye can see. We stopped of at one of the salt islands for breakfast. It was made of volcanic rock and had a dense covering of cacti. Really was one of the strangest places I´ve been. The last interesting thing we saw was little pools of water in the salt flat that you could pick salt crystals from. It was an extremely hot, cold and uncomforable 4 days but totally worth it.
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