Freezing Butts and Clever Trucks

Trip Start Oct 28, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, June 4, 2009

I have just spent the past 4 days on a jeep trip from Tupiza to Uyuni in Bolivia. The highlight of the trip was crossing the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world. I shared a jeep with a guy from canada and a couple from Milton Keynes. I was lucky - they were all fantastic and we all got on really well. I didnīt feel the effects of altutude luckily. We all drank copious amounts of poupousa tree (plant that grows between rock and smells strongly medicinal) which is good against altitude sickness.

Here were the highpoints

- The Salar de Uyuni - nothing prepares you for this amazing bright white landscape - the result of an ancient sea which dried up over time and left 5 metres of pure salt across 12.000 kmē of salt desert. It is situated at 3.650 metres above sea level so you get quite breathless moving about which we did a lot of as it is perfet for distance distorting visual illusion type photos (will upload these this weekend).

- Isla del Prescado  - island in the middle of the salar which is covered by giant cacti up to 12 metres high

- Arbol de Piedra (Stone tree). This was naturally formed through volcanic rock which has formed a Dali-esque tree in the middle of the desert which looks incredibly top heavy and... like a tree. It definitely resembles some of Daliīs sculptures and paintings. There is even part of the desert whichich is named after him because of the landscape  - though he never visited Bolivia. Not bad getting somewhere you never bothered to visit named after you!

- Laguna Colorada - this lake was pink when we visited early in the morning but can be a deep red at other times of the day due to the high concentration of ..

- The ruins of an ancient mining town "San Antonio" which was abandoned 20 years ago because locals believed that it was cursed by the Devil (Dogs always howling, babies that never stopped crying). We visited at the crack of dawn whilst it was still dark and it felt incredibly eerie to wander around the ruins of churches and houses. All of us felt quite creeped out by the experience. especially when the Jeep refused to start when we tried to get out of there !!

- Aguas Calientes - we bathed in hot springs (30 degrees) in the middle of the desert on day 2
Great feeling though painully cold getting out

- Sleeping in a hotel made of salt
Two of the places we stayed at had walls made of salt. You could hear the walls cracking in the night as it got colder!! Strange sensation.

- Geysers and an active volcano (V. Ollague)

- Visiting lagunas of different colours - e.g. Laguna Colorado (light red due to high concentration of arsenic) and laguna blanco ( white due to volcanic ash). Lots of minerals in the lakes such as sulphur and borax.

- Crossing a small river which was full of huge slabs of ice in the 4x4 - initially it kept sliding , we tried reversing and in  the end after a bit of clearing of the ice the 4x4 made it over  - powerful machine!

- Seeing animals along the way (Llamas, Guanacos, Vicunas , a wild fox)

Here were the lowpoints
- Ferocious wind on day 1
- Minus 15  degrees    Getting charged 50p in many places along the way to use disgusting toilets that had never seen a cleaner - they seem to think hat one spray of air freshener is all it takes (In one place I actually spent several minutes arguing that to charge this much for a disgusting toilet was unacceptable - good practice for my spanish)
- Being literally trapped on day 4 in a village 20km away from the main town uyuni. They were protesting against the governmentīs decision not to built a tarmacked road between Uyuni and Ororu yet spending money elsewhere in Bolivia. Anyway, we could understand their reasons but it was frustrating not knowing when we would be able to leave (at first they threatened to slash the tires if we stayed, then they threatened to throw rocks at the windscreens if we tried to leave). One guide mentioned that we could be there for up to 4 days or longer. After a failed attempt at leaving in the jeep and having to wait in the cold for an hour in the half whilst they tried to make up their mind whether to let us pass (no was the answer) we went back to the village and piled into the the few rooms available. But this morning good news!! We could pass - so off we went and were in Uyuni by 830. One truck broke down and all the drivers got out and helped fix it (they replaced a fan belt with a fan belt from a heater!! ) Clever improvisation!
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