Salt just can´t be this bon....can it?

Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Conor was still pretty sick but he managed to get up and go on the tour of the Salt Flats. We had lost our group of Aussies who left the day before so off we went to meet our new group. 3 English girls and 2 American girls. The 3 toffs from London introduced themselves as Jo Jo, Pip and Sweetpea and as for the Americans they were clearly 2 Mensa wannabies. So off we went in our 4x4 with a driver and a cook. First stop was a train cemetery which was more like a scrap yard so we didn't hang around for long.

Back in the car and Leonardo the driver proudly got out his tape. First song, Hanging Tough by New Kids on the Block, a few more by New Kids were followed by YMCA, Macho Man, in the navy, and Roxette songs in Spanish. We started to worry about Leonardo....

Next stop was the Salar de Uyuni, the worldīs largest salt flat sits at 3653m and covers an area of 12,000sq km. It was part of a prehistoric salt lake which covered most of South West Bolivia. When it dried up it left a couple of seasonal puddles and several slat pans, including Salar de Uyuni which is like a blinding white desert.

That evening we finished off in San Juan, the village where we would be spending the night. After dinner we got acquainted with our group. Conor made his excuses shortly after the hot topic of conversation "the merits of different brands of toothpaste". Mairead stayed on for a while and heard some fantastic discussions about, which deli did the best pastrami on dark rye in New York and things the girls missed form home such as "afternoon tea with fresh crumpets and homemade jam."
Even when our lovely cook brought us some dry crackers with our tea the girls were fantasying about a slice of gorgonzola cheese on it with a segment of mandarin.
Everything was bon, bon, bon. The classy hotels they have stayed in on their trip were bon, the Michelin star restaurants they go to in London were bon and the designer shops in Rio were tres bon!

The next morning it was off to visit a few rock formations, look at some volcanoes and finished the day off at Laguna Colorado, a bright adobe red lake fringed with cakey white minerals. The second day with the group proved extremely hard on the ears with the mensa wannabies wining on about different types of flamingos and a National Geographic programme about pumas in Bolivia. But we only had to look at our guidebook to see that their mental capacity amounted to reciting passages from the book. We were glad when Leonardo blasted out New Kids to drown out the wining voices. Conorīs stomach was still a bit dodgy and every so often the jeep would fill with a wonderful sulfurous smelling aroma from Conorīs belches. The girls were not impressed but at least the driver, cook and us saw the funny side of it.

That night we stayed at in a hostel at Laguna Colorada 4,500m above sea level, where we froze most of the night and woke up to frozen water bottles. The temperature that night dropped to -10 and there was no heating in the hostel.

The next morning was an early start at 4.30am s that we could watch a geyser erupt, then it was off to the Termas de polques hot springs where we defrosted in the 30 degree sulfurous water. Then it was off to another beautiful lake Laguna Verde before dropping the 3 English toffs off at the Chilean border.

Back in the jeep and we were faced with a gruelling 13 hour drive back to Uyuni. It was mensa versus team Belfast in international rules university challenge. It took just over an hour but they were silenced.

We arrived in Uyuni late that evening and said our good byes to Podge and Rodge then there were a few uncomfortable hug/pat kind of things. The girls then found out that their bus to La Paz had been cancelled so they were in Uyuni for the night. Before they got the chance to tell us the good news we had disappeared into the night. There was no chance we were spending another night with them.

Overall, the trip was excellent value for money and we got to see some amazing things, but you really have to be careful with your group....we found this out the hard way.
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