Trip Start May 01, 2010
90Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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A few minutes out of Uyuni we visited a train cemetery, where old steam trains lay rusting on the sand. Then we passed through Colchani, a salt processing village, before crossing onto the Salar de Uyuni itself
After a tasty lunch, we continued on our journey and the landscape changed from salt pan to desert. We stopped at Cuevas de las Galaxias, a magical cave discovered only a few years ago and decorated with fossilised corals and algae. A few metres away another cave, Cuevas del Diablo, contained a number of pre-Incan tombs complete with a few skulls and bones. In the late afternoon, as we were driving to our accommodation for the night, the driver discovered a problem with the jeep which wouldn't go into third gear. We spent a worrying 30 minutes with the bonnet up but a bit of Tom's adhesive tape wrapped around two wires fixed the problem (!) and we made it to our home for the night, a basic but adequate adobe building
It was freezing cold when we set off the next morning, climbing to about 4500 metres and passing through an incredible landscape of outcrops of volcanic rock, lava fields and cone-shaped volcanoes flecked with snow, one of which was active and had steam pouring out of the top. We then came to the first of several colourful lakes, across whose surface hundreds of pink flamingos were busy feeding on a planktonic soup. Each lake was stunningly beautiful and surrounded by a backdrop of desolate mountains and volcanoes. It was bitterly cold and the wind was incredibly strong and we wondered in amazement at how the flamingos survive in these icy conditions.
In the afternoon, we drove across a high altitude desert of volcanic ash and gravel covered with rocky outcrops that have been scoured into strange shapes by the constant howling wind, the most well-known of which is the Arbol de Piedra or Stone Tree, a giant boulder balancing on a narrow stem. We then entered the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, and drove to the Laguna Colorada, a huge lake with bizarre red coloured water due to the presence of algae. The lake was incredibly and surrealy beautiful but we didn't stop for long because it was bitterly cold and the wind was like nothing we have ever experienced.
That night we stayed in even more basic lodgings with stone walls and floors. The temperature dropped to around minus ten that night and we didn't sleep for more than half an hour. We set off at 5am the next morning and reached the Sol de Manana geyers just as the sun was rising over the horizon. At 5000 metres amid boiling pools of sulphur, high pressure jets of steam shoot out from the ground. We then drove onto another lake where the crazy German guys went for a dip in the hot springs. It looked invitingly warm but the thought of getting undressed and then dressed again afterwards was too much for the rest of us! After another 30km we reached the stunning Laguna Verde, a green lake coloured by the presence of arsenic and other minerals and backed by the imposing and perfectly symmetrical form of Volcan Lincacabur. From here we drove a short distance to the remote Bolivian border post. Here we said goodbye to the German guys and our wonderful driver and cook before transfering onto a bus which drove us 2000 metres down off the altiplano to the Chilean border post and the town of San Pedro de Atacama.
San Pedro de Atacama used to be a tiny oasis village on the edge of the Atacama but in recent years has developed into gringo central
Tonight we leave on a 24 hour (gulp) bus journey all the way to Santiago. Fortunately the buses here are seriously luxurious (and seriously expensive) which will make a nice change after Bolivia. From Santiago we fly to Bangkok on the 8th to begin our Asian adventure. Can't wait!