Southern Bolivia Trip!

Trip Start Nov 03, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Bolivia  , Potosí,
Monday, April 11, 2011

Another gruelling very bumpy 14 hour bus ride from La Paz found us in Uyuni. After a brief flirtation with a very cheap chicken burger in the bus station Patrick was feeling a bit under par for a few days so we stayed put and booked a three day tour which left on Saturday 9th April. They call it a Salar de Uyuni or Salt Flats tour but that only really describes the first 3 hours so we’re renamed it the South Bolivia tour……
Day One
Met the other 4 people in our tour. These are the 4 that you travel with during the day and sleep in a dorm with at night…..luckily for us they were all really nice. Two Swedish girls, a Swiss woman and a chap from northern Spain (who thought that Patch and I understood way more Spanish than we do and insisted on continuing to talk at us for three days. It was a bit like that drunk guy from the Fast Show- we’d think we’d know what he was talking about and then he’d suddenly pretend to be galloping on a horse, or shooting a gun  from behind a chair whilst we’d be trying desperately not to giggle).
Off we went to……Salar de Uyuni! The biggest salt flats in the world and it’s a bizarre place. Just crusty salt as far as you can see in every direction. Because we were there at the end of the wet season there were pools of water on them too which result in very bizarre mirages and reflections from the sky and surrounding mountains.  Whilst we were waiting for our lunch I popped to the toilet and bumped into Sophie (Ally’s girlfriend who we’d spent time with in BA and seen Shakira with). Patch and I hid around the corner and we surprised Ally again which was amusing, not somewhere where you expect to bump into people! 
Day Two
Unofficially called Jeep Appreciation Day. We drove for about 8 hours which sounds a bit dull but we were stopping every 40 minutes or so and looking at the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen. It’s very difficult to describe how beautiful somewhere is without getting very smaltzy and making you feel a bit queezy so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. But every turn of the road brought the most spectacular views- snowy mountains, clay-red lagoons with thousands flamingos feeding in it, huge Dali-esque weathered rocks, volcanoes and turquoise green lagoons. 
Day Three
We were up at 4:30 after perhaps the worst night’s sleep we’ve had so far on the trip. We knew we were in trouble when we were unpacking in our dorm and the other 4 were rolling out their four-season sleeping bags and carefully placing them under the 4 thick blankets on the bed “oh, do you just have your silk ones?” Pah! we thought. Obviously they haven’t met any hardy northerners on their trip yet. At bedtime (9:30) we thought we’d suitably planned ahead and donned our thermal tops and long johns feeling rather smug with ourselves for managing to save some money by not hiring unnecessary equipment. Within an hour neither of us could sleep. By 11 we were in the same single bed shivering. By 1130 I had on: leggings, long johns, jogging bottoms, two pairs of socks, two vests, long sleeved thermal, t-shirt, one of Patch’s t-shirts (mine wouldn’t fit) a zip-up hoodie, large Alpaca wool cardigan, hat and a scarf, and we were under 8 blankets and in our own silk sleeping bags. By midnight we realised that we needed the toilet and so had to unravel ourselves from our cocoon. Needless to say we weren’t the freshest looking people on that jeep 4 hours later!
But again we saw some amazing things. By this point we were over 5000 meters above sea level (around the same as base camp for climbing Everest….bloody high!) and it was still REALLY cold especially at 5 in the morning before the sun rises. We stopped  briefly to see geysers and then arrived at a thermal pool on the edge of a lagoon. Our group was the first ones there and so the 6 of us in a steaming pool (about 35 ) watched the sun rise over snowy mountains at the edge of the Andes. 
By 9 we were at the border control with Chile and we had arrived in touristy (read overpriced) town of San Pedro de Attacama by lunchtime. As soon as we were over the border the difference between Chile and Bolivia was stark- smooth tarmaced roads complete with emergency escape areas on hills, toilet paper and soap in the toilets and an absence of packs of dogs in the town. Everything seemed so shiny and new! 
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