Salar De Uyuni

Trip Start Nov 19, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Such an amazing trip.  The photos will show it better than i can ever describe so i will get them up as soon as possible.  The highlights:
Day one:  we set off from tupiza in our four wheel drive toyota, amber, neil and myself and our driver francisco who likes to be called panchito, and his wife, filomena who was our cook.  the jeep was loaded up with our bags on the roof and lots of food supplies (filomane outdid herself everyday - we had the most amazing meals three times a day) and off we set.  the morning we drove through bolivian countryside heading towards uyuni.  i was sat in the car just gazing out the window at gorgous scenery, canyons, mountians, cacti and rocks ranging from red to yellow to green to blue.  it is where they filmed butch cassidy and the sundance kid and we stopped and had lunch (and the first of many outdoor wees) overlooking the valley where they hid their loot!  in the afternoon more driving, getting higher, stopping for photos and hit the desert and then uyuni at about 11pm.  we had had to go back 3 times to help the jeep in convey with us because they kept having mechanical problems and panchito is an ace mechanic so he kept repairing it and replaced a punctured tyre.  we had lots of music in the car for our travels but plenty to look at out the windows.
Day two:  off to the salt fields of salar de uyuni.  salt as far as the eye can see.  because it is the rainy season there is a cover of water over the salt which reflects the sky so that all the clouds are mirrored onto the ground.  it looks stunning - is hard to make out the horizon and gives the impression that you are driving across an enormous lake.  we were on the salt fields for about 6 hours.  lots of time for photos.  the vast expanse of nothing but white loses the concept of depth of perception so you can make some funny pictures putting people in the foreground and background.  we sat out the windows of the jeep and drove through the fields.  cannot put into words how amazing it was to see.  stopped at the island of cactuses and walked to the top of the hill for panoramic views all around.  was incredibly hot and had to slather on lots of sunscreen because 25 minutes in the afternoon sun on day one burnt my nose and forehead and legs a little and neilīs face and neck a lot!  we arrived at our salt hotel (walls, tables, beds etc all made of salt) and had dinner and slept well as all very tired. 
Day three: up and on the move by 7am after breakfast and quick shower.  lots of driving.  we went through the valley of llamas and saw hundreds of them.  also saw deers and ducks and stopped and had lunch in one of the valleys next to the llamas although if you try and get close to one for stroking or photo they run and jump off quite quickly.  so cute though.  we went to the red lagoon and saw thousands of flamingos and passed little towns and generally just drove through the mountains.  we arrived at our salt hotel for this night (new years eve) and found it instantly cold.  panchito informed us that we were at 4300m above sea level.  the lack of oxygen makes smoking and drinking harder work than usual but we had dinner, put on extra layers and hats and then sat and drunk our wine and smoked and played cards and chatted and generally had much fun.  at 10pm the electricty in our block got turned off so we changed to candlelight.  just before midnight we went outside with our bottle of bubbly and took some time just staring at the sky.  at that height and with no lighting and a clear sky we could see thousands upon thousands of stars.  the sky was totally covered in them - was like it was all lit up for new year.  we heard some noise from a block a few down from ours and went to investigate and found a mini party which we were able to join just before the countdown and then cheered in the new year, met all these people and did some dancing and drank our bubbly.  there were a group of portugese guys who sang a traditional drunken new year song for every different nationality there whilst those from that country danced in the middle and the others clapped so it was very friendly and joyeous considering there were strangers from all over, england (just me and amber), scotland, canada, brasil, netherlands, belgium, USA, israel and australia.  then bed as up at 4am for final day.  slept in thick trousers, 2 tops and big jumper and under 3 thick blankets and had to keep head in hoodie and under blanket and just managed to keep warm enough to sleep (about 15 to 20 degrees below and the salt hotel has no heating!)
Day Four:  early start at 4am and on the road as needed to get to the bolivian chile border for 10am to get the bus across the border into san pedro.  on our way we watched the sun come up, went to visit some natural geysers - cool but very eggy smelly, a natural thermal pool where we went swimming (well sat in the water and enjyed so much as was toasty warm and delightful after the cold from the night before and that morning).  then had breakfast and headed to the green lagoon - where all the water looks green - such a beautiful place and then to the border where we said our goodbyes to panchito and filomena (sad to say goodbye as they had been so lovely to us and taken such good care.  a really sweet couple - indigenous people, filomena wore traditional bolivian clothes - and they spoke the native language of quechua as well as spanish, very little english but that was good because we worked hard on our spanish - love having conversations and being understood - just!) then stamps in the passport, onto a bus and into chile.  have spent 6 weeks in bolivia so new country for a new year....  

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