Flat Flat Flat

Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
Trip End Jun 15, 2005

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, May 16, 2005

Monday 16th May 2005
Arrive In Uyuni at 2.30am, and get to a very basic hotel to sleep. waking at 9am to catch our tour, though as per usual we hang around for a few hours.

Into the 4WD, with two danish, one french, one swiss, and our local guide, Edgar, who only speaks Spanish (well, and Quechua!). Hence translation was from Spanish, to French, to English - took a while sometimes, though my Spanish understanding has improved a lot.

Drive away, and quickly reach the Salar De Uyuni - the Salt Lakes of Uyuni - formed from a historic lake, this time of year, they are blindingly white, stretching out for dozens of kilometres. At the beginning, there are lots of mounds of salt, where it is mined by the locals, who also use it to make souvenirs, but onto the lake proper, and it is amazing - just so white, far into the distance, with a bright blue sky.

Perspective also allows you to play with photos, with sometimes good effects. We then reach Isla Rescado - a bizarre island in the middle of the white, dotted with huge cactus - with of course the white background all around it.

Eventually reach San Juan, where we stay the night in very basic, and very cold accomodation - this is a little village truly in the middle of nowhere, and we have driven higher into the mountains to get here as well. Slept in my sleeping bag, three blankets, and some of my clothes...and was still cold.

Tuesday 17th May 2005
Early, and cold start, and back into the 4WD - there are probably another 7-8 4WD doing a similar route, and we follow some - though half the time we choose our own track - roads are there to be created!

We reach Laguna Hedionda, a 4105m, where we see lots of flamingos, some pink some not, and the weather is getting worse - the freezing wind is hard, and as we climb higher, the snow starts coming down. We pass some other Lagunas, some pink in colour, but as we drive all the vegetation disappears, the landscape is now very desolate and bleak, slowly being covered by snow.

Reach some rock formations (Arjol De Piedra), where I have seen photos of in the sun...its a bit colder than that now!, and then onto our accomodation.

Even more basic than last night - 6 to the room, with a door that opens out to the cold, cleverly kept closed by use of a rock to the base of the door. Snow is drifting hard outside, though the occassional Llama that wanders by the window dont seem too bothered.

Its at this point I realise my camera doesnt like the combination of high altitude and freezing weather...it goes on strike. Freezing nights sleep, where we are told outside temperatures were at -20c.

Wednesday 18th May 2005
Woke up as I went to sleep, freezing. Because of the weather, 4WD are in convoy now, in case of breakdown, and we climb to over 5000m (my new personal best!), and see geysers at 4870m - similar to New Zealand, except there are no safety precautions here - you can simply walk as close as you like, past the geysers, boiling mud pools etc - all this heat had no effect though - it remained absolutely freezing!

Onto the hot pools - yes hot pools of water from the volcanic activity - I decided against going in, as I was dieing of pneumonia.....

Then onto the village we were staying - again very basic, but more Llama photos (oh, and dinner of Llama...)

Thursday 19th May 2005
Long drive back to Uyuni today, but not before going to the Valle De Rocas - huge rocks dumped millions of years ago from a volcanic eruption...pictures would have been good but my camera is still failing me.

Briefly through San Cristobel, a "new" town built by a US mining company - where the locals have electricity, showers, nice houses etc - in stark contrast to some of the other villages we pass through, and then finally to the locomotive graveyard outside Uyuni - which was marred by idiot tourists deciding graffiti was the way to make this place better.

Return to Uyuni, and have a wonderful warm shower - I think I must have used the entire towns water supply, but I needed it!

Friday 20th May 2005
Nice lazy day, just wandering the small town that is Uyuni - which remains cold unless your in the sunlight, or the one cafe that has some heating (which took me all day to find)

Caught the overnight train to Villazon, on the border with Argentina
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