Salt Lakes, Flamingos, Lakes, Volcanoes etc

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Decided to live like cowboys and head into the desert and check out the gorges, cacti, volcanoes, wildlife and of course the largest salt flat in the world.

So the agency warned us that the accomodation would be basic, the altitude would be tough but the scenery would be amazing but nothing could prepare us for this experience..

1st day:

8:30 am our jeep arrives, our guide Ronald, our cook Carmin and a Dutch couple Stephen and Kim, bags, petrol, drinks, food and we are ready to go.

Really nice scenery on the first day, really deep gorges, caves, the dutch girl and I also found new boyfriends, the Cacti.
Wild WestCacti

Stopped for lunch in a field of Llamas and then guess whats for lunch... llama with maize.
Llamas and lunchtimeThe new Jim Carey in the desertFunky mountain

Then a lot of driving to our 1st night accomodation, ok i not going lie... this was the biggest culture shock ever... local indigenous people running up to us, 4300 metres high, then our accomodation..... we had to kick the locals out of their house for the night, dont know where they slept, minus 10 degrees, no electricity, no toilet... no water...blankets stank of baby puke and llama poo.... we will never complain when we get home... still trying to figure out how these people survive... Stephen really suffered from altitude... 
Home sweet homeThe locals

2nd Day: 
Woke up by our guide at 6am, 4 of us trying to pack our bags in the dark, dont think any of us slept more than 30 minutes... Stephen is straight into the coca leaves to try and help with the altitude (so he says).
Spotted loads of flamingos, vicunas (the president of Bolivia´s coat is made from vicuna wool and is worth $1200.00, you get 5 years in prison if you shoot one of these illegally), llamas.

First stop of the day is Kollpa Lagoon... this is a lake where all the basic material from shampoo comes from...
Fancy some Pantene.

Then onto the thermal waters 30 degree heat, Stephen too sick from the altitude at 4200 metres to get in but i need to make up for the lack of shower....heaven.
Thermal springs

Then onto the fabulous Laguna Verde... greenest lake we have ever seen at 5000 metres with Volcano Licanbur in the background.
Laguna Verde

Another few hours driving to Salvador Dali Desert, this is where the Spanish placed stones in the desert so Dali could paint the famous painting... you know the one.
Salvador Dali desert

Final sight of the day the amazing but stinky geyser basin with its boiling mud pots.
smelly geysersGeyser

Then onto our 2nd night accomodation, 5600 metres high... bith feeling a bit woozy... toilet but still no shower.

Lovely local women puts the stove on... nice while the wood lasts.. all have dinner while trying to stop our teeth chattering from the cold.
Another night sharing with the Dutch couple so we sit down and watch Bad Santa on our portable DVD player... luxury apart from its minus 15 degrees... we try and keep as close together to keep warm...

3rd Day:

Sleep in... woke up by our guide at 7am... if he wasnt such a nice guy we would have killed him... slept ok... but its too cold to get up...

First amazing sight of the day is Laguna Colorado (coloured lake), they are voting for this be added to the seven natural wonders of the world... flamingoes everywhere, colours amazing; dark blue, white minerals at the edges, then red centre, hundreds of flamingoes here, hard to get close to them but we were the first group to arrive so we managed to get them in flight as well.
Laguna ColoradoFlamingoesLaguna Colorado

Few more hours driving onto Arbol de Piedra (Rock tree), this stone has been so eroded by wind etc its looks like a tree... hence the name.... then you have the seven coloured mountain in the background... impressive... still finding it hard to breathe.
Arbol del PiedraMountain of seven colourschilling in the desertdesert fun

Then onto Volcano Ollague right beside the Chilean border.

Lots more driving to our 3rd night accomodation... only 4400 metres tonight... a salt hotel... everything... i mean everything is made from salt, only have electricity for few hours as they only have solar power. All is good we get to have a hot shower (Stephen manages to be the only one to get a cold shower... Murphy´s law again). Then dinner of Lasagna and crap Bolivian wine, then the local entertainment... hilarious... all dressed up in the local gear but not a note in their head... then bed, us and the Dutch couple manage to get seperate rooms

4th day:

4:30 am wake up call... torches on again trying to pack.... then outside to the most amazing star filled sky ever.. i guess thats because of the lack of electricity.....

Off to see the sun rise over the largest salt lake in the world.... this place is huge 12,000 square metres, which we worked out nearly to be the size of Ireland... our driver just turned off his lights in the pitch dark and drove at approx 90km per hour... scary but great.

Then the brightest sun rise over the blindingly white salt lakes, when it rains here the salt expands so it looks like cracks in the sand... salt flats are so vast... defo got the wow factor....

Time for some illusionary pictures... lots of fun trying to come up with ideas.

Happy familySunset salt flat.I love him, i really do...Pringle people

Onto Isla Inca Huasi, this is an island in the middle of the salt flats that give beautiful panoramic view of salt flat... huge cacti, cactus only grow 2 to 3 cm a year so these are mindblowing. Then time for some breakfast of cake that our cook had baked at midnight the previous night.
cacti islandvast..

More fun pictures, frisbee, chatting with other groups and back in the jeep.


Then onto the eyes of the salt, this is where you can see down into the different layers of the flats.. salt, water, salt water, salt, water, salt, thousands of years of nature at work. Then our guide goes fishing for salt crystals, managed to get us a really big bit.

Final stop, the touristy town of Colchani where you can buy all your souveneirs, then more lunch and our fantastic guide and cook drop us back to the town of Uyuni, check into a hotel for €10 euro a night, have few beers with some people we met on the way, then to bed to catch up on lots of sleep.

Fantastic tour, not easy or luxurious at any stage, 1400 km on rough bumpy roads, but definitely wont forget it or the scenery too soon.

After two days rest we are ready to get back to civilisation and cross over to Chile, Bolivia is famous for basically the worlds highest everything, but we are a little fed up of also the worlds worst toilets, worlds coldest weather at nightime, worlds worst food, most eccentric people especially when it comes to politics and car horns, worlds worst buses... what other nation think its a good idea to fill up the passageways to the brim and then wake you up at 2am to ask for your tickets.

Chile here we come...

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