More salt Vicar?

Trip Start Oct 06, 2009
Trip End May 31, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

So we left early to meet the other people signed up with our tour company (Cordillera, excellent) for the trip to Salar de Uyuni to try and weedle out a good crew for our 6 man jeep.. this was quite important as we would spend 3 days and nights.. including sleeping in the same room as our jeep mates..

We got together with 2 awesome scottish lads from Dundee, a hilarious English guy called James and a french girl called Cristal (who had an annoying habit of wandering off and/or being quite demanding while dressed in very revealing skin tight neon lycra meaning that the aforementioned habits were continually overlooked by the boys...!!!.)

We set off, first stop being a makeshift breakfast at the Bolivian/ Chilean border. There we met our Bolivian drivery Eepy who was quite gruff to begin with, didnt speak ANY english and had a bizarre taste in old love songs (played on repeat for the first day of our trip, especially Bryan Adams and strange spanish remixes of top ten 90´s ballads...)

We had an incredible first day at a high altitude, cruising through desert and along dirt roads, stopping at incredibly coloured lakes (aquamarine, red, white, green and yellow) covered with flamingoes, passing herds of llama and vicuna (a type of wild deer) stopping for a dip at hot springs, geysers and dramatic view points. Sometimes it really felt like we were on a different planet.. and i cant really find words to describe how breathtaking it was. That afternoon we arrived at our accommodation which was very basic and situated at 4400m which a lot of people struggled with but we followed the local tradition for chewing coca leaves to alleviate the feeling of such high altitude and thankfully Bruce and i werent too badly affected. We had a good dinner and Bruce entertained everyone with a few songs before card games and an early night..

The second day was equally as dramatic.. the scenery was constantly changing and the rock formations were striped with so many different colours. We stopped by some huge rock formations sitting in the middle of the sand as if they had just been dropped there.. and then onto more lakes and more flamingoes..more llamas and incredible views. By now Eepy was starting to warm to us.. we shared some jokes in our very broken spanish and managed to get him to let us change the music..thank goodness.  We stopped for lunch in the searing heat next to a very volcanic looking lake with a very sulphurous smell.. beautiful colours but apparently caused by arsenic deposits.. and then reached our hostel in the aftenoon which was one of the famous salt hotels, built entirely from salt in the salt pans. We were served llama steak for dinner, and having dropped 1000m or so in terms of altitude we all had a few beers while the local young boys came to entertain us with some local bolivian music.

The next day .. the Grand Finale.. we were all up early and we headed straight to the actual salt flats. It was unlike anything i have ever seen.. salt as far as the eye can see .. flat and dazzling white while against a bright blue sky. The salt almost had a wax like appearance, and we drove for miles and miles and then stopped to pose for photos. We then headed to a bizarre small island covered in cactuses right in the middle of the salt plains.. then another salt hotel and a salt museum with salt statues!! It was very surreal.. blisteringly hot and we definitely saved the best until last. For anyone thinking of going to Bolivia this is definitely a must do!!!

We then arrived in Uyuni.. our first town in Bolivia and straight away we were struck by how different everything seemed. The people really look different.. far less western and many of them dressed in traditional Quecha or Aymara dress with brightly coloured woven blankets over one shoulder acting as a sling carrying anything from babies to food supplies. There were market stalls everywhere, lining all the streets, selling everything from loo roll to pirate DVDs and of course all the alpaca souvenirs, beautiful jumpers, hats, gloves and brightly coloured textiles. It was very apparent that we had come from one of the richest countries in South America to one of the poorest, but straightaway we loved Bolivia´s authenticity and strong identity. The people were all very friendly if somewhat shy, but always polite and very short.. absolutely tiny!!!!

It was pouring with rain in Uyuni as sadly we had arrived in the height of the rainy season but we had a great night out with our jeep buddies (Bruce spontaneously entertaining everyone in the bar with a song or two accompanied by a brilliant Argentinian guitarist..) and with rather sore heads the next day we jumped on the ramshackle bus to Potosi....

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