Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
Trip End Jan 27, 2004

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Monday, December 22, 2003

La Paz, Potosi, Solar de Iuyni, Altiplano/Salt Flats - Christmas

LA PAZ: Back to the city. It`s now the 20th of December and people are starting to talk of Christmas. The decorations go up on the truck and secret Santa presents are starting to be purchased. La Paz was absolutely manic. Andrew went to the dentist as he chipped a tooth on one of my prawns he ate. Well he says it was my prawn that did the damage but I don`t see why I should get the blame for it. Go to a couple of great restaurants and not much else really. Recover from the last couple of weeks.

We also pick up our last 3 passengers. Two Maltese girls (Katherine and Sandra), they`re really sweet and nice and easy going and Louise (a scouser). But no new sparks, and no men!!! All these trips seem to be full of women! Never mind!

POTOSI: Back on the truck for another huge 10 hour drive and we get there so late that we can`t go and check out the silver mines. Apparently you can take a tour down to the working mines but you have to buy coca and dynamite as sort of tips for the miners. In a way I`m sort of glad that we didn`t get to go down there but it would have been interesting.

SOLAR DE IUYNI: Off again early the next morning and arrive on Christmas Eve at the edge of the Salt Lakes. There is a sandstorm in town, you can`t walk the streets because of the sand, the whole town is out of power, our hostel smells like a sewer, the toilets won`t flush and it`s Christmas eve. Things are not looking good. Until a couple of bottles of wine later and the power comes back on. We walk around the corner to an American run hotel where we are booked in with some other overland adventure buses for a traditional Christmas dinner.

Yep, turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes and all the trimmings, except for cranberry jelly. Amazing. Exchanged secret Santa presents some of which were the usual disgusting gifts. We drink a huge amount of wine and then dance the night away outside in the cold, in a courtyard to a live Peruvian band. All of our hard training dancing on the island pays off as our group performs a drunken version of the dances Norma and her friends performed whilst the other tour buses look on in wonderment. We don`t care, we`re having fun, it`s Christmas eve and we KNOW how to dance Peruvian. Amazing how you think you are capable of anything when you`re drunk. What a sight!

ALIPLANO/CHRISTMAS DAY: I spent this Christmas in a car commercial! I`m not kidding. The group were split up into four and we all jumped into . Then we drove madly across the desert and onto the salt plains. There was nothing around us except horizon. The surface was crunchy and dazzling white. You know when you see pictures of the antarctic and there is nothing around except white. It looked just like that. And we drove for miles and hours, and the weaved all over the place because there are no roads and no real tracks to follow. And sometimes we raced. And it was just brilliant fun. Well, for the first couple of hours and then it got bumpy and the novelty started to wear off but we stopped at some really cool places along the way.

A sort of island on the salt. A bit rock sticking out of the middle of nowhere covered in cacti! Great big sticky uppy things as big as big trees. And it looked like an alien planet. We stopped here for lunch and again I tried to take some arty photos. Standing on top of the rock island and looking out reminded me of being on the ocean. It look like a white ocean. Until a small dot in the distance started speeding towards the island and it turned into a jeep that raced up to the foot of the rock. Now, I know you don`t get jeeps driving on the ocean!

We stopped at a hotel made entirely out of salt. Salt bricks, salt walls inside, salt crystals scattered on the floor so it was soft to walk on, really cosy. Over the next couple of days we drove and drove for hours across the desert. Staying in eco lodges, one so high that the wind was outrageous. We tried to walk but had to lean into the wind and fight against it to get anywhere. We had two cooks with us who kept us fed for 3 days and drivers that just kept going and going.

We drove higher and higher over the Altiplano desert. Passing lakes of different colours, pink, green, blue and orange (all made this way by the organisms in the water). And pink flamingos on every lake, feeding off the organisms and just walking around. High up in the middle of nowhere? Geysers huffing and puffing, steaming and spouting bubbling mud.
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