Off to Bolivia - Lagunas and oxygen deprevation.

Trip Start Dec 28, 2006
Trip End Dec 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We were picked up at 7.45am and met the other 4 people in our group.  Four ozzies and all very nice so once again we were very lucky with the people we traveled with.  Without much ado we took the minibus up into the Andes to the lonely Bolivian border.  There we got our passports stamped, met Valerio our driver, guide and cook and had breakfast.  We then jumped into our 4X4 and headed into the desolate wilderness that is south west Bolivia.

The jeep was a bit cramped but not too bad - it was hot inside but once you stepped out the cold wind and altitude cooled you down rapidly.  First stop was Laguna Blanca which is a milky white lake with no plants or animals and white foam on the banks due to caustic borax.  Then gasps as we went over a hill and spotted Laguna Verde a beautiful aquamarine shining lake at 4400m.   Headed on past the Dali rock desert (pics will explain) to Geyser Sol de Manana, our highest point at breathless 4920m.  These were pretty mad, smelling strongly of sulphur with bubbling pools of mud and powerful steam jets.

Traveled on to our accommodation for the night, a Refugio at 4400m and after lunch went out to see the amazing Laguna Colorado and its large flock of flamingos who feed on the red algae which gives the lake its colour.  After a good walk around we headed back for dinner and bed.  It was very basic and the six of us slept in the same room, mostly with all our clothes on and in our sleeping bags under a pile of blankets as it was absolutely freezing. 

T had the flu and later that night woke up unable to breathe.  We had been at higher altitudes before without any problems but weŽd risen rapidly this time and that combined with the flu meant it hit him hard this time.  He was losing feeling in his hands and feet so Sara ran to find the guide but he was nowhere to be found and the guides from other groups hadnŽt brought any oxygen.  None of the guides really took it seriously and just suggested he chew coca leaves or drink the tea but he was too ill to even sit up.  We finally found our driver but he wouldn't go get the doctor as he said he didn't have enough gas - strange as when he was found he'd been cruising around in the jeep with 6 amigos.  He offered to take us to the next village (2 1/2 hours away across the mountains - we literally were in the middle of nowhere) but it was dangerous and he said we'd have to bring the rest of the group so T didn't want to risk it.  He decided to hold on till the morning but it was a horrendous night of constantly gasping for breath and trying not to slip into unconsciousness.  Sara kept vigil by his bedside throughout the freezing night (what a wife!) and thankfully he made it through till morning.  Definitely a night to remember!
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