Sneaking through the Bolivian border

Trip Start Jun 11, 2008
Trip End May 14, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, February 20, 2009

Up at 7am to get the 7.45am minibus to Bolivia. This minibus had about 16 of us onboard, some on 4wd trip, some going direct to Uyuni and some just going to the border. First we got to the Chilean border control on the edge of town. It is put here instead of right in the middle of the desert to make things easier. The border opened at 8am and there were already about 150 people waiting to get stamped out of the Country. It was pretty swift though and only took us 45mins to get through.

We were then back on the minibus and headed along a sealed road (most of the way) for 45mins to the Bolivian Border. We had filled in our entry documents on the bus, to make things easier. The Bolivian Border control building was basically a stone built outdoor toilet - with a Bolivian flag above it for authenticity! We jumped off the bus, walked into the toilet, got stamped in, paid our 2100 pesos tourist rob and was back outside again in less than 2 minutes! No bag checks or anything. Very easy.

It was about 10am now and the minibus driver provided us with our included breakfast. This was bread, ham, cheese, yoghurt, tea, coffee & juice - better than what we had expected.

After about 20mins of brekky, our 4wd Toyota turned up. Our driver for the next three days was called Octavio and only spoke Spanish. This should be good to try and improve ours. There were 6 of us plus the driver in the 4wd. Vincent from Brazil sat in the front with the driver. Antonio from Brazil, Javier & Ana from Chile sat in the middle row. Me and Lorna had the back row. With all our bags on the roof, we weren't cramped up as previous reports had made out. We could all stretch out quite freely.

The Chilean's only spoke Spanish and the Brazilians only spoke Portuguese & Spanish. This really was good for us over the three days as it helped us both improve our Spanish. The 4 others also wanted to learn some English, so it worked well both ways.

30 minutes into our trips, we arrived at the National Park gate. Here you pay the entrance fee for a full day and night in the park. It is only 30 Bolivianos (now to be called Bobs), which is about £3. However, we were told by the tour company we could pay in pesos, but when we got there we couldn't. Therefore they were able to skank us on the exchange rate. As it was a small amount, it wasn't too bad, but a bit of a pain in the ass.

To be fair, after a day in this park, you would probably happily pay 10 times the amount!!

About 5 minutes from the gate, we got to Laguna Blanca (White Lagoon). This had some fantastic views and a great reflection of the volcano in the Lagoon.

Another 10 minutes drive and we arrived at Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon). This lagoon actually changed colour with the wind. When still, there was just a green tint to it and good reflections of more volcanoes - but when the wind started up, the whole lagoon went green. Really was amazing to see.

About 20-30 minutes further on, we came to Roca de Daly. These are loads of large rocks that have landed sporadically from previous volcanic eruptions. It was at this point we realised we were completely surrounded by ACTIVE volcanoes - this created a small eruption in the rear of my underpants!!

Another 20-30 minutes further on and we arrived at Aguas Termales (Thermal Water - I think). Here there was a fantastic little hot pool. I stripped off and jumped in - well I wanted a wash after my earlier eruption - it was just like hot bath water - but it never goes cold! And I have to say, it was the bath with the most awesome of views - not because I was in it, but because of the surrounding volcanoes and lagoons. I could have stayed here hours, but you shouldn't stay in these things too long or you get a little light headed.

After drying off, we had another 30 minute drive to the steam geysers. You can get really close to these and I almost got Lorna to fall in one whilst taking her photo - back a bit, back a bit! She wasn't fooled though.
There is a real strong smell of sulphur around here of course, but still fascinating to see.
We had seen boiling mood and steam geysers in New Zealand but we never really thought about them being in Bolivia.

Approximately an hour later we got to the first part of Laguna Colorada. We stopped off to get some photos of the lagoon, the flamingos and the wild Llama's (don't know what they were mad about - maybe they knew they were going to be tomorrow's dinner). All the time we are surrounded by fantastic views of volcanoes.

Got to say, Bolivia is giving Chile & New Zealand a run for their money when it comes to scenery.

So far, we have had no issues with altitude sickness and our driver has been really far!

We continued around the lagoon to our digs for the night. A simple 6 bed dorm in a stone building. There is only cold water and unreliable electricity for lighting purposes only. Should be interesting. It was about 2.30pm now, so Octavio prepared our included lunch. We had pasta, some sort of corned beef, tomatoes & cucumber with mustard or ketchup. We also had some fruit and a 2 litre bottle of coke. It was fine by us.

After dinner, me & Lorna took the 4km return walk to Miraflores Aguas Calientes to see the flamingos and more great views. We sat up there nearly an our just taking in the scenery and watching the flamingos flying around - it's such a majestic sight.

During our walk back we did notice our breathing was getting quicker so we checked what altitude we were at - over 4200 metres above sea level!! - no wonder we were trying to catch our breath.

To avoid altitude sickness at this height, we have been told not to exert too much energy - that shouldn't be too much of a problem for us two lard arses!!

In the evening we had dinner, again prepared for us by Octavio. Tonight it was soup followed by spaghetti and salsa de tomate. We also had fruit and coke available - again, not bad considering the previous bad reports.

All 6 of us then just sat around the table, with a nice fire burning (gets freezing up here at night) and trying to translate to each other. It was good fun.
We also found a new favourite drink of Café al Cognac. This is only £1 for a 200ml bottle and we ended up having 6 between us!! Well, it kept us warm!

This has been a fantastic first day and look forward to the rest of the trip.
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sabaidii on

'boiling mood geysers' - wow, these people must be so hot-tempered! :)

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