Erin runs into something spiky...again

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, November 15, 2007

We had to wake up ridiculously early in the morning and take off before breakfast because we were supposed to see the sun rise.  I think. 

The sun technically hadn't risen, although it was perfectly light, when we arrived at the geysers.  Actually there was only one geyser, and it was man-made by a giant drill.  Someone had wanted to tap the steam for its energy, but it obviously didn't work, considering that there's only one hole and it flows completely uninhibited day and night.  Some of the people put their hands in it, but I wasn't so keen on getting close to a high-velocity steam jet.  It was pretty cool, though, and it made tons of noise. 

We then wandered over to the other moon land/mud land where stinky steam rose from the giant boiling mud holes in the earth.  I've never seen boiling mud before, having never been to Yellowstone, and I tell you right now that it is seriously nifty stuff.  Most of the earth was hard, but Travis spotted at least one area where the mud had bubbled over onto where the people walk.  We also ended up walking in really sticky mud, but we found a really neat mud pit in the process, so I think it was worth it.  You'll just have to see our amazing photos.  And we had this grand adventure before 6 a.m.! 

After the mud pits came the hot springs.  They were truly glorious.  One woman in the changing room tried to talk me out of going in because it would be really cold when I got out, but I had none of it.  Waiting for breakfast would only have made me colder.  Travis was already soaking by the time I got to the water.  I practically slipped over the stones on the way in, I was in such a hurry to join him.  All of our team except the Norwegian girls climbed into the water, and we were all so happy we did.  I love the hot springs.  Then we had yummy breakfast cake.  Excellent morning. 

There wasn't much left to do.  The people going to Chile would be there before 10 a.m., then the rest of us would turn around and go back to Uyuni.  It turned out that half crossed the border and half went back.  Very tidy. 

As we drove through the sand this strange rock grouping cropped up, and I really wanted to take a photo.  Turns out I got to because the grouping was the Dali stones.  I thought they looked familiar.  We think that Dali was never in Bolivia, and we don't know if he saw the rocks and then painted, or if the two situations were simply coincidental.  I guess we'll have to read up on it.  Anyway, due to the fact that we have neither a good panoramic setting nor a wide-angle lens, the photos of the Dali rocks are not spectacular, but they were pretty asthetically pleasing in real life, so just imagine.  (The trouble with taking a trip in which you spend time mostly looking at stuff is that it's hard to transfer the amazingosity that you take in with your eyes into something intelligible for your readers.  Just know that what we saw was amazing.  You should go see it RIGHT NOW!)

Also at the Dali rocks were more seven-colored mountains.  We never quite figured out what combination of minerals lives in the mountains, but I can tell you there's sulfur.  I think just about every mountain we saw had sulfur.  And the seven colored mountains were significantly more interesting to look at than normal mountains.  They kind of reminded me of a melting mound of Tin Roof Sundae ice cream, with soft swirls flowing slowly downwards.  But they were shades of brown and cream rather than chocolate and vanilla. 

We finally reached the end of our big trip: the Laguna Verde.  Now, I think we've all seen a lake covered in green algae.  It can vary in color from a deep moss to a bizarre lime color, but I don't think that any one of us can boast of having seen a lake that was mint green in color.  Except Travis and I, that is, because this lake was exactly so.  The lake itself was exceedingly picturesque due to its refreshing color, and also because it had a reddish mountian rising up behind it.  Not ony picturesque but boasting a setting of complementary colors.  How educational and...complementary.  At this point we all took our last team photos and the drivers broke out boxes of yummy chocolates to celebrate our trip.  Then it was back in the jeeps and on our way to the Chilean border. 

The Chilean border, for your information, consists of one building in the middle of nowhere with nothing but sand surrounding it.  I think it is at this point that certain persons who are not fans of Chile may opt to urinate across the border.  Not naming any names...  Also probably not the wisest thing to do...

All four of our Irish contingent and the Norwegian girls left us for Chile.  The remaining six of us split up the jeeps and zoomed back toward Uyuni.  We had a brief lunch stop in this little village, at which point we three Americans kicked around a soccer ball with a boy about two or three years old who probably spoke five words of Spanish.  He was all kinds of cute and mischievous to boot.  On our way out of town our jeep got a flat, so we ended up well behind the other jeep.  The drive was really, really long, but there was a surprise along the way!

We stopped at another interesting volcanic rock formation, which our guide told us had formations of animals, but we only found a face, and I don't think he told us about that one.  There was supposed to be a bull and a llama and maybe something else.  Travis could have climbed around for ages, and was well on his way to doing so, when yet another mishap occurred.  But really, it was his own fault...more or less. 

There was a particularly interesting rock sticking out in the middle of a relatively open area, and Travis took a photo of me standing in it, then he ever so sweetly (not) asked me to remove my person from the photo.  I started backing up, but never quite got far enough out of the way, because he kept on telling me to go farther and farther.  I shuffled backward making faces at him until my heel hit something solid.  Unfortunately, my body was also shuffling backward, and without the aid of a foot to hold me upright I sailed right over the giant tuft of grass that had gotten me into this predicament.  For your information, I wondered all three days why the llamas and other animals did not eat these little tufts of grass.  I now had my answer.  Grass it may indeed have been, but it is not the soft grass you have in your lawn.  Rather, the plant was like a cactus with unbarbed prickles, and I had essentially rolled over it with my entire backside.  Instantly, I let out a howl and my unfeeling husband, who I believe had gotten his perfect photo the very moment I impaled myself, didn't believe that anything was wrong.  He stayed where he was ogling his success while I made an agonized roll off the offending bush, stood, and stared at it, wondering how it looked virtually unharmed by my giant fall, while I felt like I had a thousand needles poking me in the back from my shoulderblades all the way down to the seat of my pants. 

In fairness to Travis, when I told him that the bush had attacked me he came and made an effort to get the prickles out, but it was wholly unsuccessful, so I hobbled back to the jeep while he capered about the rocks some more.  There was just one other problem.  I had so many prickles in my clothes that no amount of pulling them out would have allowed me to sit in the jeep in my current state of dress for the next several hours we had before arriving back in Uyuni.  But my Spanish-speaking husband was not present to get our bag down from the top of the jeep, or to explain what had happened to me.  I therefore got stared at in some consternation by our cook while attempting to get quarter-inch prickles out of my underwear. 

Shortly Travis came back to the jeep and once more attempted to de-prickle me.  It didn't work and I said unequivocally that I had to change my pants.  This caused more problems because now Travis had to persuade our driver to pull our bag down from the top of the jeep and wait while I changed all my clothes.  Lucky me, I have only one pair of pants, so I got to change into Travis's clothes.  Magical transformation uncomfortably accomplished, we were back on our way. 

Most of the drive was uneventful, but right before we got back to Uyuni our driver pointed out a large mountain looming in front of us.  This mountain, he said, was full of minerals and silver and had not yet been tapped.  A company of some sort had come in, desirous of mining, and had told the village living in the way that it had to move.  Fine, they said, but you have to build us a new town.  Fine, said the company, and it did. 

The town of San Cristobal is, in the words of Aaron, "the Beverly Hills of pueblos."  The company that was responsible for building it took care of everything.  There is electricity pumped into the city, playgrounds, a large school building, and an indoor market.  They even took apart the stone church and rebuilt it in the new town.  It's a pretty neat church, too.  There's even a spot on the road to the city where the river used to flood and make the road completely impassable.  So the company built a fancy bridge.  Problem solved. 

We were now in the home stretch, and soon the city limits of Uyuni appeared.  We were dropped off in part of the city that we had never seen before.  It was the main drag, and we were staying over by the bus station.  Fortunately the whole town is about 8 square blocks, so it really wasn't that far away.  We spent the rest of the evening running into our companions.  Javier wanted to stop for a beer, but we had to go back to our hostel and missed it.  But we did have a delicious American-style pizza at the famous Minuteman Pizza.  It was probably the most expensive dinner in the most expensive restaurant in the entire town.  Who knew a pizza place could be ritzy?  It was definitely worth it, though.  Absolutely delicious!  And they made yummy desserts.  Travis and I splurged on a couple giant home-baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Yum. 

Uyuni's a good place.  Which is a good thing, since we have to wait all day tomorrow in the town because the train out doesn't leave until 10:40 p.m.  Woot!

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