One of the most beautiful places on earth...

Trip Start Oct 28, 2005
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Trip End Jun 23, 2006


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Saturday, May 6, 2006

Wow, wow, wow. Just arrived this morning into Uyuni after a 4 day adventure from Tupiza, Bolivia...was pretty bloody spectacular.

We met 2 aussies...gotta love em :) Beth & Stu ... who wanted to do the famous Bolivian Salt Plains tour with us, as we could imagine the roulette of joining a random group of travellers to share a jeep with for 4 days in the middle of nowhere...I headed off on a 2 day horsebackriding tour in Tupiza and decided they would definitely be great company for the trip.

So after an entire day of scouting all the companies in town (a great excuse to rest our sore, raw hides from 2 days on horses)...comparing prices, food, jeeps, etc...we finally decided on the 4 day tour offered by our hostel....excellent choice.

The 4 days was entirely offroad in our fantastic 80´s jeep named Reina. Our driver Alberto was an absolute superstar...he had been triving the tracks for 6 years...4-6 trips per month...over 300 trips in all. His wife Elisabeth was the best cook around (getting up for us at 3am to cook our lunch because if she cooked it the night before it wouldnt be as good!) She was also the official DJ, treating us to fantastic Bolivan tunes as a warmup to Abba Gold...in english and spanish...before the stereo broke...it was a sad moment....but the good news is the scenery was so spectacular, we didnt really even notice.

The 4 days were filled with the most diverse landscapes i could have imagined...

Day 1 - We headed off into the dusty desert...mostly up windy mountain tracks, where i first became REALLY grateful for Alberto´s expert (read cautious) driving...while other jeeps flew past us, we chewed on coca leaves, the natural remedy for altitide sickness. By lunchtime, where we pulled over into a field of grazing Llamas, we were already at over 4,000m (ironically lunch for the carnivores was Tamales - with Llama meat). The rest of the day was driving thru wild open landscapes (where we spotted llama bones in the dirt), past tiny puebos, more llamas and other wildlife...we slept in a tiny pueblo called San Antonio de Lipez...where local children sold hand woven hats made of llama wool and asked for pens & coins in exchandge for photos of them. Many of the kids here have an indescribable hardness...and often look like tired adults rather than children.

Day 2 - 5am wake up call so we could get the most out of the longest day... which started with ruins from an abandoned/haunted town - where the entire community mysteriously died over 400 years ago...then, 80 years ago another community tried to return to mine the gold in the hills...but whomever found gold, died...so it was abandoned yet again. From there we drove to the stunning lagoons - each of a different colour, due to the algae that inhabit it...Green, White, and at the end of the day Colorado which was mostly a stunning rich red, with a huge colony of pink flamingos (who eat pink little brine shrimps...which are actually the same sea monkeys you can buy for kids in America) Anyway, for lunch we stopped at natural thermal pools (i wasnt game enough to change into my bikini behind a rock in the freezing wind)...then just before the highest pass of 4930m we explored the thermal geysers at ¨craters of the sun¨ where mud boiled and gas howled (similar to those in Rotorua)...

Day 3 - Another early 6am start to see yet more new landscapes...the most incredible of which were the desert of Dali, where the most incredible rock formations appeared in the middle of the (freezing cold - minus 10 degrees C) desert and the valley of the rocks, where more, even stranger formations appeared out of nowhere (they speculate the rocks all ended up in the valley after a huge flood a very long time ago)...Alberto then hit the gas, and headed down secret route to make it to our hotel ahead of the other groups for the night...since there were 7 jeeps headed for the next stop, and only room for 3...but we made it first to the edge of the salt plains and were lucky enough to get rooms with beds made of salt...very cool. After a hot shower (the only one of the trip) and an explore on the edge of the salt plains (which for some reason inspire everyone to act like idiots and capture it on film)...we headed back for another yummy hot dinner...then Cass & Beth started talking to Juan-Carlos, a local 11yr old kid, whose eyes lit up like it was christmas when Beth broke half her pencil and gave it to him...made me realise yet again just how spoiled we are in every country i have ever lived.

Day 4 - today we headed off at 6am to watch sunrise on the salt plains...the supposed highlight if the trip...but much to my surprise, it was the early drive that took the cake. We were driving along in about 3 inches of water on the plains, where the pre-dawn sky & stars reflected off the water - the horizon dissappearing into the dusty blue stillness. The jeep lights were off, and for some reason the jeep didnt cause ripples in the water, so the mirror of the hills & sky on the water was completely uninterrupted. Absolutely magical. This is a huge call, but it was the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. We decided to watch sunsrise from the top of a little island in the middle of the salt plains...but in order to catch it, we had to run to the top of the island...(at 6:30am - and 4,600) Completely out of breath, we made it to the top and watched a spectacular ball of fire emerge over the vast whiteness. We ate our last yummy home-made brekky (laughably perfect pancakes) then headed off into the whiteness for some more frolicking on the plains - which truly are spectacular...pristine white as far as you can see in all directions, interrupted only by some mountains on the horizon in some places. Then before we knew it, it was time to leave the plains, but a special surprise was at our last stop - I was able to have playtime (and close-up phototime) with a fluffy baby llama (SOOO cute)!

And that my friends was my Salt plane adventure.

Cass & I are not quite sure what the next few weeks have in store...exploring Bolivia until Jo arrives in La Paz at the end of the month to make our way into Peru for the Inca Trail in early June.
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