The day the air went thin
Trip Start Jan 18, 2012
45Trip End Jun 29, 2012
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Booked our 4 day Bolivian tour to the salan de uyuni on arrival, met Bridget from Austria, and had an early night.
Mooched around this oasis town. Straight out of the good, the bad & the ugly.One storey adobe buildings seperated by dust filled streets, blown in from the desert. Home of the second oldest church in Chile. Its mostly a pricey stopover for organising trips around the area. Bought some alpaca clobber for the cold nights ahead, and tried washing dirty clothes but ended up damp and or dusty.Bumped into Joros from our Santiago stop and Andres and Sam from La Serena
Picked up at 7.30 by minibus for the Chile border (5mins round the corner!). Long queue of people escaping at that time of the morning, but gave us time to aqaint with our group of six. Apart from myself,Dee and Bridget, we had Quentin and Benedict from Brussels and Dominic from Oxford (who'd lived in Leamington for a year !) Great group, things are looking up. Oh and 3 of the group speak spanish so we have translation. Whoohoo.
An hour and a bit up the road from customs we get to the Bolivian border, a shack of a building at 4500 metres with a burnt out bus for a Bano (toilet). We meet up with Neilfer (or Neil as we called him) our 4x4 driver/guide/cook/hostel provider for the next few days. Real nice guy, even though i mostly nod and say 'Si'. Breakfast and then offroading to Laguna blanco, Laguna Verde, salvador Dali rocks, Aguas Calintes for a dip in the hot springs, Steam geysers and a Borax factory. By this time we are around 4900 metres and arriving at the coldest hostel ive ever been to
Up at 6.45 , couldnt wait to get out of the freezing headache hostal. Couldnt face brekkie, off to Red lake, Deep lake and a load of Flamingos. Lunch was excellent so must be feeling better. Next a smoking volcano and loads a lamas on the loose. Travelled through the salt flats which just go on further than the eye can see. The salan de ayuni is after all the largest salt flat in the world. Stopped for refuelling at a one lama town, just dust and mud and a coca cola sign. Back on the salt flats for miles and miles more, got to the hostal around 4.30pm. Guess what, the hostal is made of salt. Walls, floor, tables chairs and beds. All salt. We know because we licked it. Great evening with the crew, nice food, good laugh, with wine and chocolate
Up at 5.15 for the sunrise while standing in what felt to be the middle of the salt flats. wow. Longest shadows ever. Drove on to a small island of 6000 cactii, some of which were over a thousand years old. While finally having a coffee and brekkie, a couple of Lamas strolled over for a photo shoot. As you do. Some crazy perspective photos followed, and on to the salt museum for lunch. amazingly, there are only 3 exits of the salt flats from where we were. Neil picked one of them and drove through a surface salt mine, where guys are scraping the surface into piles and loading into trucks. Then on , past the the 2nd largest airport in Bolivia (nearly missed it) to the train cemetery. Late 19th century French,German and English engines sitting alongside the track thats used twice a day to take sakt and borax to antofagasta. End of tour, we get dropped off in Uyuni town during siesta, but managed to find a bar for a farewell cerveza while listening to Led Zep. Me Dee and Bridget get another 4x4 back towards the Chilaen border, the other guys on a bus to La Paz. Great day. Sleep most of the journey, but woke up in the pitch black, driving up mountain tracks and crossing streams to our overnight stop. Thought he was driving a bit fast , then found out he got there in time for the Argentina v Uraguay footie on the telly.
Up at 5 again. continued to the border via Agua Calientes to drop of the random Bolivian and cute kid who were sitting in the back. Border crossing was easy once we'd paid the 15 boliviana to get out the country. Minibus back down to San pedro, enter Chile again, and hotfoot to the nearest hostel for a rest. Phew