Crossing to Bolivia

Trip Start Oct 05, 2007
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Trip End Oct 04, 2008


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Monday, June 2, 2008

We wait around in the bus station for ages before it turns up about an hour late, we're suprised to see the English guy and French girl from our hostel in La Serena get off the bus to get some coffee before getting back on to ride all the way to San Pedro de Atacama with us.

We arrive in the afternoon to a small town in the middle of the desert which looks alot different to the other places in Chile we have been to. We walk down the dusty streets and eventually find the hostel we've been recommended where we are given an extensive tour around the place. We go to the little bakery/cafe that's attached to the hostel where we get really tasty empanadas for lunch. We then walk through the town to the main square which is really pretty with the red hills behind it and bump into the Welsh guy who we shared a hostel with in Santiago. We then walk down one of the main streets which has lots of tour agengies along it and book a trip stargazing that night and then book a tour to Bolivia for the following morning. We sort out a few other things and then go and wrap up warm ready for stargazing but when we get there it has been cancelled due to their being too much cloud which is really dissapointing and means we won't get to star gaze in Chilie which I had really been looking forward to! We walk through the shops in the town and manage to get Liv an Alpacca jumper and I get some Chilean jewellery before finding somewhere to eat sat by a lovely warm fire. We walk back through the quiet streets to our hostel stopping to look at the stars along the way which are really amazing despite the cloud and you can see the milky way really clearly.

The next morning we leave early and join our tour to Bolivia. We get on a bus which takes us accross the border and up 4000m into the mountains and into the National park where we swap into 4x4s and then are driven further into the desert.  We're in a 4x4 with Kirsty and Phill, two Scottish girls, and a Croation guy and our Bolivian driver.  Our first stop is at the Laguna Blanco where we have breakfast of bread and cheese before venturing out into the cold and wind to take pictures of the lake. We climb back into the 4x4 and drive down into the valley where we can see the Laguna Verde and as we drive between the two lakes you can see the ice on the top as it's soo cold! After driving up the hill to a view point and stopping to take more pictures we continue driving across the desert

We drive past some rock formations which are meant to be similar to those in Salvador Dali's painting and after driving through dust for a while longer we stop at some hotsprings. A couple of people in our group are brave enough to strip off in the freezing cold and get into the hotsprings. I'm quite happy to stand and watch as I don't fancy trying to get warm again when I get out! When everyone is out of the pools we go to some thermal mud pools and geysers before continuing to a small village next to Laguna Rojo where we stop for lunch. We're going to be spending the night here so we unload the 4x4 and put our bags in our room which is rather small to fit 6 people in but as it's soo cold at least we should have body heat to keep us warm at night as it goes down to -15C! We eat a simple lunch and then after putting on more clothes we go for a walk around the lake. First we walk right down to the lake where we step on the ice at the edges which is still solid and then continue our walk around it. As we get further around we can see Flamingos feeding in the lake. One of the Croatian guys has managed to get a load of Coca leaves which is meant to help with altitude sickness and we try chewing it for a while but it tastes disgusting and I'd rather just put up with altitude sickness!  We climb up the big hill that's beside the lake which gives and amazing view over the surrounding area and after messing around taking photos we head back to the village. 

The sun has now gone down behind the hills and the rooms in the building we're staying in are already freezing. We all sit in the room we ate lunch in and look at some of the Croatian's pictures on their laptop whilst listening to Spanish music before their battery dies so we sit and chat until dinner is ready. After dinner we sit around with warm drinks chatting and then go and look at the stars which are fantastic before heading to bed where we go to sleep with as many clothes on as possible, a sleeping bag and 5 blankets and it still takes forever to warm up. Liv's rather sick in the night because of the altitude and we realise it probably wasn't the best idea to go straight from sea level to just under 5000m in just over a day!

In the morning we pack up our stuff and have a horrible breakfast of stale bread but at least there is hot water for drinks and then after loading the 4x4s we're off on our second day. The first place we stop at is to see some random rock formations in the middle of the desert before we carry on to Laguna la luna and another lake before we get to Laguna Hedionda where there a hundreds of Flamingos on the lake which we can get much closer too than the ones the day before. The Croatian guy in our group trys jumping on the ice at the edge of the lake and ends up going through it and up to his knees in mud which we find muchly amusing! We drive for ages through the dust and stop by another lake for lunch where we see desert foxes.

When we've eaten we continue driving and our driver takes us off the main track onto scrub land and then drives down a really steep drop whilst we're being thrown about all over the place. When we get to the bottom our driver starts screaming and we work out that it's the first time he's attempted that. We get out to watch the other car coming down behind us before we continue over the bumpy ground. We eventually reach a proper road (the actual road conecting Bolivia and Chile) and after going along that for a while we stop to take pictures of a volcanoe. We continue driving and reach a small salt flat where we get out of the car whilst it goes over the train tracks. We stay there for a while and watch a train go slowly past before getting back in and then driving to a small village where we wait for the other car. One of the women in the other car is rather ill from the altitude so they stop for half an hour or so in the village whilst she sees a doctor. We continue going but then have to stop as we get a flat tire, so sit and enjoy the sun whilst our driver changes it and then continue to the edge of the Salar de Uyuni where we stop for the night. This place is much nicer than the one the night before and slightly warmer too which is fantastic. We sit around chatting for a while and I have a very very cold shower as I can't be bothered to wait for 2 hours until there's hot water. We then all have dinner together which is also a bit nicer than the night befores. We then team up into countries and have a mini pingpong tournament with Chile and Croatia proving to be the best. We then call it an early night and crawl into bed - this time with only a sleeping bag and 3 blankets!

In the morning we get a really good view over the Salar de Uyuni whilst we have breakfast and pack up. We drive accross the salt flats for miles which is really blinding. We stop at one of the islands in the middle of the salt flats and climb up to the top which gives us an amazing view over the slat for miles in all directions. We drive further across the salt to the Salt hotel where we mess around trying to take pictures of people standing on others hands as the whiteness of the salt apparantly tricks your eye. We finish driving across the salt flats and are soon in Uyuni where we get taken back out of twon to the train graveyard - where all the old trains in Bolivia are dumped and is quite cool to see before going back into town where we are dropped off outside the tour operators office.
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