Salt and Vinegar

Trip Start Sep 23, 2009
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Trip End Apr 23, 2010


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Where I stayed
Refuge

Flag of Bolivia  , Potosí,
Sunday, March 7, 2010

We left San Pedro armed with our recommended five litres of water and some excitement at seeing totally new sights. The journey to do our Chilean paperwork was short and soon we were on our way again. After about an hour we arrived at a small building that seemed to be the Bolivian border, it turned out the hut like building was and there we split up into 6 man jeeps. We were lucky in ours as we had a lively French couple Alexis & Emanuelle, Jerome and a Brit called Tony who was into poker and during the trip got renamed as Big Banana! In fact Allie said Banana and I were poker bores but I don't mind, its good to talk. We met the driver who immediately yawned and told us he had been up all night driving to get to us! Feeling not at all reassured we boarded the jeep with a cracked windscreen and headed off.

Several beautiful lakes were on the itineray for the day – starting with the White and Green with their picture perfect reflections. The road was bumpy and hot but we didn’t mind as the driver put on some catchy Bolivian tunes and there was plenty of banter going about the jeep. We then headed to a hot pool and then to see some active Geysers at a height of about 5000m. During the first few hours of our trip we had seen several broken down vehicles on the way and now it was our turn in the form of a flat tyre. Our driver had a strange looking suit to put on when doing anything to do with the jeep and once again the chemical spillage style atire was donned and he soon fixed the tyre and we were soon on our way.

We rolled into our 'refuge’ the one we had been fore warned was going to be basic, early that afternoon and upon announcing that we would have a long day tomorrow, the driver scarpered! Lunch was some of the finest hotdogs I have ever eaten, well not quite as they made me feel sick later on. All the poker talk paid off as an afternoon game ensued, with myself doing pretty poorly and members of the other groups then joined us for some afternoon tea. The room was soon cleared though by Alexis heading outside to help a girl being harassed by a dog. A swift kick was administered, but this did not go down well with the populace and we were outcasts.

I went to bed before dinner as lunch was wreaking havoc, but I was assured it was average. The night proved very stuffy due to the altitude and it was hard to sleep as a number of snorers were among our group and Allie even joined in with a little sleep singing!!

We awoke to an alarm set a little before breakfast time. We arose to find no one else about in the refuge. Had we been abandoned? Nope, we had in fact forgotten about the hours time difference in Bolivia and it was in fact 5.15 am!! Bemused we all retreated to our beds to relax. I didn’t eat breakfast and Its probably best not to mention the toilets!

The day commenced with a great lake called the Red Lake which was full of pink flamingos, something we obviously had never seen before. We then proceeded to the less impressive tree rock in a beuatiful valley and headed for lunch next to another flamingo clad lake.  From there we headed along the Valley of Rocks to what we were promised was our luxury accommodation for the night. However, this proved to be another huge travel agency exaggeration as the place was a complete dive with only one toilet for 25 people and a sheet for a roof! Still dinner was an ok mix of soup and Llama steak and another game of poker ensued.

The following morning we headed to the main attraction: the Salt Flats, but not before visiting the train graveyard, several well rusted abandoned trains and carriages on unused lines which we climbed all over before we got to the main draw, the salt flats.  Although they were a little wet due to the season but they were still spectacular they looked like tropical island sand apparently nine metres deep! We fooled around there for a while taking silly photos and then went to the Salt Hotel for lunch, which I thought ironically lacked a little seasoning! This ended our little tour and we headed to Uyuni very satisfied having seen perhaps the most spectacular scenery of our entire trip.

In Uyuni we found a place to stay at an amazing price of 3 per person per night, and it wasn't even a hostel!  We had a look around the town, which was a weird mix of gringos and old Bolivian ladies with long black plaits, funnily enough there didn't seem to be many old men around. After settling in we met up with a gang of people who had been on the salt flats trip for drinks and pizza, which was a great ending to a fun few days.
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