Walking on air
Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
53Trip End Oct 01, 2013
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Tai was given the front seat and the rest of us squeezed into the back and then we were off
Finally we were on our way and heading towards the white mirage in the distance. We arrived around 30 minutes after and could not believe our eyes. The grey clouds had dispersed and a blue sky with fluffy white clouds welcomed us. We looked out across the salar de uyuni in awe - an expanse of salt flats which is the same size as holland - as its rainy season at the moment the salt flats are flooded and are therefore covered with a layer of water which reflects the sky so you couldn't tell where land finished and sky began. We stopped on the edge and ate lunch looking out of the glistening water. Next up was for our jeep to actually drive out onto the flats. When we arrived we then had 1.5 hours to do as we pleased, tai and I immediately walked out to an area free of people
By the time we got back in the jeep everyone was buzzing. A Bolivian guy in our group said he'd been before in the dry season but it was nothing compared to today! Next stop was a train graveyard. Apparently southern Bolivia used to be home to huge mining communities where they mined tin but when the value of tin dropped in the 1980's the towns ground to a halt and Bolivias economy fell apart, one result of this was all the trains and equipment they used to transport the materials were abandoned and left to rust and so now there is a train graveyard. It was quite eerie, but fun as you could climb up on top of the trains and run (unsteadily walk) along the roofs, climb into the carriages or engine rooms and generally be a kid for an hour or so and that's exactly what we did. Once we left here it was just a straight drive for a couple of hours to our hostel for the night. As we drove we saw huge forks of lightening in the distance which reached all the way down to land and we seemed to be driving directly for it. As we got closer the rain began and by the time we arrived at the village where we were staying the night it was pouring. The village was tiny and in the middle of nowhere with a spattering of one story buildings including our hostel. We ate dinner, drank tea and discussed the day then all headed to be bed excited of the unknown of tomorrow.
Me and tai tend not to do a great deal of research when we set out on these tours and were shocked to discover we were not just spending 3 whole days on the salt flats
us, condors soared through the air above us and we stopped every half an hour or so at the most incredible lagunas, each one home to flamingoes, each one surrounded by mountains and each one a different colour! One was bright blue, one white and one a milky turquoise colour- this is where we sat and had lunch that day - crouched down using boulders as shelter from the wind and eating mountains of pasta- it was heaven!
After lunch that day our next stop was the rock tree. We arrived and was met not only by this cool shaped rock but also numerous other huge rocks which we got to climb again , as we stood on top of some of the tallest ones and took in our surrounding we couldnt believe how lucky we were to be experiencing this awesome scenery! The final stop of the day and where we would spend the night was laguna colorada, a huge lake who's water was a vibrant red colour, apparently the colour is all to do with the wind direction and sun and just before the sun set it turned to white. The laguna was home to hundreds of flamingoes. We sat in our hostel for a little bit chatting as a group whilst the Bolivian guy told us hilarious stories of Bolivia - an example is that recently Bolivia sent in 3 soldiers to chile without permission to film a video which would be put on the defence website- it showed them crossing the border, firing there guns and otherwise just generally messing around, the video was then finished with the words "chile watch out!" across the screen
Apparently Bolivia is so weak that chile could invade and take control within 19 minutes!
After our little chat we headed out to explore the lake, retreating to the warmth of the hostel shortly after as it was getting freezing.
There was a little shop next to our hostel with just so happened to sell beer and wine. We decided to all buy some as it was our last night and I took this as my opportunity to talk to the jeep driver about Tai's birthday the following. Lucky for me carnaval is being celebrated across south America at the moment and in the la paz there were lots of stalls which sold balloons and streamers and I'd bought some. So armed with 2 Spanish speakers - the Bolivian and 1 of the Spanish couple we tracked down the driver who I think was having a few drinks himself and gave him the decorations and asked if he'd decorate the jeep for the following morning, then to disguise the fact we'd left the group we bought some wine for us all to share! Our driver gave us another bottle that night and we ate pasta and drank wine. Before we all went to bed we decided to head out to look at the stars. We were deep in the southern parts of south Bolivia, there were no towns nearby which meant no light pollution. It was absolutely stunning, there were so many stars it seemed as though they were curving down and touching the floor beside us, you could even see the milky way! It was awesome and we were really excited to get to chile which has star gazing tours you can do.
The following morning we had to get up at 4am!
Our first stop was some geysers about half an hour away, apparently the temperature between the cold night and the hot geysers make the gases more prominent which is why it's better to go at this time in the morning. As we arrived, there was a really bad smell and I thought someone had rudely let off a little pop in the jeep but then we rounded the corner and saw these huge geysers, some had steam coming out with an incredible force and I realised the smell was from them- that was Tai's excuse anyway! We jumped out the jeep taking streamers and balloons with us and headed over to inspect the geysers- being careful of where we stood as there were also lots of mini ones dotted around too. As we were watching the steam go up and into the night sky the wind changed and all of a sudden you couldn't see anything but cloud! We blindly made our way back to the jeep and headed off to our next stop- breakfast at the edge of some natural pools at sunrise. It was beautiful- the sun came up over the horizons and the rays on the steam rising from the pools made it look as though it was on fire! We had breakfast , pancakes and cake - which tai obviously got to cut and was able to make a wish. Then we had an hour to so to relax in the thermal pools. The run from the changing area to the pool was freezing but once you were in it was lovely- it was so hot it made your toes tingle like it does when you get into a hot shower on a cold day. There was so much steam rising from the pools it was hard to see even the person next to you
When we booked our trip we were told there would be many buses which would take us to the closest town in chile - San pedro de atacama, our driver also told us the same before unloading our bags and leaving us there. There wasn't lots of buses and the ones that did come were fully booked by people who had pre paid! The Spanish couple (brother and sister- not boyfriend and girlfriend) tried there hardest to get us onto their bus only to be outdone by another driver who hadn't left his group! We were starting to get worried, 2 more buses came and filled up with people from other tours as the bus drivers just shouted no, full! at us! Then another bus turned up, I ran over and said "bolleto para San pedro?" "no tengo bolleto?" was the response "no tengo" I said with my best pleading face - "ok- vamos rapido!" the driver shouted - I waved tai over, we chucked our bags on and the driver left before the van was even full! And with that we were heading down the road into chile, passing some Chilean policeman posing with tourists on route!