Flamingo lakes

Trip Start Dec 17, 2007
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27
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Trip End Nov 30, 2008


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Friday, April 11, 2008

Before setting off on our trip, ground rules were established.
We turned up just as our driver, Javier, was being threatened by Lizbethīs mother (Lizbeth was the cook).  By the drawing of the finger over her neck and the very energetic pace of her spanish, it sounded as though she would have his guts for garters if he tried any funny business with her daughter!
Next - the gringos (D, K, Andy and Dave) were introduced to Javierīs cd collection.  Holy moley!  The best turned out to be Toto, and the worst that Bolivian gypsy music that seemed to haunt us at every turn!!!  Pan pipes were thrown in there for good measure too.  We had been told that they would have ipod connectors, but Javier said he didnīt have one.  Never fear, we replied, as K brought out the wee radio tuner gadget which let us listen to our music!!  We tried to be fair though, putting on music we thought they would like.  We soon found out whether that was the case - whenever Javier wanted to tell us something (and he only spoke spanish, so that was interesting for us!), he would turn down the music and talk.  If he liked what we were playing, heīd turn it back up.  If not, it remained a wee squeak coming from the radio!  All too often we gave up and the music reverted to his choice!

Off we set.  On day one we saw the strange shapes that had been eroded into the hills, the multicoloured mountains, the gold and silver mines, and multitudes of lamas.  (Hereīs a wee story for you that we were told in La Paz, the truth of which is extremely unlikely!  Do you know how the lama got its name??  Well, in the days of the Spanish conquestadors, the local people didnīt understand spanish.  When the Spanards pointed at the creatures and asked the locals what they were called ('Senor, como se llama?ī  i.e. whatīs its name?), the locals didnīt have a scooby what the Spanards were saying, but because they were pointing at the animals and saying īllamaī, the animal then became known as llama!!!!)  We then arrived at the tiny village which would be our first night stop on the trip.  We were above 4,000m, the sky was clear, some people were suffering from altitude sickness, and the temperature soon fell off the Baltic radar.  There was only one shower in the outside toilets (between 16 of us), which didnīt cater for hot water.  However, we had been warned of this, and everyone in our jeep decided to go stinky for the next few days!  Our tour operator had another 2 jeeps following the same route, and we shared our cook with one of the other jeeps in which 4 Irish girls were travelling.  With 8 of us in one room at mealtimes, it meant that we were at least warm for part of the evening!  Yet again, the Christmas sleeping bags were absolute winners and D and I were snug as bugs at nightime.

Day two meant a 5.30am start as there was much ground to cover.  Lagunda verde (green lake), hot springs, Dali desert, and Lagunda Colorado (which is red in colour) were amongst the sights we saw.  This was also the first day on which D began his quest to snap the perfect flamingo piccie!!  Night two was spent above 4,500m.  It seems that the refugios were used by lots of different tour companies, and you couldnīt book as they would release the reservations if you didnīt arrive by 5pm.  So Lizbeth went in to see if she could negotiate some space for us.  They were a bit tight on space, so she asked D and I if we wouldnīt mind sharing a bed.  We were happy to accept a nice double bed and said it wouldnīt be a prob.  However, when we walked into the room, it all became clear what she meant - there were 7 SINGLE beds and 8 of us to sleep in the room!!  We came up with a second option for sleeping arrangements which let the Irish girls sleep across the way over 2 beds.  Again, it kept them warm!  After an evening of cards, we all headed to bed to have the most bizarre sleep ever.  Waking up in the middle of the night feeling as though your nose was so cold that it would fall off, tongues feeling as though they were splitting from the cold, and being freaked out due to shortness of breath were just a few of the discussion points the next day!

Day three started with a walk near Laguna Colorado for more flamingo piccies.  It was beautiful and helped us quickly forget the chilliness of the night before!  We headed through the desert to see the ītreeī  that inspired the Dali painting - the one with the sagging clock drapped over a tree.  (Sorry -Iīm not an art buff!) After lots of climbing on rocks (it was great to get out of the jeep), we headed to a whole series of lakes....i.e. some more flamingo piccie opportunities!  Night 3 was spent at the Salt Hotel, where, youīve guessed it, everything was made of salt!  But here we had showers and there was HOT water!  Woo hoo!  Smelling sweet as daisies, we all tucked into a meal of quinuo soup and lama.

Day four, another 5.30am start to go and see sunrise on the Salt Lake (the worlds largest and highest at 4000m), then on to Fish Island, which is made of coral and shells, and is home to a very large number of cacti.  See piccies.  We had breakfast here (hot coffee necessary to warm up), then it was on with the show and the start of the crazing piccies.  Javier was great at coming up with ideas for us which probably isnīt surprising given he does this tour about 70 times a year!  By 1pm, we were dropped off in Uyuni, and off we headed to get our overnight bus tickets for the journey to La Paz.
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