2900 Meters baby!

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, July 22, 2010

We sadly left Argentina to head over the boarder to Bolivia and set off on an early bus we arrived at La Quiaca about 2pm, we queued about an hour and when we got to the front of the queue the lady said I needed to pay 300 pesos because my emergency passport needed an Argentina stamp as its new, so we left the Queue and headed off to the only cash point in the town hoping it had money in (not all of them do) Yes it did so we got the money  and rushed back  to be faced with a queue twice as long, so what did we do? that's right we pushed in to the front where I was faced with a man this time, I smiled at him and he stamped my passport and let us through with no payment......welcome to Bolivia! Now the Bolivian side was even better! Passport control was a small hut, I put my foot throughout the floorboard on arrival and Justin took out a chunk of the plaster wall with his rucksack on departure.The officer sat behind the pasting table just stamped the passports without a second glance, what a hoot!

We expected it to be very different to Argentina but it hit us from the minute we arrived, the check point is packed with people and Bolivian women trying to sell us everything they have, children begging for food or money. They still speak Spanish which makes things easier for us to get by day to day.  We booked our bus and went to pass an hour in an Internet cafe as we waited,  the whole time (1 hour) we were in the cafe the screen was just loading and we never did get on the Internet, however we did get to sit down for a we while.  We caught the bus to Tupiza 3 hours for 2 pounds, a really old bus in the dark on a dirt track...which was nice! When we got on the bus it was mayhem, everyone had the wrong tickets, some were on the wrong bus and them amongst all this there was people on the bus trying to sell crisps, water, jelly... It was crazy, we just sat smug in our seats laughing.

The hotel we reserved was great it was 4 pound a night for a private room and a great breakfast included, loads cheaper the Argentina.  we headed out to post some things home that we had bought and went to the towns post office which was like something out of Beamish, we had everything packaged up and the lady insisted on opening it all up to see what was in them, I thought she was checking for drugs, but after she tried on my shawl and played with Justin's lamp I fear the package will not make it home!  We sat in the Plaza with an ice cream just watching the world go by and an old lady sat beside us said hello and we started chatting about how great Tupiza is.  It is so great just to chat to local people they are so friendly and more than happy to chat about where they live etc.

Today is horseback riding day, I have managed to not get on a horse for 35 years but now is the time to try it out and no better scenery than Butch Cassady land, we headed out trotting over a dried up river bed in a valley of red mountains and dust tracks, through the most wonderful setting, when we arrived at the starting point the gaucho just said get on and pull the reins to stop....eh! I was expecting a full presentation on how to ride and a health and safety check, but oh no this is Bolivia....just get on and ride!  In saying that it was a great afternoon and I really did feel like a cowgirl with my cowgirl hat on.  We stopped half way round to climb the rocks and see a waterfall (not there as dry season) we thought we saw running water but it was horse wee.We were both on a high after that and headed back to book our 4 day tour north to the salt flats.

Day 1 Road trip day today and there was 4 of us in a 4x4 plus a driver and a cook. This was mostly driving as we climbed up through the mountains round twisty roads, I was a little scared the jeep was going off the edge...but it didn´t.It was a very long day and we climbed to 4300 meters, for the last couple of hours in the jeep my head went and i felt bad the altitude got me,so Daniel the driver game me some coca leaves to chew on, it really does ease the symptoms, either that or it made me just not give crap one or the other it worked! It did keep me awake to see an amazing sun set.We arrived at our hostel for the night which was in a tiny village with no running water, electricity off a generator and no heating. I went straight to bed with some tablets, it was freezing.  The others had a great meal and a game of cards and then they shortly followed.

Day 2 We set off at 7.30 the following day and headed past  Laguna Blanca which was a great white lagoon with Flamingos on it, we then passed Laguna Verde (Green Laguna) because it was partially frozen the color was not as bright as we hoped, and all the while we are driving over dust tracks through fantastic valleys. The second night stop was Huaylla Jara, again very small village where a few other jeeps had stopped so we got to catch up with other friends we made. There was a shop so we bough some beers to have with tea, our cook Sylvia was fantastic her main priority was to see that we ate and enjoyed her food, so we invited Sylvia and Daniel (driver) to join us for a beer, Sylvia took hers to her room but Daniel came and joined us for about an hour.  I was teaching him English and he he was teaching me Spanish, and Justin was talking French, we had so much fun.

Day3 was an early start 5.30am it had been a really cold night and some said it was -30...not sure of that, however the jeep was completely frozen so we had to sit and wait for it to warm up for about 40 mins.  Now this was the fun day we headed North via some hot springs where we took a dip at 30 degrees its incredible to be sat outside where it is cold and there is ice on rocks and you´re in your bathing suite in a warm pool.  We drove past  Laguna Colorada ( Red Laguna) and stopped at some geysers which were great apart from the smell...I thought it was Justin at first!  We then headed on to  a lake which was home to hundreds of flamingos, it was so funny they were slipping allover on the ice.  As a perfect end to our day we passed an active volcano called Ollague, you could see the smoke piping out of the top of it. we then spent our third and last night night in a great hostel on the edge of the salt flats, it was made out of salt and all the floors were a bed of crumbled up salt and best of all it was shower day! We met up with friends and all played cards and drank till the sun went down over the flats.

Day 4 - in the big brother house and we headed over to the salt flats to see the sun come up, it was truly an amazing sight and possibly the best part of the trip.  There is an island in the middle called Isle La pescado (fish Island) and it has the largest cactus I have seen so far on the trip so we all climbed up it to get some shots of sunrise.  Then off to the centerer of Solar De Eying to take our silly pictures which we had great fun doing. The jeep then dropped us off at the town of Uyuni which is so small, we checked in a hostel and booked our bus out the following morning at 10am to Potosi.  Some friends we met had told us of a pizzeria called The One Minute Man and the owner is from Boston and the pizzas are the best in South America, needless to say it was music to my ears, we booked a table and headed down for our tea  with Bliss a girl we met from Massachusetts.  What can I say it was better than any pizza I have ever had in the UK to the point I am still talking about it.
Morning came and we all headed to the station to catch our bus, but it had been canceled due to a blockade around potosi the miners had gone on strike and would do so for 48hours, not wanting to stay in Uyuni any longer as there is very little to do we booked on a night bus to La Paz....every cloud has a silver lining so off we marched back to the Pizzeria for another great pizza...ahhhhhhh!
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