Published: March 15th 2012March 15th 2012
We arrived a little later than expected at the Salta rafting base after being told to expect a four hour drive which meant we should have arrived around 10 or 11am. Yet after stopping for lunch we were told that the “road” which we were going to take was closed and we were now going through the city to head south toward the base. This was a bit of a puzzle for some of us as we never came to a road closed sign or a road for that matter. We figured we were a little lost but gave Fabi and Danny the benefit of the doubt. Driving through the city proved to be quite adventurous; we ended up in the “BAD” part of town and were expecting to get mugged at every corner. At one point we asked if they were on the right track and Fabi said yes but 2 seconds later we were reversing back as we had driven down a one way street, to Fabi’s credit everyone she asked for directions seemed to have their mouths full (probably with coco leaves) and pointed us in circles. Once we had been around the same round about 3 times with us all cheering to keep Danny and Fabi’s hopes up we were on the right track. The general agreement on the bus was that no one needed the city tour as we had probably seen more than most.
When we arrived at the base at 6pm and pulled the truck into the camping ground with everyone cheering, we were even happier to see the brand new showers and toilets as the previous night had been the worst of the whole trip. The camping area had been turned into a party by one of the Dragoman trucks as it was one of their passengers 60th
birthday and everyone was dressed up to celebrate. We quickly set our tents up and the cooking team began to make the feast of chicken skewers and fried rice; Jenny’s specialty. This all disappeared pretty quickly as did the punch Fabi had made for everyone at a price of only $2 each. Trav and Josh left to gate crash the party next door while we stayed behind and watched everyone try their hand at the Salsa and watch Danny’s impersonation of a monkey on the practice zip line course. Trav wondered back shortly afterwards looking worse for wear after doing a funnel and drinking the whole thing then spewing in the Dragoman rafts J Slowly everyone wondered off to bed for the big following day.
The following day we were all set for our zip-lining. We geared up and hopped on an old school bus (that looked like it was made in the 1950’s) and headed towards the start, smoking out the whole camp on our departure thanks to our trusty bus. We were happy to arrive at the starting point as it meant we could get off the bus with park bench like seats yet this was only short lived as we were told about the two kilometre drive, but not the 200-300m vertical hike up the cliff to the first line. The climb to the top was a true test of our fitness and proved a lot of people had maybe been endulging a little too much, yet it did give us the advantage of stopping and taking in the stunning views of the lake. Eventually we made it up the top out of breath and happy to be zip-lining down instead of walking. At the first line we were stopped and briefed the sent down the shortest of the 9 lines. After the first line we flew through the remaining 9 this was great fun across the river/lake with the highest 120m and length of 500m.
After the zip-lining some people made their way to the white water rafting with the trusty guide a golden retriever with his very own life jacket while the rest of us remained at the camp to help with the packing up and a small sleep. When the rafters returned we were treated to a big Argentinian BBQ then headed off for Salta city, apparently the city with the most hotels in the world. 3 hours later and we got to our hostel, with everyone pleased that our camping days were over and it was beds all the way to La Paz.
We got up early the next morning and after a breakfast of caramel on bread we headed out to see the city, first the pink cathedral with an altar made of gold. We then planned to head to the M.A.A.M; a museum with 3 ice mummies on show from the incas this was going to be the highlight for salta but when we arrived and sat out the front for 45 minutes waiting for it to open we realised the museum doesn’t open Mondays! By this time everything was shut because of siesta (12:30pm till 3:30pm) so we headed back to the hotel for a break. In the afternoon we went over to the local markets where Carly bought a traditional matte tea mug and straw.
That night we headed out to the Veijo Jacks restaurant where the “worlds biggest steak” is sold, a 1kg rump cooked over hot coals, yum! We shared a smaller 600gm rump which was cooked perfectly. Here we were told about our 6am leave time (which surprisingly we left at 6.05) to get on the road for Tupiza, our next stop and the town which witnessed the shoot out and death of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid back in 1908…
After arriving in Tupiza a small and very traditional Bolivian town we all headed to dinner together at a Mexican place called Alamo an Icon of the small town with visits from various celebrities including Will Smith. The next morning we had a 9am start which everyone was really happy about as it was our first sleep in for 5 days. Today we were completing a triathlon; jeep ride, downhill mountain bike ride and horse riding. Our jeep ride took us into the mountains around Tupiza which are large rocks that are various colours, including a rock shaped like a penis which we all took some interesting photographs with. Next we headed to the mountain bikes, we were told it would be an 8km easy downhill ride yet as we kept driving and gained an additional 800m in height we knew it was going to be a hard ride. Although the views were breathtaking it was hard to appreciate them with the air ice cold. It was on the mountain bikes that we lost our first casualty for the day, Jenny came of the bike and required 20 stiches in her chin with two people already in hospital with altitude sickness our group was thinning fast. Finally we were onto our last activity for the day a relaxing horse ride into the canyons, after being asked who was experienced I volunteered and ended up with a horse that even my guide described as crazy. We all rode into the canyon with our iconic foal following us till we reached a waterfall and hopped off to have a look around. At about 6pm we all hopped back on to head home only to have Trav fall off and graze his knees on the sharp rocks.
With everyone happy to see Tupiza disappearing in the background especially our guide Fabi we headed to Potosi. Potosi is the highest city in the world and is famous for being the economic hub of the world in colonial times after the discovery of Silver and a variety of other metals which were mined by the Spanish. When we arrived we had some trouble getting to our hotel as the streets are very small and are often congested with unmoving traffic for hours yet we finally reach our hotel and were happy to find we had heating in our rooms.
The next day we went on a silver mine tour which meant buying dynamite, 96% alcohol and coco leaves for the miners as presents (normal daily consumables in the mine) then we headed up the mountain to the underground mine. After suiting up in our sexy outfits we headed down the carriage way which the 1 tonne carts are manually pushed in/out of the mine collecting silver. After getting 100m into the mine ducking pipes and carts our guide pointed out a wooden frame that was holding up the last mine collapse (defiantly no health and safety) here we turned right and headed 21 m deep into the mine. After practically abseiling to get to the lowest point where the air was clearly contaminated with god only knows what Trav pointed out what looked like asbestos on the wall, yet our guide adamantly denied this only to tell us that it was another mineral that was just as deadly. After asking the guide how many deaths occurred in the mine we were surprised that it was about 15 people a year with 1000x this dying of mine related diseases (including asbestosis and silicosis) It was a real experience seeing mining carried out solely by hand with hammer, chisel and wheel barrows. After this mine tour we headed to the largest thermal spring in South America for a swim, this included re-enactments of the “FUSH” and self-mud baths.
The next day we headed to Sucre for the day on a luxury seat reclining bus. Sucre is a small colonial town with cobblestoned roads that a lot of the Potosi mining families live in, after a three hour bus ride we all split up to do our own things. Most people headed to the dinosaur footprints regretting it slightly later as it was an additional 40 min trip and was not that exciting. The rest of us wondered around town buying Llama socks and eating various kinds of chocolate, unfortunately most of the museums and churches were closed. Departing at 4pm we had another 3 hour trip home and then packed to get ready to head to Uyuni and the Salt Flats.
After getting up early for a 7am departure we headed down stairs only to find out that Danny our driver was stuck in traffic, yet he finally made it at 8am and we were on our way. The road to Uyuni was typical Bolivian, with everyone expecting to fall of the side at any time. Approximately half way we stopped at a large flat clearing which was home to thousands of wild animals including donkeys, llamas, sheep and cows; we all jumped out to take photos of the baby donkey and llamas. After arriving in what appeared to be a ghost town with no one on the street and the army right next to our hotel we went for a walk only to find an abundance of markets and stalls. We had tea of pasta and pizza then we headed out as a group to the “world’s most extreme bar” where you could buy penis, boob, llama sperm and Vagina drinks or take part in the 10 shot challenge which no one risked after watching the video of previous contestants.
The next day we went to the Salt Flats (the biggest in the world covering 10000 square kilometres) to take some interesting photos, see flamingos and the train grave yard. After everyone was well and truly photo’d out we headed back to the hotel for an early night. Most of us woke up for the 6am start yet Kaye, Rob and Brad managed to sleep in so we left at approx. 6.30am yet all was forgiven when Brad made a forgiveness speech and Kaye was sick. We made it back to Potosi just after 12pm so that we could go to the Mint Museum and relax this included going out for tea and enjoying some llama steak.
Our 4 week anniversary saw the beginning of our 500km drive to La Paz with everyone up early, we are now perhaps a third of the way and have just passed through snow-capped mountains so the heater is working in overdrive on the bus with us all rugged up.