Published: April 22nd 2012April 16th 2012
the Two Marias
the third one was on the left. clumsy tourists
Kid, the next time I say we go someplace like Bolivia,let's go someplace like Bolivia"
A classic line from one of my favourite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
It was with some trepidation that I decided to book a round trip tour to the salt flats of Bolivi in a 4x4 vehicle from San Pedro. When I obtained my emergency passport I did not mention this country at the time and so it is not recorded as I country I intend now to visit.
However I am assured by a very reputable tour company that I will be no problem crossing over and then back do I can then drop down to Iquique so continue north in chile.
There are three reasons for going. First santiago is going and speaks Spanish so any communication issues at the border can be resolved. Going too are Zano, Lisa and Teresa, a 20yr old student dentist from Germany who is a very close friend of Santiago and bears an uncanny resemblance to Julie Roberts in the film Mona Lisa Smile.
Second is the whole trip is 80,000 pesos all in. If I stay in San Pedro til friday, which I initially planned,
with accommodation, food and tours it would be the same amount. Next, two work colleagues highly recommended the sortee from San Pedro. "A truely amazing place" said Lucop one day when discussing my trip to South America over a coffee and cigarette by the wall in Braggs Lane. Also the country bears the name if the man whose home I saw in London by chance over two months ago.
Finally the words of Butch Cassidy to his amigo Sundance. Can't disagree with that.
So up early to see the sun appear from behind the rising victioria sponge cakes, sorry volcanoes, passport control and them an hour drive across no mans land rising to about 4500 meters above sea level, where I am penning this entry now to the Bolivian check point. The volcanos are covered in snow,ironically just like a Victoria sponge cake covered in icing, and it is very cold up here. Not ideal as I am wearing shorts and flip flops. Its funny that when the others got on the bus outside of my little party they were dressed for Artic conditions and I wondered why? Now i know. It may be sunny with blue skys but it
is #ing freezing up here. I have never been to this altitude before and hope I do not suffer from altitude sickness. Apparantly coco tea helps.
Time to sit back and listen to some tunes by that beat combo Electric Light Orchestra. 'Mr Blue Sky' seems an appropriate song to start off with but I think 'Cold day in the sun' by the Foo's might be more appropriate. Think I will play them both and hang the expense.
So into Bolivia with no issues thankfully and after breakfast we set off in our 4x4 Toyota land cruiser. Our driver is a jovial little chap (everyone around here is little) called Edgar.
Its difficult to describe what I am seeing and have witnessed having just emerged from a thermal pool some 5000 meters above sea level. Sat here drying off with a few minutes to kill.
Perhaps a poem:
A lonely cloud drifts across an empty sky.
So clear and pure I ask myself
"What created this desolate land full of unimaginable beauty?"
A landscape that inspired Dali to paint his masterpiece 'Time',
Each colour a memory each brush stroke sublime
No slipping clocks here though, dripping off
Just a powerful sun, a warm face cooled by a very slight breeze.
The landscape is melting as we wander on by
Snow covered mountains that defy the eye
How can there be snow when the sun is so high?
Lagunas blanco, verde ,azul and rojo, their waters reflecting the sight
a multitude of bright pink Flamingoes their movement disturbing the light.
A land of tricks,
a trompe d'eaux.
Los Andes Bolivia
Magnificent in every way.
Majestic snow covered volcanos reaching the sky from the spectral lakes.
Just like lightly dusted with icing sugar,
Victoria sponge cakes.
We arrive at some geysers. The smell of sulphur is very strong. Huge plumes of steam coming up from a sulphurous earth. To think ten minutes ago I was sat in paradise writing a poem. I have defended into the devils kitchen. He is busy boiling alive those who were refused entry to paradise. I wonder if my bag thief is down there?
"What are these geezers called" said Lisa.
"Diamond geezers" I said.
Recalling and quoting the ditty from the Steve Wright in the afternoon show.
'Diamond geezer thinks he's delirious .. Sitting on the top deck
with a vacant stare, tap him on the head, there's nothing there.'
So the geysers are now officially called 'The Diamond Geezers in honour of my South African friends. I am not sure what they are called at the moment but my new name seems more fun. I will contact the appropriate authorities later.
Anyways after a few photos we set of for our digs.
Basic in the extreme, on the shore of a red lake but still better than Antofagasto.
The night sky was just breathtaking. With no moon tonight I could see the closest Galaxy to us, the Magellan Galaxy, with the naked eye. A trillion trillion stars stretched all around me, from horizon to horizon. I have never seen so many stars in the night sky before, and that includes that magical night on Torres del Paine. Just stood in awe. No words can properly describe it so I will not try.
A terrible nights sleep, the thin air not helping. Four blankets and still cold.
Up before day break as it's an early start. Whilst everyone else in the hostel faffing about, I made a quick coffee from the makings of those
who left the hostel earlier and stepped outside for the sunrise. Lisa joined me.
The sun was just about to show himself above the Andes, it's yellow/orange glow like a haze above the crest of the mountains.
The red lake below them is full with a host of flamingos. Just seconds before the sun finally presented itself, as one they flapped their wings into full flight and flew a full circle around the lake before landing back in the water. It was as if they were saying good morning to the provider of their heat and life. An incredible sight and one I will probably never forget.
Santiago has decided to dress today in a red horizontal striped top. With his baseball cap on backwards, black hair, large horn rimmed glasses he is the striking image of Wally from the books 'Where's Wally'. Others have tod me zi look like him. Good guess.
After a few hours of pressing hard though the desert in the 4x4 we arrived for lunch on the film set of a spaghetti western movie. Whilst I appreciate there have been several film references in my blogs, this small one horse town could have been
where Sergio Leone found his inspiration when directing ' A fistful of dollars'.
A small town square with a church with two bell towers, the snow covered mountains priding the backdrop to this frontier desert town. The whole town single story building constructed from the sand of the desert. Made into rough bricks and then painted white. I expected Clint Eastwood himself to ride around the corner, pancho over shoulder and chiroot in mouth. Will just have to make do with Julia Roberts and Where's Wally
There are no shops, all supplies coming from San Cristobel over an hours dusty road drive away.The whole village was like a ghost town. Faded white buildings, the erosion exposing the sand beneath.
Life here must be very hard.
Lunch was llama steaks. Very tasty. Just like chicken.Disco out
There are more photos below