We said goodbye to Chile after catching the bus from San Pedro to the Bolivian border where we were to meet our driver/guide/cook/mechanic/general all round good egg Pailo.
After being promised that there would only be 5 in the 4wd that we had hired we soon found out that there was actually 7 of us as well as drives. Considering we had hundreds of miles ahead of us driving through some truly shocking terrain this wasnt the best of news but we carried on regardless like any true Brit would without complaining!
After going seemlessly through immigration, which consisted of a tiny brick hut next to Volcan Llicancahur sitting at a head numbing 4300m or so we moved off to our first stop just up the road which was Laguna Verde, or The White Lagoon. We stopped at a few Lagoons on the way all with different colours due to the minerals found in the surrounding mountains. Our first night we stayed in a shocking little settlement at over 4000m where the temp plummeted to around minus 10. Due to our group arriving first i went round all the other bedrooms nicking all the extra blankets because i
still dont have a sleeping bag with me. After drinking the 2 litres of cheap red wine we brought with us i soon found sleep in this frigid bizarre place.
The next day we drove through areas of desert which are renowned for looking like the landscapes which Dali used to paint and we stopped off at a few places including the Stone Tree. This is a piece of rock stuck in the middle of the desert which has been eroded by the elements so it now looks just like a tree!! Or so they say.
That evening we reached the outskirts of Salar De Uyuni, one of the largest and definately the highest Salt Flat in the World. The hotel we stayed in this night was actually entirely made out of blocks of salt, including the chairs, tables and even the beds we slept in. Luckily it was no-where near as frigid as the previous night but still we wrapped up in as many blankets as possible including putting on the wine jacket again to keep out the chill.
We woke early doors and sped out into the middle of the salt flats to watch the sun
rise and after this we went over to a random island in the middle of this huge expanse of nothingness that was completely covered in thousands of Cacti with the biggest of them being dated to over 1200 years old. Apparently this island was used as a refuge for the Incas when they used to travel around these areas all those years ago. After chilling on the island for a while we headed off into absolute nothingness where we took all the standard funny pictures of everyone looking like they are in each others hands or water bottles or whatever. Me and Kev then decided to play a game of frisbee on the flats yet after a few throws we had to give up due to our hearts wanting to smash out of our chests because of the altitude.
Our next stop travelling through Bolivia was PotosÃ where we arranged to go on a tour to see the mines which this city has been built around. The mines themselves are hundreds of years old and all kinds of minerals have been extracted from here including silver and now mostly zinc. The mines themselves were once
On Laguna Colorado
the worlds most prolific which soon made PotosÃ the wealthiest city in Latin America drawing in people from all over, however, due to the altitude of 4200m working here is extremely hard and there are many deaths.
Miners here actually half their life expectancy breathing in the toxic dust which is everywhere and there are kids as young as 8 who if they continue working will die before they reach 30.
The tour itself was amazing and absolutely shocking at the same time. I felt like an extra in Indiana Jones with miners carts hurtling past us on the tracks being pulled by teams of 4 lads. The tour began though at the miners market on the way up to the mountain where we bought fizzy pop, coca leaves and best of all, loads of dynamite to give as gifts to the miners working all around us. A few of these sticks of dynamite where actually saved so we could make our own at the end of the tour and blow some shit up!!!! Something else we tried was 96 percent Proof, sugar cane drinking alcohol. Every Fri the miners will get around and share a 1 liter bottle
of this between 5 of them, drinking it totally straight and basically getting wasted to try and get away from the horrid lives they live in. I tried a bottle top sip of this and i nearly threw up instantly and had a burning gut for ages after. Horrid.
Inside it was quite horrific, small, dusty, cramped, roasting hot, any exertion ended in having to stop instantly due to the altitude where we would be rushed by locals heading to and from their workplace. We went past a small museum which was full of the history along with some small models of people and even the devil. Being a very religous country the Bolivians believe in heaven and hell. Down in the mines they actually worship the devil due to being underground and digging in his territory.
After a few hours underground and actually being put to work digging with the locals we re-emerged to fresh air and the chance to dust off in the open. As soon as everyone was together we then got into small groups and were shown the process of making a bomb!! Moulding the dynamite, adding the fuse, surrounding this in ammoniam nitrate then wrapping
it all together, i had myself a small bomb in my hand. The even funnier thing was then lighting the fuse, posing for the photo with it it my hand then watching as the guide ran away with it and placed it on the side of the mountain as it exploded.
After all the high altitude excitment it was good to move on to the warmth of Sucre. Here we found a great place to chill and relax with demonstrations happening daily by the locals to complain about their various plights. We also visited the local dinosaur park here which is actually situated on the premises of a huge cement factory who during excavations uncovered what is now the biggest amount of fossilised dinosaur footprints found in the World. The park itself has full scale replicas of the dinosaurs who caused the prints, one of which includes the enourmous Titanasaurous. The biggest animal to ever walk the earth.
The following day we went out on a guided mountain tour around the surrounding hills with Joy Ride CafÃ©. This consisted of being driven to the tops of 5 different downhill runs in a 4wd, then hurtling down to the
Holding the flag!!
bottom chasing our guide who ended up actually being Bolivias junior national downhill champion. No wonder no one could catch him! All good training though for our next adventure.
That is, tonight we leave for La Paz and in the next few days we will be riding down “the worlds most dangerous road” cant wait!!
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