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Published: December 28th 2008
Day 621 (10.12.08)
With everything packed up for the trip, we went to the tour office with James to meet our fellow tour mates. Haydn and Tess were two Kiwis and we immediately knew it was going to ba a fun and eventful trip!
Packing into our Jeep we set off out of town on the bumpy dirt roads we would call home for the next four days. Climbing out of town it wasn't long untill we were treated to some spectacular natural views across breathtaking rocky valleys.
Continuing through the most incredible scenery with whole valleys looking like huge termite mounds we continued to climb from Tupiza into the mountains. Stopping for fun at the Devils pass, we admired the view whilst jumping from rocks into the soft sand of the hillside, almost impossible to hurt yourself the only drawback being a face full of sand!
For our 4 day trip, we had our guide and driver Emilio and cook Nilda who would be with us throughout our trip. It wasn't long until Nilda broke out the Lolly bag and handed them around which boded well for the trip's grub. This was then followed by a
superb hot lunch served in some isolated ruins which we washed down with a small helping of Chicha we had brought with us for the trip - 5 litres of the stuff! It turned out that we were the only ones who had even drunk chicha before and it was received through the rest of the group with mixed opinions!
It was a relaxing afternoon of taking in the scenery from our Jeep and stopping at a couple of remote villages along the way. We hadn't brought anything specifically for the kids in the villages along the way but had a bag of sweets in our pack that when handed out seemed to put a smile on a lot of little faces.
As we drove through the afternoon we reached our home for the night. It was situated just outside a small village where our host family had a small homestead. As we arrived we were greeted by our family and a couple of other local kids before settling into our room. It was very basic with a mud floor and concrete beds, and in all our views was perfect! Taking some time to have a walk around
the local area of the farmstead Mark made friends with a local goat kid (who we named Larry) who after a bit of attention followed us back to the house and bleated for the next hour or so! Bless it!
After some chicha and wine as the sun set on the valley, we were served up a superb dinner which we all made short work of. As it had been a long day James, Haydn and Chrissie went to bed whilst Mark and Tess joined our family for a drink in their 'living' room. All around the stove we found out (in our pigeon spanish) that it was the daughter of our host family's 18th birthday. Toasting her birthday and giving her one of our bracelets as a prezzie they made us feel really welcome and part of the family. A lovely evening.
Day 622 (11.12.08)
Off early (packed and on the road by 6am) we continued south. As the roads were less windy and much flatter we were able to make better time and covered much more distance. As we crossed the plateau we stopped at a stunning lagoon. It was a great place to take
in the view which was framed by a hill which also reflected in the water and which was filled with Flamingoes. We were so excited by our first view of the colourful birds. After taking in the majesty of the vista we once again buckled into the Jeep and continued on our way. A couple more stops for views later and we reached the entrance to one of South Bolivias National Parks.
Driving through the park, the arid and unforgiving landscape was dominant and was only broken with the occasional river which breathed a lush green life into the earth. At one of the rivers we reached, the local Llama population had gathered where we took a break to watch them all having a good feed and drink.
Further into the park and we stopped at another HUGE lagoon also filled with Flamingoes. Able to get a little closer to these fellas, we adopted our best 'David Bellamy' animal stalking skills to get some pics. As we left the lagoon, quite surreally the skies darkened and our scorching hot day suddenly started to snow! Bizarre. It continued to snow for another half an hour whilst we visited another
local lagoon before once again the sky cleared and the sun returned.
Continuing through the park we found ourselves at a Borax Flat, similar to the Salt Flats but a different mineral has been deposited. Obviously there is a lot of use for the mineral as there was a reasonably sized mining operation underway. After taking a couple more snaps to commemorate the occasion we were once again bumping along in the Jeep on our way to lunch.
For lunch, we stopped at a lagoon where (for the tourists) a natural hot spring pool had been built with the stunning view of a Flamingo filled lagoon in the background. As Nilda prepared lunch for us we pulled on our toggs and took a dip in the hot mineral water. Being the prepared group that we were we also popped the cork on a bottle of red - now thats the life!
After yet another great lunch we left Nilda to clear up and Emilio took us on a drive to see some of the other lagoons in the area. We passed some of the most amazing multicoloured mountains and desert landscapes which in their own right were
breathtaking as well as the arsenic filled Green Lagoon behind which a cone shaped volcano which marks the Chilean border rises as a dominant feature.
Picking up Nilda again and now making our way back north(ish) we stopped for a bit of rock scrambling and climbing and some strange wind shaped rock formations, passed the building they used for the desert hotel in the new James Bond movie and another lagoon or two before our final stop for the day, the geothermal area. Walking around the bubbling mud and superheated pools and steaming vents there are no barriers to keep you away so it is possible to carefully take a prety close look. The pools contained different colours of water and mud and our favourite bubbling mud pool bubbled so fiercely that it regularly threw thick mud several feet into the air. Loads of fun!
Our final stretch of driving took us to our home for the night on the banks of Colorado Lagoon which is a striking red colour. Settling into more of a purpose built hostel with many other groups, we had a good feed, knocked back a couple of bottles of wine and finished the
evening learning a card game called Skip Bo which Haydn and Tess had brought with them.
Day 623 (12.12.08)
Once again up with the larks we spent the morning admiring the Flamingoes on various local lagoons able to get really good views of them on a number of occasions.
With a lot of distance to cover we then had to push on North stopping for lunch in the shadow of another volcano and making seats out of the strange and wonderful shapes the lava had created. Nearing the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, we passed through its smaller brother stopping for a couple of snaps on the way. Even though it is smaller than the Uyuni salt flats it still took us 45 mins to cross in the Jeep - so I wouldnt call it small!
As evening was starting to draw in we arrived at our bed for the night. On the edge of the flats we were to be staying in a Salt Hostel. Everything from the walls to the beds, chairs and tables was made of salt. It was quite something! After another 3 course meal we had a couple of drinks
whilst chatting with other groups staying with us in the hostel before taking the party bolivian style with terrible spanish music and much dancing (at times with eggs on our heads). Things finished in the early hours of the morning and we had finished the rest of the wine we had brought with us - the early get up for sunrise the following morning was looking ominous!
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