Salt Flats Day 1

Published: May 7th 2009
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We got up early on the morning of our 3 day tour so that we could have a good breakfast before we went. For all we new food could be limited and not so plentiful. We had to be at the office of Estrella del Sur at 8am. We stopped at a small café where we had breakfast the last few mornings in San Pedro. They did a nice and simple breakfast of three fried eggs, a bap and tea. When finished, we went down the small and dusty road to the office. Others were waiting outside when we arrived. Soon we got the call to jump into a bus which would bring us through the border checks to the other side of Bolivia. The queue in Chile went in no particular order. Locals could skip (understandable) but so too could expensive tour groups (not understandable!). The journey to the Bolivian border took nearly an hour. Here we were sent into a small office and asked to pay a small fee. Our passports were stamped and barely looked at. All our fuss about entering the country was just silly.

Our group of twelve was divided into two groups of six. In our jeep was an American couple (Chris & Andrea) and a Australian couple (Phil & Caitriona). The other jeep was made up of couples from France, Switzerland and Belgium. Breakfast was provided on a small picnic table beside the jeep. There was ham, cheese, yogurt, bread, tea, coffee etc etc. The driver of the van, Abraham, told us to have swimming shorts as we would be getting into a thermal pool later on.

Along the way we stopped at a few lakes of different colours because of the mineral content in them. We also saw some Flamengo’s in the first lake and got some cool photo’s of them flying. We got to the thermal pool at around lunchtime. Changing facilities are not exactly commonplace in the middle of nowhere so we had to get changed out doors. The temperature was cold so getting into the warm thermal pool was nice. We relaxed there for a while before getting out to the cold wind where we had to change again outside. While we were in the pool our guides prepared us our dinner. There was plenty of food and everyone was happy with what we got. We soon moved on again stopping at place with lots of volcanic action. It was pretty cool to see but you wouldn’t want to get too close. From there we went to our first nights accommodation. Here we dropped our bags to our room, hoped back in the van to go see another lake with lots of Flamingo. We had a nice walk around the lake and got some great photo’s of the Flamingo

We returned to our hostel and had the option of a freezing cold shower. I don’t think anyone took up the offer. We had been told that the temperature would drop dramatically at night so we all hired sleeping bags to go with our numerous sheets and blankets. Our room was very basic. The base of the bed was concrete and the mattresses dipped considerably in the middle. The room was only concrete and there was no heating. Dinner was served to us and again we were well looked after. We were feeling the altitude a little so after dinner we tried some coca leave tea (famous for a modern day drug!) to help with our symptoms. It tasted like green tea and was nice to drink. Although it does not have the same affects as cocaine if you took a test tomorrow you would test positive for the drug. Our doctor had advised us before we left to drink as much of it as we could while at altitude as it was the best remedy. We had a toast with Abraham (our guide) that all would be well for the few days of travel and that we would have no breakdowns or anyone suffering from altitude sickness.

We all went to bed at about 9pm as it was getting very cold in the hostel. There was no heat at all other than a stove burning some wood. It was filled once but never again. We were all wrapped up in our thermal wear around the table and could still feel the cold. When we went to bed I put on long johns, pj bottoms, woolly socks, thermal vest, gloves and a hat. Then I put myself inside a silk sleeping liner, inside a sleeping bag wrapped up by about five blankets. That’s how cold it was. I have to say I was never cold but I was never roasting either. Michelle wrapped up pretty much the same as me but didn’t wear a hat and felt a little colder. The next day we were to see more lakes and an active volcano. Surely with our toast nothing could go wrong!

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: Losing My Religion - REM

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