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Published: April 23rd 2014
Our last minute trip to Bolivia was probably the best last minute decision I have made and I would maybe go as far as to say the highlight of our trip to date. The company we went with was fantastic and everything was well planned and organised and exceeded my already high expectations.
Meeting at the office at 1030am we were met with lts of other travellers going on the same trip. There were 4 jeeps in our convoy but it was more like being split in 2 as there was 1 guide per 2 vehicles. Our jeep had 6 tourists (us 2, 2 english girls and a girl from hungary) as well as the driver and the guide. The other jeep was all australian minus a girl from italy. We got on really well with the people in our group which made things even more enjoyable.
After setting off we first visited a train cemetary where old abandoned trains lay as they were once used for transporting the copper industry which had now all but vanished due to the Chileans invading bolivia and taking what they wanted. We were told that due to boivias poor infrastructure they lost
a lot of time to reach the war point and by this point they had taken part of bolivia, thy wanted the salt flats too but Bolivia got there in time and instead they went north to Peru and took some of their land. Bullies! We then continued and visited a small town where we got lunch and saw the process of how the salt is processed from the land to the salt we use for consumption. There were lovely markets where I picked up a lovely warm hat and some masks which were a laugh.
We then reached at what would be the highlight for most - the salt flat plain. In the rainy season it is the orlds largest reflective surface/mirror and is quite something to behold. Here you can take all manner of funny photos. Although it looks cold, it is salt not snow and was surprisingly warm. We went to a Cacti island where we treked for about an hour with incredible views. Some of the cacti were over 1500 years old! The guide told us about Llama sacrifces and other traditional tales and was really informative. Onwards we went where after seeing a beautiful
sunset over the mountains we stayed in our first nights accomodation - a salt hotel no less! It sounds hard to fathom but it is quite normal looking - but extremely well insulated against the bitterly cold nights. We were served a Bolivian feast and I again was really surprised by the standard of food we were given. After having a laugh with the others we went to bed quite early as it had been a long day and we were to wake up at 530!
The next day was jam packed with various lagoons of different colours, volcanos, mountains, desert, inca remains, flamingo spotting, gysers and desert areas. The views and things I saw will stay with me for a long time. While stopped for lunch we spotted a soith american rodent - the only way I can describe it is half chinchilla half rabbit, apparently they are very shy but once we gained its trust we could feed the wee thing from our hand! After a long day we got to our next accomodation which was dorm style, 6 single beds. It was fine and they were very kind giving us lots of blankets and even hot
water bottles as it was bittlery cold over night - down to minus 12 i think. Unfortunately Gary hadnt been feeling well during the day which was a huge shame as our hostel was right outside a 40 degree thermal bath. After dinner we went in (it was so hard as it was freezing and we had to get changed and jump in) however it was absolutely glorious! It was so warm and as it was dark you could see all the stars at night, constellations, the milky way, southern cross and orion. It was a moment to remember but I was disappointed that Gary was too ill to make it. I had a nice time with the other folk as much as I could but it was really a special place.
We will never know whether our illnesses were altitude (reaching up to 5000m above sea level) related or food related, but I thought I was doing okay until after my dinner on the second night. After being in the pool a while I could feel myself overheatingand becoming really short of breath, and I felt a bit sick. After I had got out of the pool and
changed I knew something was up and before I knew it all night I was up with sickness and diahorea. I couldbt sleep, had a fever and was even hallicinating. It was horrible. I am only thankful that it came on later as some people in the group were in a really bad way.
The next day I fet a bt dodgy in the morning but nothing near as bad as I had. I took it easy and i gradually felt better. We stopped a couple of times at the Salvador DAli desert but we were primarily on the route to Chile. Once getting stamped at Bolivias exit and after a long wait on the bus we were on our way to chile. It was strange as there was almsost half an hour journey between the Chilean customs which I can only imagine is "no mans land". Seemed a rather long distance to be nowhere!
As soon as we hit normal roads you knew you were in Chile, and you knew they meant business when you couldnt so much as bring an open bottle of water or cookies from Bolivia. We even had to put our bags through
a scanner, something we have never come across. I think it is a big drug smuggling point though so they were checking the van etc. Our guide told us the smugglers go through the mountains anyway where there is no check point and while we were in the bath we sawconvoys of jeeps going past which he told us were armed dealers! mental!
So welcome to chile, the final leg of the trip. We dont want to leave!
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