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Published: April 20th 2013
The next day, a couple of toilets rolls and three Imodium later, we set off before sunrise again. We'd been told we were going to see five lagoons or high altitude lakes. It seemed a little excessive and to be honest it was. At the first lagoon, the whole group gets out the car and has a walk alongside the lake taking pictures. At the next, a few people stay in the car. The third, no one gets out. A few photos taken with the window down will do fine thank you. Our driver Nelson got the idea, he had a wry full smile. He'd been doing this tour for over ten years. God, he must be bored of lagoons! I was feeling much better by the time we stopped for lunch on some train tracks in the middle of nowhere. It was a pretty random place to stop to eat and it made for some good photographs of the Swedes posing, sprawled across the tracks. Just after we'd packed up and left, I saw a train slowly making its way down the tracks. I'd thought it was a disused line seen as we'd just parked up and sat on the
tracks for lunch. It made it all the more surreal a place for a picnic. Our last stop of the day was at a viewpoint for a live volcano right on the Bolivian-Chilean border. As we posed for pictures, there was steam coming out of the top left hand corner of the volcano. It was a nice change of scenery from a lagoon. A few hours later we arrived at our hostel, it was on the edge of the salt flats and the building was entirely made of salt; the walls were salt breeze blocks, the floor was scattering of salt gravel, even the tables and chairs were made of salt. At the time though, perhaps the most impressive aspect of this hostel was the warm showers it advertised for 10 bolivianos - £1. After a few days without showering this sounded like heaven. We took turns to shower and played 'would you rather?' for hours before dinner. The game involves someone giving you two pretty unsavoury scenarios and you having to chose your preference. Given the tedium of lagoon spotting that day, one of the horrific scenarios to chose from always included 'visit lagoons everyday for a year or...'
E.G 'drink a pint of diarrhoea.' I'd seen enough lagoons thanks. We were up early again the next day so after dinner and a few drinks we called it a night. Just before bed though, Freddie came in saying we had to go and see the stars. Outside it was incredible, thousands of stars everywhere from high in the sky to low on the horizon, twinkling stars and big bright stars. Without a shadow of a doubt the clearest night sky I'd ever seen. Thanks Freddie. Waking up in the dark was an unwelcome part of the trip.
For the third day in succession, we were up and out by 5am
. We loaded our bags into the Jeeps for the last time and headed for the salt lake. Driving on it in the darkness, you didn't appreciate just how flat and painfully white it was. We stopped to watch the sun rise and got some stunning photos. Only now could you see how vast and deceptive this white plateau was. Because it's so flat and blindingly bright, it's incredibly easy to get lost. You have little or no points of reference on the horizon. It's just an expanse of
whiteness, shimmering in the sun which can easily play tricks on your eyes. Following the tracks, our drivers take us to an island inundated with cacti in the middle of the lake. Here we walk around the rocky island taking pictures of cacti of all shapes and sizes before stopping for breakfast. It's Easter Sunday and Gladys had baked us a cake. There were no chocolate eggs but the soft sponge was a good substitute! After breakfast we drove into the middle of the Salar de Uyuni, as we stopped David our driver exclaimed, 'time for the photos locos!' Remember how I was saying there's little point of reference when your on the salt flats? Well, this lets you create some amazing photos, you can trick your eyes with the perspective of how big things are. You can see the results attached in this post. We spent hours taking lots of wacky pictures; Sonya looking like she's eating a mini-me, I'm swallowing the whole group on a spoon, the girls dancing on Tor's guitar. You can even get a naked and take pictures of yourselves... but who would do that really? After exposing ourselves on the salt lake, we were
driven off to a small settlement on its fringes to have lunch and peruse the market. For the last part of our tour we visited a train cemetery on the outskirts of Uyuni. I can see how it's not very appealing to many people after the wonder of the salt flats but I enjoyed walking amongst these rusting trains, climbing over the engines and into the drivers compartments. Our group was dropped off in Uyuni and we said our goodbyes to Nelson, David and Gladys - we all chipped in to give our guides a tip as a thank you for the amazing service we'd received over the four days. I think they were touched by the gesture and it was right to show our gratuity for everything they'd done for us.
It was the most incredible four days and three nights in the abyss that is south west Bolivia. There were times when it was a real struggle with the altitude, the bitter cold of the night time, the sickness but it was worth every moment. We were lucky enough to experience canyons, valleys, mountains, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, flamingos, llamas, rusting trains, the largest salt lake in
the world... Oh and a good few lagoons.
Hope you enjoyed the blog. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
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