sabado, 8 de mayo
Just to keep you entertained for our Salar de Uyuni trip we have hidden 16 Rolling Stones songs in the following 2 days. Answers on a postcard...
Fresh from our foray with wild horses and groins still aching a little we (being the 5 from yesterday) began our Salar de Uyuni trip. The trip is a 3 night, 4 day jeeptour through the Uyuni salt flats (more about those on day 4) and surrounding area, a whirlwind trip past mountains, coloured lakes, geological oddities and suchlike. Whilst we waited for our English-speaking guide Archie and driver strong-silent type Santos who looked like a statue complete with heart of stone, we paparrazi´d old ladies in the street. You cannot get a photo of these people they get mad.
Our first port of call was 4km above sea level with a panoramic view of the surrounding valley, including the scene of Butch Cassidy´s famous last robbery (famous here). Archie asked:
"You know the story of Butch Cassidy and Sundance?"
"No. Tell me." Dan replied.
Big mistake. The story was looooooooooooong. And always told worse in second language. At least it distracted the fact that the road
Don´t lose count.
was only a jeeps width wide with a very steep drop. Fingers crossed Santos hadn´t just learned he was in for a long and painful terminal illness. By the time we had reached the panoramic point everybody needed a p*ss so bad the satisfaction was uncontainable.
To the other side of the vista were rivers which flow all the way to Iguazu, thousands of miles away. So high up we became severely breathless, like a fat man trying out for Gladiators. What better time to play throw the stone at the cactus? The game lasted longer than it needed due to the fact that the car wouldn´t start for quite a while. It´s all over now before it´s started we thought. Eventually the engine revved into life and we set off again.
The bumpy and slightly nerve-wracking drive back down the mountain didn´t help the altitude sickness, particularly of Jasper. He was well prepared with Coca leaves - a Bolivian staple. It´s well established that coca reduces the effects of altitude sickness, as well as fatigue which is important since these poor s*ds work ridiculous hours, and most Bolivian males regularly shove a wad in their mouths to
pass the time. I decided to have a taste having failed miserably at trying Mate in Argentina. Half an hour of it wedged against my cheek (it´s not chewed) and the wretching started. All the work of being sick without the end product. It diverted the inability to breathe though.
Santos piled the leaves in. He looked like he had an abcess. The stench did not help the wretching.
For lunch we had llama tamales (our first new animal this trip) and sandwiches. Llamas, donkeys and goats tended to be the main scenery of the lower land driving, although how it is regulated it wasn´t obvious. Archie "treated" us to his i-pod blasting out Seal, Alanis Morrissette and Annie Lennox, but then saved the day with some Radiohead. The first days driving was significant - seemingly neverending - which by the end we had hoped the hostel would just come on and we could relax.
By that time it was also freezing. There was no cloud cover, it was as if someone had taken the sky and paint(ed) it black. The stars were incredible, unbelievable. Still it was cold. We all prayed for Archie to gimme shelter
Llama llama llama
Mega mega white thing.
which he did, beds with 6 blankets each. Hayley´s bed was so bowed her arse was no longer at altitude.
Sleep was not abundant. sdomingo, 9 de mayo
We had been told the night before that we needed to get up at 5am in order to acclimatise slowly to the altitude (well over 4000m). Having woken at 4.30am to the sound of a little red rooster I thought time is on my side but no. We made sure our breakfast included Coca tea but since that is just leaves in water we added brown sugar, breaking Carol(e) Bull´s rule of "white in tea, brown in coffee." We were like land of the walking dead.
At this time of the morning it was still cold enough to spit ice cubes. The little rivers that populated the area were in fact frozen. By the time we reached San Antonio, an old colonial town, and had to get out, little had changed. Could somebody locate my balls please they appear to have disappeared. The colonial town was built in c.17th but did not fade away in the 400 years since. Much of it remains in tact as a llama playground.
F*ck it was cold...
We also spotted some vizcachas, a descendant of the chinchilla, which looked like a genetic experiment on rabbits had failed. The town stories would probably bore.
Next stop, 3 p*sses in including the girls (have no idea why our bladders had shrunk to the size of my testicles), was Cerro Lopez at 5000m above sea level. Here we had a snowball fight despite the sun finally showing his cowardly face. Plenty of photos taken. Just further down (2 more urinations) was the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. The National Park for those with ADHD. Here we initially went to the Laguna Blanca, named since it has large calcium and sodium bicarbonate deposits. We saw 3 flamingos, just a few shy of the hundreds promised. Expectation gap. Next to this lake was the mineral lake, hived for washing powder. Is that why Bolivians always wear black?
The National Park has a whopping 300 volcanoes, with a measly 1 active. The Homer Simpson sperm ratio. Despite the cold and snow the flora mainly seems to be those bushed found in the desert. The scenery is mountainous as you would expect with plenty of rivers for us to splash
through. We passed the time making puns out of Amardeep´s name and playing a "get to know you" game Jasper had with him.
Time for another quick wee?
Just before lunch (it was an early start remember?) we reached the thermal bath. This one was free, not like the last time in Pucon. It was much more natural too the slimey rocks made the entry hazardous. At 38 degrees we couldn´t stay in too long for fear of melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, and after 15 mins we were out of time since apparently the magnesium in the bath makes it poisonous.
Cr*p. We forgot this mornings rule about getting up too quick. Nuclear head rush. I could not shake the dizziness and had to skip lunch for fear of it revisiting soon after. Archie provided a pill so big it stuck out of my belly after being massaged down my throat. It helped though.
The last stop of the day (after a brief stop at Laguna Verde) was at the park's geysers. The topic of conversation for the moment was the pronunciation - geezers (Essex Dan), guyzers (f*ck knows who) or gayzers
Very jeep, very jeep, very jeep
Much jeeper than you think, much jeeper than you think
(me cos it sounds the funniest)? The bubbling pools and smoking craters felt like something out of a 50s alien film rather than middle Bolivia. Quick, put the black and white setting on the camera. It was super windy, walking amongst the tremendous heat - and sh*tty smell of Sulphur - was quite dangerous. Especially for little Hayley.
We had hoped for a slightly warmer hostel tonight but you can´t always get what you want, if anything it was colder. Everybody played sh*thead until bed by which time the hostel fire had given us all carbon monoxide poisoning. That helps when you need to sleep...
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