July 23, 2010 – July 28, 2010
Sat 24th July Im writing on the jeep that we are on for 5 days!! That is the reason why my writing is so messy!! ( in my dairy my writing is really really messy!!) We saw some ostriths, wild ones!! so in south america we have seen the biggest flying birdand the biggest non-flying bird!! On the radio we heard a pop song with the tume of the druckun sailor!! lol Sun 25th July I have never been so cold in my life! Its freezing, we woke up at 4am in the morning and set of in the jeep for our second day of the salar trip. This time we got stuck in the ice a couple of times so we had to get pulled out! We went to some hot spings and saw some flamingos, it was heavan. Then we went to see some geyers that spat boiling hot mud! Our rooms, that we had to share with 6 people so 10 people in a 5 beded room. The beds were made out of concret. Mon 26th July Day 3 When we saw someone stuck we, and the other truck treid to help them. But when the other truck treid to help the truck that was stuck it kept on going and it crashed into the truck that was trying to help it. So the truck that got smashed said" well you just crashed into us so can we have some money!" But most people in Boliva dont have car insurance so he couldnt give him any money so the the torists had to pay! We went to see the red lagoon and we saw some more flamingos and i got loads of pictures of them! Walking, by there own, in a group, standing still with one leg dipped deep in the ground and the other raised high. We were driving on volcanic ash surronded by active volcanos and on either side of us were massive boulders that had been spat out miles away from the volcanos! Tue 27th We had breakfast on a iland surronded by 10 metrer thick salt! The salt used to be saltey water but the water evaporated leaving the salt. Our shadows were so long! Then mum dad and harry climed upa volcano that was 5500m (1600ft). The highest i have been is 5000m ( 16000ft)
It's difficult to describe all the incredible things we have experienced during the last 5 days on our Salar trip from Tupiza to Uyuni. We began by climbing from 2700 metres to 4200 metres in 2-3 hours between cowboys' cacti making a great trail of dust behind our toyota Landcruiser as we snaked up the red hills. There were spectacular jagged rock formations and gradually more of the now familiar yellow "eat you" grass as we regained the high planes. We began to see more frequent herds of llamas grazing, or later making their way home independently before nightfall. There would also be the occasional person dressed brightly in woven fabric walking unaccountably cross country with no identifyable objective or dwelling nearby. If close enough to make out our smiling faces they would always turn and wave before continuing their journey. We had been, typically, late starting, so Milton was racing along over the dirt road avoiding only the biggest of the boulders. At one point it felt as though we were racing the sun as it set and reset several times, bobbing up and down behind the mountains to the west of us. When we at last arrived at our accommodation it was dark and there were many other Toyota Landcruisers already parked in the village. Milton explained that it was safer to travel in groups of 2 or 3 vehicles in case of break down, especially at this time of year when ice on the rivers was such a problem. We had already had one puncture that day, but Milton and George had fixed it so quickly that we had hardly noticed. The next day we travelled in convoy, about 9 Landcruisers each with its complement of 4-6 tourists, driver ad cook. We watched dawn come up from a ghost town, San Antonio. It had once housed 5000 inhabitants, mining gold for the Spanish, but disease had struck over 100 years ago and mysteriously more than 3/4 of the people had died, so the town was abandoned. One landcruiser got wedged with one wheel down a deep hole and all the other drivers were immediately active in getting it out. This required a jack to the centre of the wheel hub and then a selection of flat stones from round about to feed under the tyre as it was gradually lifted to a level where it could be driven out. Milton told us that 2 nights before our tour he had been up all night mending a car that had become stuck in a frozen river with broken transmission. They had cannibalised components from a different car to mend it. This was the advantage of all driving the same make. I could not help wondering how their hands could function int he extreme cold of the high planes at night. It was a great example of the Quechuan principle of reciprocity; good deeds to be returned at some unspecified time in the future. On that second day we climbed higher still and found ourselves surrounded by volcanos. The area is so rich in different minerals that the colours of the rock are extraordinary, red and yellow and bluey grey. Overnight all the rivers had completely frozen over and were partially thawing in the sun of the morning. The drivers of the Landcruisers generally knew the safe paths to take through the rivers, but to us it was pretty scary hearing the ice crack under us and feeling one or several wheels fall through onto the underwater boulders below, before lurching irregularly through the river and up the other bank. We must have crossed 10 or more rivers in this way. Every so many, a Toyota would get stuck and then someone would quickly produce a tow rope and haul them out. Once it was our jeep that needed to be rescued, but as we'd seen the process several times already it just added excitement rather than anxiety. In the afternoon they took us to some wonderful hot springs in which to relax and bathe, and then to an active geothermal area where we could walk between huge patches of boiling mud. Unfortunately Harry decided to put one foot in to test the temperature so he won't be wearing those jeans to a disco again in the future. On day 3 we went to the most beautiful Laguna Colorada. A lake, red from its algae fed by a hot spring which freezes every night despite the temperature of the feeding spring and the lakes's high salt content due to the extreme overnight cold at this altitude (4200metres). When we got there in the early morning about 50 flamingos had come to feed in the warmer water around the springs, the only part already thawed. The water steamed in the cold air, softening the pink contours of the flamingos and making an intensely beautiful scene against the stark volcanic backdrop. We were all a bit stunned after the drama we had witnessed soon after dawn. As we drove out of our accommodation that morning we saw a Landcruiser stuck at 45 degrees half way across the deep part of the frozen river next to us. Immediately, Milton and Julio, the driver of our sister jeep from Tupiza Tours, made a detour through the shallow part of the river to go to help the stricken vehicle. They did not know the driver who was from a company in Uyuni, but immediately hooked up the tow rope, helped the tourists out by throwing in some stepping stones and proceeded to pull the other car out of the river. Everyone cheered, but the other driver kept reversing at high revs by mistake when already out on the bank and slammed hard into the side of Julio's car, destroying a mud guard and making a big dent. There was silence and then an hour or more's discussion. Apparently in Bolivia insurance only covers personal injury and not damage to the car! The other driver would not give his name, and said he had no money. Everyone was very unhappy. The man's tyres were bald and he had tried to cross the wrong part of the river in the dark and alone... all pretty foolish for a tour guide. He and his tourists had waited two and a half hours in the freezing river before Milton and Julio had come to their rescue. Clearly we had been very lucky with our own choice of tour company with its chivalrous, able drivers. In the end George took a screwdriver and calmly removed the man's number plates! This meant that he would not be able to complete the tour for his tourists. The tourists then dipped into their pockets and put together $80 which they gave to Julio... not nearly enough to cover the cost but a bettr solution than resorting to the police, we were told. The tourists would have to try to get their money back from the tour company in Uyuni on their return. The number plates were then handed back and we left the scene with a cloud of resentment hanging over us all. The lovely feeling from the camaraderie between the drivers we had seen throughout the previous day had been blown away. Reciprocity had to be reciprocal or it would not work! Later that day we saw deserts and spectacular rock formations caused by centuries of wind erosion. We also stopped by other salt lakes populated by flamingos just returned from their midwinter break on the coast of Chile. On the morning of the 4th day we drove before dawn to the centre of the Salar de Uyuni, an enormous salt flat, white and vast with a pattern caused by the evaporation that made me think of dragon's skin. In the centre was an island overed in huge cacti that had been entirely submerged by the lake before it had evaporated 10,000 years ago. The island was made entirely of old coral! Watching the sun rise from a flat horizon and our shadows gradually shorten from their initial miles-long-length, as the ground became brighter and whiter and the warmth of the sunshine gradually stopped us shivering was an awesome experience. After breakfast, a football match (where Will let in a crucial goal) and climbing to the top of the island, we drove across the salar to the Tunupa volcano. Its huge crater makes a crown with jagged rock pinnacles sticking up behind and ferric red and sulphur yellow gravel blending into a steep scree slope in front. We were to climb to the crater's edge at 5100 metres. Lisa didn't want to climb and was happy to stay at the hostal at the foot of the volcano with an array of snacks, a film on Harry's ipod and plenty of drawing materials. Milton, Will, Harry and I set off. We had been climbing for nearly an hour when we met a young Japanese tourist coming down. We said "Hello," and he looked at me and my age and how exhausted I already looked. "Are you going up? he asked. "Yes," I said. "Oh, but it is a very long way, maybe 50 minutes or more." He was sceptical I could make it! "But I thought it was at least 3 hours more" I said. It turned out he was only talking about the viewpoint, about 1/3rd of the way up to the crater. Later as we ate our snacks sitting on the crater's edge I was able to reflect happily that I may look too old to climb a volcano, but I had probably at last physically recovered from the operation on my spine in February. Climbing up 1200 metres in three and three quarter hours was an achievement enough for me. On our last day Milton directed us to make the most of the lack of perspective on the Salar with some crazy photos and a movie, and then we arrived filthy, dusty and exhausted at our gorgeous boutique hotel, La Petite Porte, in Uyuni. Our salar trip was a true adventure and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind freezing nights, sleeping fully clothed in the close company of strangers and not washing their hair for 5 days!
In the evening went to the frenchman's restaurant "La Laco". A wonderful place that represented Uyuni and the wild bolivian outback. A mixture of a cowboy wild west saloon with riveted mining sculpture and a central roaring Eucalyptus wood fire where we warmed ourselves and ate llama steaks and Roquefort cheese sauce. I wanted to go to Potosi to go down the 5 century old silver mines and lite sticks of dynamite. We had bought bus tickets the day before but today we could not go. Road blocks surrounded Potosi. The miners were on strike and will not let anyone through . We went from one bus company to the next but no one was going. Confusion reigned as some bus's said they may go later but their offices were closing up for the day and the ladies going home. How many days? "May be tommorow. May be the next day." Traveler's and ruck sacs stacked up . Apparently it was the season for strikes, road blocks and political unrest in Bolivia. We has just missed one in Uyuni, just left one in La Paz and now it was Potosi's turn. No-one really knew why these happened and we were given at least 5 reasons for Potosi's. Uyuni was another cold, dusty, concrete town in Bolivia with 4 or 5 bad pizza restaurant that closed for lunch , burnt them on a regular basis and pastry felt and tasted that your 5 year old niece had made it. We didn't want to get stuck here and no-one else did either. After a bit of procrastinating on my behalf, a sense of mild panic hit the tourists in the town and any remaining tickets to get out of town soon went. We were going to overnight it to La Paz then fly to Sucre in the morning, bypassing Potosi completely.(Thanks to lyn for getting the tickets)
Wed 28th July Its our last day on the salar trip and after we went to the best tea i have ever had! Our hotel only had two rooms but it was really really good! The hotel also had a restaurant which was where i had the best tea ever!! Then we went back to our hotel and watched a movie becuase the rooms had a DVD player each! Tur 29th In the morning we had breakfast in our room because last night we choose what wewanted so i had a hotchocolate (which was the best hotchocolate i had ever had) then fried eggs and frencf toast.Ummm. We went to geton our bus to Potoisi but it got cancelled so we were stuck, we couldnt get out of Uyuni! At last we found a over night bus to La Paz. On the bus i fell straight asleep even though it was extereimly bumby. When we got to La Paz we took a 45 minuet plane to Surce, in the airport me and mum found some where to post the postcards.
it was really really good! iIt only had two rooms but you could see why! It had a t.v with a D.V.D player with loads of D.V.D s and the bathroom was really good! And the ,night before you would resive a menu of breakfast and the hot chocolate was umm umm ummmmm...!
The name of the restaurant is La Loco after the steam engines in the graveyard. It was the same owner as la petite porte and just as good the meals were ummmm.... but the most expencive was a llama steak wkich cost 45bl which is about 4.50pounds but very much worth it the chesse buger which i had was geaorgus!