Travel Journal

other planets, molten lava and how bizarre how bizarre how bizarre....

(Thursday 15 July 2010) by Katie and Tina on the Run!
Wow. Amazing. Incredible. Beautiful. Weird. Awesome. Weird. Weird. Weird.

We have just returned from Mars. Not entirely certain how we ot there without a space shuttle, but we did it and are back to tell the story.

We were a group of six people (the standard) piled into a Land Cruiser for three days of absolutely unreal scenery. Our group was great from the start and we felt happy we had waited another day to start so we could be with all of them.
Faye and Analise and Anna from England, and Fernando from Colombia and it was laughing laughing right from the start.

The tour begins with a trip to the train cemetary outside of Ururo. A bunch of ancient locomotives that have sat there rusting for the last sixty years. weird.
After that we drove for an hour to have our first taste of the salt flats. The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, 12,000 sq miles of nothing but salt! Incredible. It is so outrageous to look around yourself and see nothing but white..and it{s not snow! The pictures you are able to take with such a backdrop are hilarious and so much fun to do as our group spent litterally hours trying to line up the perfect shot!

After we{d had our fill of magic eye photography, it was back in the jeep for another hour to the Island of the Fish. I have no idea why it is called that, as the nearest fish is thousands of miles away, but we have learned to let details slide in Bolivia! The incredible thing about the island is that it is right in the middle of the salt, it climbs half a mile into the sky, and it is covered, covered in cactus. HUGE cactus!
The biggest one is 7 meters high and 900 years old! The oldest has recently dies and it was 1,200 years old! We hiked to the top of the island mountain for more bizarre scenery and went back down for our first taste of food on this tour.
We could have stayed on the mountain.
For the first time we{ve been on a tour where the food leaves much to be desired! Our driver, Vico, an otherwise lovely and hilarious man with the greatest laugh, was also our cook.
We think he has a thing or two to learn about the culinary arts.
But, alas, we are certainly not here for the food, so we ate what we could stomach and headed back in the jeep to our first night{s hotel.

This hotel was made completely of salt and it was full of happy freezing backpackers. All six of us were in one room which we hoped would mean our collective body heat would keep us all alive through the night. The place had electricity from only 630-930, so we ate an interesting dinner of vegetable pancake (sick) drank two bottles of wine between us, and laughed until the lights were off.

6am was an early start the next morning, where we enjoyed a breakfast of bread. just stale bread. and took off for a full day of driving around Mars.

Once off the salt flats, the scenery was all rock and dust and every mile looked more bizarre than the last. That day we stopped at lots of giant rock formations (including one that looked like a tree!) and weird laguna after weird laguna. First was Laguna Verde (green) second was Laguna Azul (blue) and last but surely not least was the infamous Laguna Colorada which is bright bright red!
As if these brightly colored lakes weren{t strange anough in this landscape, they are also covered in bright pink flamingos! Freezing temperatures and other worldly scenery is not exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of these tropical birds! Also that day we saw many many volcanoes, one of them even active with smoke billowing out the top! But more on volcanoes to come......

After eight hours of stop and go jeeping, we arrived at our accommodation. It would be best described as an antarctic igloo. At best. As Tina and I were already wearing everything we brought with us, we settled down at the dining table with the group where we mostly spent the next two hours marveling over how it could possibly be so cold and how we were possible going to make it once the sun went down!

Well down it did go, and took whatever small warmpth with it, the thermometer read a startling -4 farenheight!!!!! And we had to sleep in that!! It was mortifying. Our sleeping bags and alpaca blanket upon alpaca blanket on top of us and we still had to do jumping jacks before we crawled in (thanks Gary) We all stayed up laughing and comparing stereotypes about Brits/Americans before we were even remotely warm enough to pass out.
Then you woke up in the middle of the night and had to pee and you really hated your life!

The next morning we were up at 5 (yikes!) it was freezing freezing freezing. So we all piled into the jeep with all our sleeping bags around us and headed for the geysers.......

As if the salt flats weren{t weird enuough, the sun just starting to rise found us standing between spouting geysers and bubbling craters of lava INSIDE a real live volcano!! Thanks to the complete lack of safety standards in Bolivia, we followed our guide around the land mines and did ur best to push out of our minds the risk of death or at least severe burns we were surely facing. Seeing lava, real lava, up close and personal and threatening to spit itself out at you was seriously one of the craziest things we{ve ever experienced.

Once back in the car, our guide told us a story about three backpackers falling into a collapsing crater and dying, and because of my iffy spanish I thought he said ten days ago, when he actually said ten years ago, and spent the rest of the day worried and confused at how on earth we hadn{t heard about it, until much later in the night, a much laughing Tina set me straight!

After the volcano we went to eat breakfast (yum) at at place where there are also thermal pools. We however, were not brave enough to get naked in those kinds of temperatures, so we just laughed at everyone else who had to get out of the pool and turn into a human isicle.

The three british girls were headed off to Chile, so we dropped them at the border and (of course after picking up some random women with very large bags, this is Bolivia after all) we headed on the six hour drive back to Uyuni.

Checked into a hotel, ate some bad mexican food and looked forward to our last night of sleeping in the arctic. (Tina did have the hilarius quote "if we lived in Uyuni, we would never procreate!" opposed to all that procreating she and I do otherwise...!!) we had booked a bus out to Tupiza that left at eight thirty the next morning, and were very net excited at the size of the bus and the amount of people they were going to try and fit on it! (the usual) it was a dusty and uncomfortable seven hour drive to Tupiza where five people occupied the three seats next to us ans the isle was also people full. But we finally made it here, the land of the wild wild west where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their demise. We have some good plans for hiking and if I can trick Tina into getting on a horse, we{ll do that too!

  • i read your last letter re: how cold it was & this one to by pa & gramma
  • The pictures are so fun!! by Shnuhmom
  • I miss you by Tara Streff
  • . by KT Dad
  • Grace by Grace G
  • Miss you by A68DBaunt trice
  • Aunt by Aunt Kathleen
  • why don't you write more often we really miss you guy's by pa & gramma

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