Bolivia is a country I knew very little about. We crossed the border after a short stay in Chile, with the intention of returning to follow our noses South through Chile to Santiago.
As I said, we knew little about Bolivia, apart from I'd been told by a friend about the 'Salt Flats,' so naturally we didn't plan to go to Bolivia. However plans quickly change while your travelling and even the most avid of travel schedules need flexibility, luckily for us we had no real schedule. The closer we got to Bolivia the more and more people told us to go, and so whilst watching the sun set in Moon Valley we met an instantly likeable couple from New Zealand, Mark & Michelle. Naturally we got talking, we got on that well we decided to spend the evening together eating some pretty good food and swapping stories of travelling. Obviously Bolivia came up and it was then we decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Mark had a company recommended to him and had met two German girls the day before who also wanted to go. So the next day the 6 of us made our way to enquire about the trip, as I said plans change very quickly and before we knew it an early 5am rise the next morning meant the next few days were to be spent travelling across Bolivian national parks to see its world famous salt flats.
So we jumped into our newly hired 4 x 4 with our guide Lionel. 'Lionel, like the singer, except I can't sing' were his first words to us. I instantly liked this guy and so a Bolivian, two Germans, two Brits and two Kiwi's made their way into Boliva.
The moment we entered Bolivia we were all wow'ed. It was cold, but the border, a wooden hut occupied by 2 local men, sat beneath a 5000m high volcano. One of the better border crossings we've seen in our time travelling. For 2 days we were amazed by the national park that has every coloured mountain and lake you can think of!
Our first stop was a mile down the dusty, rocky road, it was clear why a 4x4 was essential - Bolivia don't see the need for tarmac roads. The road took us to an amazing crystal clear lagoon, backed by red snow capped mountains. The water had thawed in places forming was a crystal blue pallet that reflected the sun. In places and was still frozen meaning the resident flamingos had a place to keep there feet dry, cold but dry. In the shallows were graphite grey rocks with a touch of moss that gave a green tint to the outer edge of the lagoon. For two days we came across pure untouched natural beauty like this, except they came in all colours imagine able; blue, green, white, red ...
Just when we thought it couldn't get any better we would come across yet another flamingo filled lake, backed by yet another snow capped mountain. Views you could literally never get bored of.
Bolivia did have its one and only drawback, if you can all it a drawback, it's pure untouched natural state means it's a little disconnected from modern power supplies, such as heating, and being so high means it's beyond freezing at night! As you can imagine the make shift hostels, suitably made of pure salt, left a lot to be desired when it come to protecting you from the cold. So both nights under 3 blankets, fully clothed and in a sleeping bag I think I managed about 6 hours sleep before being woken the next morning.
It was an early 4 a.m. morning wake up call for the day we travelled across the salt flats. In pure darkness we rose, flicking on our headlamps and off we drove into the darkness for about 30 minutes. We stopped just as the sun began to appear over the horizon, it began like a faint orange light as we took our seats on the salt. As it rose. revealed was what we had been travelling for, for 2 days. All you could see was miles upon miles of salt covered land in every direction you turned. Itself it doesn't sound too much, but it was one of those views that literally took your breath away. In every direction you turned, an sea of salt covered land. We spent the day moving to different parts of the flats, with there being nothing on the horizon and only one colour surrounding the place, it's a great time to have some fun with a camera. The salt however is only about 10inches thick in places and Lionel made a hole in one place to unveil a lake underneath. Imagine standing on an iced over lake that has a small hole to fish from, a little scary as your standing upon it, but we were assured it was safe.
As the day wore on hunger got the better of us and we made our way to Uyuni, the neighbouring town for some food. The way back to Chile was uneventful and after an evening stopover in a small local village we made our way back across the border.
A short but very sweet stay in Bolivia, next was chile.