Find Vicki and Liz
Our first stop in Bolivia was at Cocacabana situated on the East shore of Lake Titicaca. Our initial plan was to spend a couple of days relaxing on Isla del Sol which is famed for it's nice beaches and, you guessed it, more Inca ruins! But we ditched this plan and headed for La Paz to ensure we had plenty of time to see the Salt Plains which are in southern Bolivia. La Paz is probably the most quirky place we've been to on the trip so far. There was a 'witches market' across the road from our hotel selling a range of lotions and potions, as well as dead animals!!! We spent our first afternoon taking in the city and then booked ourselves on a mountain bike trip for the following day which would take us down the World's Most Dangerous Road...on two wheels!! Ahhhh!! We were both slightly (to say the least - Liz) nervous about the narrow, gravely, steep and winding roads that in some places had a 400m sheer drop off the side of the road. Liz hadn't riden a bike for donkey's years, and Vicki has been a nervous rider ever since a moped accident 8 years ago! The first stage of the ride started at 4750m above sea level. We both started off with frost bite, but a good stretch of tarmac meant we had plenty of time to get used to the bikes. When we reached the start of the World's Most Dangerous Road we were informed that there had been a landslide, but were told we would carry on on the basis that it would be cleared pretty quickly. This was actually a good omen as there were no big trucks coming up the hill for us to contend with! We both got down to the bottom covered in dust, but safe and luckily in one piece with a fantastic and rewarding day behind us. The next day we headed south on the train to Uruyi - the starting point for Salt Plain tours. The very very slow train pulled into Uruni station at 2.30am and we checked into a freezing cold hostel! Bring on the thermals....yet again! We joined a 3-day tour the next day along with 5 other people. First stop was the train graveyard, which was very spooky, apparently the trains were shipped all the way from England taking several years to reach Bolivia! We continued onto a salt factory and then to Isla de Pescado (Fish Island - shaped like a fish, apparantly!) It was a rock outcrop covered in cacti and surrounded by salt flats - white flats as far as the eye could seem, an incredible view. The afternoon was spent trying to take arty/silly photos on the salt plains which provided an excellent backdrop for positioning everyday items near the camera and us in the distance.....we looked the same size as the items, small things amuse etc etc etc. See for yourself!! Then we travelled further south, leaving the brilliant white salt flats and blue sky behind us towards a bright orange desert - a bit like Mars! We pitched up at our hostal for the night and wandered around the 'Necropolis' nearby which turned out to be strange rock formations used as tombs, complete with human skeletons!! We were quite spooked but Emily was fascinated and had to be dragged away - a degree in archeology obviously does strange things to you!! After a night of cards (Spank the Monkey?!) and an unsavourly dinner of undercooked chicken (not eaten!) it was lights out and we settled down to sleep under a mountain of blankets and in most of our clothes.....sub zero temperatures!! Nobody mention the heatwave back in the UK...OK!! The next morning it was back in the 4x4 to drive across a flat, red and very barren landscape. We stopped at a volcano and took some cool pictures amongst the volcanic rocks (don't worry moms....they were dead!). We went on to see an amzing lake (Lake Colorado) which was red in colour due to the rich mineral deposits and inhabited by hundreds of Flamingos. This made up for not seeing the Flamingos in The Galapogas! Take a look at the photos.......it really was amazing! Then it was to the hostal for another night of sub zero temperatures and no heating, but we found a little shop selling red wine so that along with an excellent dinner of soup and pasta sorted us out. After an early start the next day we arrived at some Geysers which were pretty cool - in more ways than one, it was -13!!!!! Never been so cold in our lives and it was at 5000m above sea level!! Next stop...the Hot Springs which we decided not to participate in - frost bite had set in and there was no way we could have parted with our fleeces and woolly socks, no matter how inviting it looked!! The trip came to an end when we went very 'off piste' and changed our plans totally by getting dropped off at the border with Chile rather than heading back to La Paz. It seemed to make sense to head south as we needed to be in Santiago to get our flight to Easter Island. We crossed the border easily and arrived in San Pedro de Atacama in Chilie at lunch time with our new friends from the trip, Stuart and Emily! Watch out for the next installment.........