Greetings from Chile! As I write this I am in a majorly bad mood as I just wrote this for half an hour and then the computer crashed...so here goes again...(oh and I cant work out how to do apostrophes on this computer so my grammar is rubbish)...
Well, my last 4 days in Bolivia were amazing, the highlight of the trip so far, that does not mean there werent low points though, the bus to Uyuni for starters........oh my god, what a journey. We had a choice of the cheaper local bus or the more expensive tourist bus. Since it was an overnight bus and we wanted to sleep (what a joke that sentence is now) we opted for the tourist bus. It was a comfy bus with big seats, toilet, food etc. However I started to get worried when "Enrique" handed out information cards for us to read before we set off, as if we were on a plane. Then the journey from hell commenced. The 10 hour journey from La Paz to Uyuni was on an unpaved road. At first it was funny, then after a while it was just ridiculous. The bus was shaking so much my stomach was in my mouth, and the toilet door (that I was annoyingly situated next to) kept flapping open. Sleep was not an option! When it got light I looked down the aisle of the bus and it looked like an earthquake had hit - shoes and other random belongings were strewn everywhere!! We finally arrived in Uyuni at 7am, what a s*** hole! Luckily we only had 3 hours to kill before we set off on our 3 day tour of the Salt Flats. We set off in our Jeep, 6 of us and our 12 year old driver Rumillo. Our first stop was the "train cemetery", a load of really cool old trains abandoned in the desert. Then we got to the beginning of Salar de Uyuni, absolutely amazing. The beginning of it was just piles of salt everywhere, so weird. Then we got to the "salt hotel", a hotel made of salt (suprisingly), surrounded by an expanse of salt and blue sky. It was so amazing, it looked like snow! Next we went to "Isla del Pescado", possibly the most beautiful place Ive ever been. It was an island in the middle of the salt flat, covered in really old giant cacti. The contrast between the white salt, the blue sky and the millions of cacti was surreal. We spent a couple of hours there before the long bumpy ride to our accommodation for the night - a little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere where you had to pay 5 bolivianos to use the electricity or for a shower!
On day 2 of the tour we left at about 8am. Our first stop was the only active volcano in Bolivia, "Volcano Ollague". Then it was another rocky drive to "Laguna Hedionda", a beautiful (although rather smelly) lake with tons of flamingos! Then we went to another lake with more flamigos, and then it was a long drive across the desert to the "Arbol de Piedra" (stone tree) - a really cool, weird, rock in the shape of a tree in the middle of the desert! Our final stop of the day was "Laguna Colorada" which was an amazing red lake, with tons more flamingos, and llamas and alpacas. At about 4pm we arrived at our accommodation for the night, another little shack in the middle of nowhere! We we warned that it can get as cold as -25 degrees at night there so we all wrapped up warm before bed (wearing our clothes for the next day).....but it wasnt actually that cold and we couldnt sleep as we were too hot!!
On day 3 we got up at 4am to get to the geysers before day break. We were the first group to leave and all was going well until we stopped to help about 3 jeeps that had broken down (a common occurence on this tour). Then our Jeep wouldnt start, and then Rumillo had to change a tyre! We finally arrived at the geysers at 5am and it was an amazing sight, ive never seen anything like it! Puffs of smoke coming from the ground and bubbling steaming mud pools. It looked like we were on Mars! Next we drove to the thermal baths - gorgeous! We were a bit dubious about going in as it was so freezing and we didnt want to get undressed! But once we were in it was so nice, and boiling hot! Our final bumpy journey was to "Laguna Verde", another amazing sight! A perfectly clear and still lake with a volcano in the background and bright blue sky. Then we were dropped off at the Chilean border where we met our bus to San Pedro de Atacama - another episode! We all piled in to a tiny minibus with all the luggage stacked on the backseat. At the Chilean border we had to queue up at immigration for ages, and then queue up again for them to check ALL our luggage!! We arrived in San Pedro de Atacama at about 12.30pm and found a lovely hostel, and then had lots of annoying experiences! Firstly the ATM didnt work, and none of the change places had any money...so neither did we! Then we had lunch in a really weird place with a really weird waiter, then we couldnt manage to book buses anywhere.....then we found a shop that sold red wine and all was ok! (although the first bottle we bought smelt of egg so we took it back and I managed to negotiate an exchange in my rubbish Spanish!).
Tonight Im getting the 24 hour bus to Santiago before heading to the coast and then over to Argentina for xmas!xxx