It was an early first morning for day one of a long but beautiful drive, we met our driver/guide, David and had to say goodbye to his well cute daughter and my new best friend. The German couple seemed really nice; Johanna, the girl spoke fluent Spanish and good English, her boyfriend Robin spoke great English, so between them James and I got a full translation from David. Our cook was on the drag so we had to go and collect her from her house, punctuality is not as strong point of Bolivians! All was forgiven when we met her though as she is so sweet and smiley and, most importantly a great cook.
From the moment we set off from Tupiza the scenery was breath-taking. We seemed to have the mountains to ourselves and David told us at the first stop that today wasn't as beautiful as tomorrow but I have to disagree. The views we saw were out of this world, it was at some points like seeing about 5 different continents in one hit. It was also Llama central we saw so many and although most animals crack me up these are extra hilarious. We decided that they all thought they were 'it'. Llamas weren't our only wildlife we also saw Vicuña (antelope looking things, relatives of llamas and alpacas), Vizcacha (relatives of chinchillas) and Huallata (duck like birds).
We stopped at a few small villages/pueblos and saw how poor Bolivians can be but how really really happy they are despite living in mud shacks and wearing very little on their feet. We had lunch at one of these pueblos and it was a great lunch, a promising start to the trip, food wise. I also needed a wee break, and toilet facilities are limited in Bolivia and especially in the middle of nowhere so there I was squatting behind a small mud wall and James took a picture, charming. It probably won't make it onto the blog album so no need to worry.
It was a really long, but fabulous day we got to our hostel for the night and it was pretty cold. As we were the first there we sat next to the wood burner in the hope that someone would light it. Another great meal prepared by Josephine and we met up with group from 'Tupiza tours' after they gate crashed our fire. Luckily they seemed like a fun bunch, 3 Brits and an American. Another big group arrived at 9:00pm when we were thinking about going to bed, they had 5 people in each car and the jeeps had broken down 3 times on the way here, we were all so thankful to have chosen such a good company.
We had another early start, but we didn't do as many miles so had a shorter time in the jeep. We saw most of the publicised sites and the scenery was really beautiful again. After traveling for about an hour through snow (there was so much snow that at one point I was able to write 'hello' on the ground-original!) and mountains we got to the Laguna Verde. It was a great view but unfortunately we have seen some amazing pictures with the laguna as a bright blue colour. As it is winter the laguna is part frozen so was more of a milky blue, still we took some pictures and enjoyed the views. For lunch we stopped at the hot springs, we were the first two in; it was like a lovely warm, yet slippery bath. Getting out took some bravery as when the wind blew it was very cold. I had thought I was all clever and wore my bikini instead of underwear. This was fine for the top half as I had worn my sports bra over the top, yes, even mine got knocked up and down on the bumpy paths. However, the bottom half was not thought through so it was commando time in the afternoon, and when changing in front of about 20 people with just a small traveling towel it can get a bit tricky.
In the afternoon we went to the highest point of the trip 5400m (ish) where we smelt and saw geysers. Once again we were the first of the jeeps to get there and the 'Tupiza Tour' lot were getting tired of us always being first. This became a bit of a joke and even if we left after them or they looked as if they were ahead David would manage to catch up using a different route-ha, winners! He was even sensible enough to drop our stuff, and Josephine, off at the hostel. This meant we could get the best rooms and Josephine had time to get the tea ready. We drove a short distance to the Laguna Colarado and were able to spend over an hour looking at the views and flamingos and hiding from the wind. The Laguna Colarado is a unique laguna because of its colour, it is bright red. This is why there are so many flamingos, they eat the algae from the laguna and this gives them their colour. Robin observed that 'Flamingos are not good models as llamas' they were very shy and didn't come to close to the edge but they were good fun to watch, despite James calling them 'gay'. Another great meal and again we monopolised the fire, the Tupiza lot even got into a bit of a 'discussion' with a lady about the rearranging of tables just to ensure they had a spot nearest the fire. There was a really cute puppy at the hostel that we all held, hoping that we didn't catch fleas. We thought it was a good idea to dry our clothes off by the fire so all of us huddled round holding our swimwear. James got a bit too close and now has a few burn marks in his shorts, we were all very sympathetic and didn't laugh at all, I had already warned him that he was holding them a bit close (always right!). At question time with David we found out how much llama meat is sold for and that although you can eat flamingos but they don't make you pink and David wouldn't recommend it.
There wasn't much hype about today as we were only seeing one famous sight, perhaps this is why we found day three the most enjoyable. The morning was spent admiring five different Lagunas that were not as colourful as day two but the views overall were better and the flamingos weren't as shy.
STOP PRESS-the shewee made its first appearance this morning making the Tupiza girls green with envy and yes James got another picture of me weeing, at least I just look like a heshe in that photo and you can't see anything!
The famous sight of the day was the tree rock and we got some good pictures of James hanging from it. The highlight of the day was the where we had lunch. It was in lots of rock formations and behind we could see two volcanoes, one of which is in Chile. Got some more great pictures of us jumping from things and using the rocks as phallic symbols.
In the afternoon we had quite a long drive to the salt flats and we stopped on some mini salt flats with a train track running through the middle. Even though we remembered our primary school education, never play on the rails, we could see for miles and took some more silly pictures on the track. The last part of the day we were supposed to go to the mummy museo. But instead we got stuck in a massive desert sandstorm that was much more exciting and we found out that the museo was closed. James thought it'd be a good idea to go outside of the jeep to see how windy it actually was, we do have photographic evidence but the amount of sand in every orifice demonstrated, it was very windy. On our drive to the salt hostel we saw some more llamas and vicuñas. There was no wood burner at the salt hostel but it was warmer and we were able to have a reasonably warm shower. We had our best meal so far and we taught (too well) the Germans 'greedy'. We all braved the night air to admire just how beautiful the sky is when you are so high up with little light and air pollution.
We were supposed to get up to see the sunrise over the salt flats but unfortunately David had his worst moment of the trip and left his sunglasses in the hostel so we had to drive back to collect them. This meant that the Tupiza lot beat us this time but we got there just in time and the sun rose behind some clouds so wasn't that good anyway! Our first stop, after the average sunrise was fish island. There are no fish here just great views over the salt flats and lots of cacti. We had a great breakfast of cake, yoghurt and cereal and then spent over an hour on the salt flats getting some epic pictures; although we all could have had longer, I suspect. We saw where they 'farm' the salt and had a short stop for lunch and then straight to Uyuni. Went through the town of Uyuni to the Train cemetery which may sound awful but was really interesting and more importantly it had swings and a seesaw made from old train parts. We were dropped off in Uyuni town and said fond farewells to David and Josephine. Uyuni isn't a very lively town so we dropped our stuff at our hostel, wandered up and down the boot sale style market and arranged to meet the Tupiza lot for tea. James tried llama steak and the Germans had to wait for about 3 hours for 2 pizzas, but it was nice to have tea altogether for the last time. We said goodbye to them all and went for a long hot shower in a heated room-what a treat.