Leaving Sucre and 3000m behind also leaves just about bareable roads and facilities behind.
Public buses and jeeps have been our transport for the last week or so as we headed off in to the remotest part of our trip. Our first stop was Potosi (which they claim is the worlds highest city at 4060m) it´s a mining town and pretty much the main reason the Spainish wanted Bolivia as it´s where vast amounts of Silver came from. A few of our group got really quite ill from the altitude (doctors and injections in the bums were required) but luckily Chris and I were fine except for feeling a little like 80 year olds after a flight of stairs with your backpack on!
Chris got to watch Chelsea beat Liverpool (just) in the first leg of the Champions League while I went off to the Silver museum and hunted down jems! Others in our group went up to the mines; which are still highly inhumane and dangerous, average life expectancy is 10 years from when they start working up their and that´s generally at the age of 12. Now they are just mining minerals as the silver is long gone but ironically after 300 years of making all of Spains coins for export back to Europe; Bolivian money is now made in Spain, France and Canada! They are also very sketchy on any details about the locals and slaves that they used up here - apparently no documentation exisits but I guess that says enough itself.
With most of our group better we headed off the next day to Uyuni - which is the gateway to the salt flats and desert and that separates Bolivia and Chile. This bus trip was bumpier than the first which was hard to believe and they barely stoped for loo breaks in 8 hours where locals laughing told us to "go for our lives in the countryside" when one of the girls asked if their was a proper toilet anywhere!
Uyuni is like an old western town out of the movies, one main street and many dusty roads, old trucks and the odd person wondering around and the first question you ask yourself is "why the hell would anyone live here??" and we still don´t know the answer as the only thing really keeping it going is tourism, and they don´t seem that happy to be doing that.
However, the bus journey was worth it as we got the Salt flats (a dried sea from millions of years ago) it really is just white and blue as far as the eye can see and so we got to play around like every other gringo does with taking ´clever pictures´as you´ll see when I add the photos!
Jeeps it turns out are even bumpier than buses and I´m sure our spines have now compacted an extra couple of inches - and I don´t really have an extra inches spare. I hit my head twice on the roof and Chris had his knees up round his ears half the time and so every little break was like a godsend to stretch and stand still.
We stayed in small lodges for the 2 nights we were out here, our first time back in mixed dorm rooms for years and with no running water and billions of tones of dust stinking was the general order. No princeses allowed if you´re ever thinking of coming this way.
Day 2 was up higher (and therefore obviously bumpier again) up to 4,500m and lagoons made up of minerals, hot springs and flamingos. The minerals made the water different colours in different lagoons and the temperature up here is now single digits in the day going down to way below freezing at night but the sun is so strong you have to keep putting the suncream on anything that´s sticking out.
The flamingos were lovely, difficult to get close to but much bigger than we expected over a 1m in height; but the landscape is so baren that its surprising that they survive here at all. And the night skys are amazingly bright out here as we are so far from any human light and also so high up but you could only manage 10 mins of gazing before the shivering stopped it being fun!
On our last day here we got up at 5.30 so that we could get to the geysers for sunrise. Here there are huge cracks just firing steam up in to the air and boiling pools of mud breaking up the desert. And about 20 mins on from here, there was a lagoon that we could get in to as it was thermal and a nice 45 degrees to warm us all up before breakfast - if we were brave enough to get down to cozzies to get in! Chris was straight in their but I took a bit of coaxing but made it and it was well worth it!