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White Xmas at the Salar de Uyuni

It was salt, not snow...

8 °C

Met our group early in the morning at the agency. Turns out there will be five of us. Apart from myself and Martin there is Madeleine from Holland who is travelling on her own and Oded and Israela from Israel. Our jeep looks really old and is very dirty so initially wondering how the hell it will make 4 days.....

Meet driver/guide/doctor/mechanic/fotographer Javier (we will soon realise how true all these things are) and his wife Laeticia (cook) and they brought their nearly 3 year old daughter with them on the trip (her first time). Cute as a button she is. They initially seem lovely but over time we realise how fantastic these people really are. Absolutely amazing and we will soon realise how lucky we are to get them as our guides.

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First day is mainly spent driving trough an amazing landscape off rocky mountains and driving along steep drops on either side of the road. We are immediately amazed by the lanscape- like nothing we have ever seen before! The roads are mental and we soon figure out what four by four driving really is about. Javier is such a skillful driver and we feel very safe despite the ridiculous conditions of the roads. We are told that altitude sickness might be a problem as we will end up at 4300 meters above water where we will spend the night. Martin who had expereinced altitude sickness in Ecuador before already started complaining about feeling funny as soon as we arrived in Bolivia and K laughed at him. She would no longer be laughing as she was about to expereince it big time. While Martin ended up being relatively ok K got it very bad. Imagine the worst headache you have ever had- multiply it by 100 and add a feeling of your worst hangover stomach. When we arrived at our veery simple accomodation K could not move and thought she would die. Enter Javier the doctor.....we were given Cocoa tea (yes the leaves that cocaine are made off- very big in Bolivia where they all chew them), and other herbal remedies. This coupled with neurofen and altitude sickness tablets just about knocked K off while the rest of the gang played cards and had a laugh for the night. Althoug none were unaffected by the altitude.....

Next day woke at 4.30 am and we all felt better if not perfect. Spent the day driving thorough amazing landscape. It got to be the most beautiful county in the world! Saw villages in the middle of nowhere, others abondoned for hundreds of years. Mountains and deserts with all the colours that one can imagine and then some. We stopped to bath in natural springs....really cool. Also ended up getting a puncture and got our first taste of how skillful mechanic Javier was. Although methods were unconventional (see pictures). Later on that night jeep gets serious problems as fuel pump stops working. We end up driving with a hose hanging from the petrol tank on the roof into the engine (mental). It is unbeleivable that Javier fixes it....he is brilliant. He even sucks the petrol out of the tank with is mouth to get some pressure out....Two hours later we are on our way! We drive through some amazing deserts that day. Salvador Dali was inspired by it and you find yourself looking at his paintings only way more beautiful. Because of our car problems we reach oour accomodation late that evening- starving and wrecked! This time it is shared by two other groups one of which is in a party mood and get absolutely hammered and won´t let anyone else sleep that night. We are up at six the next day!

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Xmas eve (k´s xmas)! We begin by going to lake Colorado first thing. The lake is pink from minerals in the ground and is filled with flamencos (they are pink because they eat pink bacteria from the waters). It is amazing looking at these birds and the sourroundings again are unbelieveable. The day is filled with looking at amazing lagoons of all colours you can imagine (white, green, blue, brown.....). We visit live volcanos and see some flamingos! We lunch in the middle of a group of lamas. the last night is spent at a salt hotel right beside the big Salar...The whole hotlel is built of salt: walls, beds, table, chairs and is really warm. Because of the high altitude we have been freezing at night! We get our first shower in 3 days (how amazing). The family dine with us for the first time. We have good food and wine and we all get tipsy (we blame the high altitude- allows for a cheap drunk). We bought a doll for the baby girl and give it to her as her xmas present. She is so adorable and becomes our little mascot! We even have a xmas tree which some French guys brought. We end up having a real laugh. So weird to be sepnding xmas like this but everyone on the trip are so cool!

Xmas day! We all sleep in and wake up at 5am (!!!!!). Nearly miss the sunrise at the Salar. We knew the Salar would be vast but nothing prepares us for what we see. It is glistening white and you see nothing but white anywhere. We end up having a white xmas after all as it looks like snow! We manage to see the sunrise- although it is cloudy it is beautiful. We climb a mountain which is on an island and get a fabulous view of the Salar. Then we drive for miles and nothing but white. When we stop we take these really cool pictures which fool the eye because there is no sense of relativity on the Salar. Javier on top of everything else is a great photographer...

Karolina at 6am...
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Last stop is at a village about half an hour from Uyuni (where our journey ends) where we have lunch at another salt hotel. We arrive in Uyuni which most be the worst place on earth at 2 and all that is left before we say our goodbyes is to find a place to take out money to pay for the trip- there is no ATM in Tupiza and all the banks were closed so we were told that we could pay in Uyuni. Big mistake. There is only one ATM in Uyuni which was broke and all the banks were closed and noone in town although advertising they had Visa would take it. We spent about 4 hours running around the town like mad trying to get money while our guides had to wait. They were as knackered as we were but they had to drive for another 10 hours to get back! Eventually got money as we borrowed it from our Dutch bank but we were so pissed off and tired and were dying to get out of Uyuni. So eventually said our goodbyes- we all were so sad to see our guides leave. They were such amazing people and we will never forget them!

So xmas was so different but we are delighted we did it. We saw unforgettable stuff and met such nice people. AND we got a white xmas:-).

All that was left now was to get to Sucre....only 8 hours away on the worst roads ever! We decided to stop off in Potosi with Madeleine for the night and leave for Sucre the next day instead. Bus journey was the most bizzare expereince ever. We all sat at the very back of the bus with Martin in the middle seat. Not only were the roads so bad (luckily it was dark so we could not see how dangerous it really was) but Martin sat beside a very friendly but hammered Bolivian guy with whom he got to practise his Spanish. The guy eventually feel asleep. Only problem was that he keept on lying all over Martin and kept on weeing on himself. In front of him in the alley there was a young girl sitting on the ground using Martin´s legs as a head rest. This would have been ok if it wasn´t that she kept on sniffing glue with her like 5 year old brother and then vomitted and got a nosebleed all over. Hearbreaking stuff! It must be the worst experince ever but so eye opening and would not like to swap that experience for anything. Despite this we were happy to arrive in Potosi- although it was in the middle of the night. None of us had slept a wink and crashed at the hostel!

Posted by kmandmc 09:09 Archived in Bolivia

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