A Travellerspoint blog

December 2008

Welcome Miss Maja

Maja Carolan

Well the sad thing about travelling is that we miss all the major events at home, the happy and the sad ones.

But congrats to Jennie and Paul on the birth of their baby Maja :)

Little Maja..

Posted by kmandmc 11:28 Comments (0)


Some Pictures of our travels not in the blog!!!


Posted by kmandmc 13:27 Comments (0)

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.


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!


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...





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 Comments (0)

Hi Bolivia, bye Argentina!

Travelling to Bolivia

sunny 30 °C

We decided to enter Bolivia by taking the overnight bus from Salta to the border La Quiaca. Talk about shock to the system. After all the easy travelling and feeling like we are in Europe the bus to the border was like being thrown into the deep end to say he least. The Bus was dirty, dingy and smelly and we stopped every 10 minutes so no sleep at all. We were told that it would be full of gringos and to just follow them but we were the only ones on the bus- turned out we took the non gringo Bus!

We arrived at six in the moring and it was freezing cold. No signs telling us how to get to the border so we just started following the locals who looked like they were travelling (that is an under exaggeration- all the Bolivians carry what seems like being their whole house on their shoulders when they travel). Finally found it and the exiting Argentina thing and entering Bolivia was not too bad at all. Although, once in Bolivia it really hit us that we were now in South America! Roads dirty and messy, people everywhere dressed in either indigenous clothing or just looked very poor. Cars look 100 years old and dogs everywhere. But oh how fascinating it all really was!!! As we were looking for a bus to take us to Tupiza we were confused and amazed by how messy it all was. The bus station does not really look like a station and people everywhere trying to get us to go with their company!

Eventually bought a ticket and when we saw the bus that would take us we nearly died. It looked so old and like it wouldnt be able to run for 5 meters. As we wait to get our bags the ticket lady who is supposed to give everyone tickets for our luggage completely ignored us and lets all the locals on. As we try to ask her why she won´t listen. Finally we are convinced that we have been fooled and that there is no way she will let us on. Then all of a sudden she tells us to run with her to another bus which is moving- she stops the bus and tells us to get on. Turns on we are on a different company than we bought tickets from and have to sit at the back as those are te only ticketrs available. So messy but finally we were on our way to tupiza.

When people say the bus trips in Bolivia are mad they are not joking. 3 hours on a dirt road with a mental driver. But although we are shitting ourselves this feeling quickly dissapears as the lanscape around us is unbelievably beautiful- like nothing we have ever seen. Meet Eimear (Ireland) and Dan (England) on the bus who end up staying in the same hostel as us!

Arrive at La Torre Hostel which is actually quite nice. Immediately try to organise our Salar de Uyuni trip. We have already been in touch with Tupiza tours and went to chat to them. Walked stright into their xmas party and were offered wine, champagne and food. In the midst of their partying we tried to organise the tour and it was very messy. Not least because we were trying to fit the tour so that we could arrive in Sucre for xmas were we had booked a hotel. Eventually had to concede to the fact that if we wanted to make the tour we will hav to spend xmas on the Salar and rebook the hotel in Sucre. Initially not the nicest prospect but will turn out to be the best decision ever! So we decide to leave on the 22nd of December which means we have the whole next day free- decide to try our hands on horse riding again as we loved it so much the last time the next day.

Tupiza is just like a town like you would see dipicted as a South Smerican town on TV. So different than Argentina but truly facinating and absolutely beautiful! Nothing in the town itself whatsoever but the surroundings are something else.

Horseriding the next day is great because of the views. However horses are tired and slow (particulary Karolinas) and our guide is only 14. Very tame compared to Mendoza as all flat and we only galopped at the end. We went with a nice Argeninian couple so we got to practice our Spanish. They both have horses themselves so although they must have been bored they did not show it and said that it was still great because of the surroundings.

Until next time...

Posted by kmandmc 09:37 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Getting closer to South America....

Salta is so different to the rest of Argentina. People really look South American and it really starts feeling like we have finally arrived in South America. Both K and M stand out like a sore tumb. Salta suprises us- it is probably the prettiest town in Argentina so far with loads of colonial buildings. We stay in a lovely if not a bit too quiet hostel called Las Rejas.

First day is spent walking around the city and we go to the MAAM museum. The north of Argentina has a fantastic Inca history and the museum shows a girl that was found in 1999 in the mountains outside of Salta. She is something like 500 years old but is next to perfectly preserved. She was offered by her Inca tribe to the Gods. It was really bizzare to see her as she just looked like she was asleep.

That evening we have a nice meal in a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant and have a stroll down the main bar street. Looks really cool but quiet as a only a weekday. We should have stayed here at a weekend and partied as looks like a great party palce. Ah well…..

All good until we try to book a mountain trip the next day with our credit card. We notice that we lost it Ouch. Luckily we left it at the restaurant from the night before. Our hosts at the hostel kindly helps us retrieve it Pheww….
All the travelling is starting to catch up with us so we take it relatively easy. Decide to go up to the viewpoint San Bernard just at the outskirts of the city. We decide to walk up the steps although there is a cable car- for a reason we soon find out. Steps up- all 1500 of them- are very steep which would be ok if it was not for the fact that it is sooooo hot. We get up eventually sweating like mad but views are really cool of the city and the mountains surrounding it. We opt for the cable car back though….We book a mountainbike tour for the next day.

Meet our guide at 9am. Fransisco is actually the son of the owners of the hostel. Really nice guy who is very knowledgeable of Salta and the surroundings. We drive for about an hour outside Salta where we start our tour. The tour goes along where the famous train of the clouds normally go….It is a beautiful trek, surrounded by the mountains. We cycle along the track with the mountains around us and the river along side us. Our guide is really good. We even stop at hidden gems like a small waterfall and try our hand at climbing.


As we get back to the hostel we hang around to wait for our 12am bus to La Quicaca. For once we have time to catch up with some emails. Little did we know that we would end up being out of touch with the world for over a week…..

Posted by kmandmc 08:41 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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