Our Way To
March 17, 2007
This morning we set out for our 2-day adventure to Bolivia. Most of us were in a bit of a time crunch so it made sense to try to
condense this to just a couple days.
I was beyond relieved when we got to the Bolivian border and I had no problems despite being American. I only say this because
Americans ‘officially’ need a visa to enter this country as of January 1, 2007 in the name of reciprocity. I was told that this hadn’t
gone into play yet and with the rate that Bolivia works, who knows when they were going to start to enforce this. Well, that was all I
needed to hear to not worry about it. That being said, I was still thankful when I paid my 1500 Chilean pesos (less than $3 US) just
like everybody else and got my passport stamped to move on into their country.
It was also at the border that we learned that our ‘tour privado’ wasn’t going to be quite as private as we had thought. It turned out
a couple of English guys (Karl and Marc) were going to be adventuring with us since they had opted for the condensed tour version,
too. Hey, the more the merrier…well, as long as nobody was painfully annoying (which I could tell was not going to be a problem).
We were now on our way!
Markus was our driver and the rest of the crew consisted of Emily, Marc and Karl (all from England) and Robin and Lindsey (from
Canada). Oh yeah. And me. By the end of the day, we would call ourselves ‘Team Fast-Track’. Quite fitting considering how much
ground we covered by the time we got to the hotel tonight.
Because we were on the fast-track, we didn’t waste too much time getting out and gazing at lakes. There were some that were
much better than others that we chose to give a bit more time. For example, Laguna Colorado (at least I think that was the name of
it) that had shades of reddish-pink in it and had many flamingo inhabitants. One of the highlights of my day, though, was going to
the thermal waters and soaking in them. The scenery was gorgeous and the hot water could not have felt better. Ahhh… And to
think that Markus wasn’t going to let us enjoy these because of our fast-track route. Six against one really doesn’t give a person the
best odds, huh?
Next we headed to the area where the geysers are. We weren’t there at a time when they were going off but that didn’t really
matter. I was still impressed watching the gurgling, sputtering mud. I felt like I was watching a witch’s cauldron. Fun stuff.
It is not a secret that I tend to get a bit obsessive about animals in certain parts of the world. Clearly, the animal out here to get
excited about is the ever-so-cuddly-looking llama. These even had some flare going on – the little red yarn ribbons in their ears.
They were just screaming to be taken home to lead the ‘pet’ life; however, I don’t think customs would see it that way. I would
have to let them be.
The landscape during the entire day was absolutely incredible. I would have expected everything to be brown…being in the desert
and all. But that was not the case at all. Everything from the mountains to the rock formations were in shades of pinks. Beautiful
The altitude was starting to substantially increase. This made me a bit tired at first and then a bit light-headed. The rest of the
crew had a better effect and got a bit silly. Why couldn’t I have had that reaction? I definitely got the short end of the stick.
We got to see the sunset while we were driving along. The only problem that came from this was that the rest of the drive was going
to be in the pitch black. I think we were all just hoping Markus had the energy it took to do this (as we all read before that it is not
uncommon for drivers to fall asleep at the wheel during these trips). To make this a bit more exciting for us, Mother Nature decided
to give us an electrical storm. The lightning was appearing to get closer and closer. I think it was Emily and Marc who started
coming up with all of the ‘possibilities’ of what could happen due to the lightning. It was then that we all put our rubber flip-flops on.
Now it was pouring rain and the ‘road’ was becoming flooded. It was starting to look hit-or-miss as to whether we were ever going
to make it to the hotel. Just a few minutes later we saw light. It was our hotel. Hallelujah!
As we headed into the hotel, everybody who was already there seemed to be observing the crazy weather that was going on. The
workers weren’t observing this though as they were far too busy trying to push out the water that was flooding the entire ground
floor of the place. The flooding made no difference to us as we got to our room and noticed really nice, comfy beds waiting for us. Far
better than what we were expecting.
March 18, 2007
This morning I woke up to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. Granted, I don’t see too many sunrises these days.
But there was no way I could go back to sleep. I had to go outside and look at it. Shades of bright oranges and pinks were
illuminating against the salt flats. Spectacular.
Team Fast-Track was ready to start the day. It was 8:00am and we were packed and ready to go. Except for one small thing.
Markus was nowhere to be found. It turned out another group’s vehicle was broken down and Markus was helping him out with
fixing it. Two hours later we were able to leave.
Around 10:00am was when we headed out to the highlight of this adventure: Salar de Uyuni.
It started with driving through what seemed like a shallow lake but was actually 30cm of water sitting on top of the salt flats. The
water (that was clear with just a tinge of blue) went out forever and was sparkling from the sun shining down on it. We saw strips of
white out in the distance. Out in this area you know that means one thing: a dry surface lies ahead.
Once we got to dry salty land, we all got out and couldn’t help but play around like kids. We were running, spinning, jumping,
striking poses. While we were goofing around, Markus was checking under the hood of the 4x4. That is always reassuring. We would
let Markus continue to do his thing while we continued to do ours. This included a Team Fast-Track pyramid. Lindsey then came
up with doing a scene out of the Thriller video. We were quick studies – except for Marc who was moved to the role of videographer
for us. Maybe that was the reason why he said we looked a bit more like puppy dogs rather than the zombies from the video???
After a few videos, jumps, pyramids and handstands, we headed back into the car. Minutes later we were in the part of the Salar de
Uyuni that was under a bit of water yet shallow enough for us to stop. Now this was what it is all about. This is where a person can
easily lose their sense of perception as it is difficult to see where one thing ends and the next starts. This was most obvious with the
puffy clouds in the sky as the entire salt flat was sky-blue with puffy clouds. Completely surreal. We did more running, jumping,
posing, etc. If that wasn’t enough, we were also getting complimentary foot exfoliation treatments while doing all of this. Does it get
By the time we got to the Salt Hotel we were all completely covered by the salty water (which was made more obvious by those of
us who opted to wear black today). Our feet had even started to sparkle because of the salt crystallizing.
I am sure that there is no explanation needed as to what the Salt Hotel is. It tends to be a bit self-explanatory. We made a little
picnic for ourselves outside on the salt table and sat on the little salt stools. Everything here was made of salt. And here I thought it
was just used to give food more flavor.
It was eventually time to say good-bye to Salar de Uyuni. We stopped in a little village on our way to Uyuni. I was excited as I got
to play with a llama. It was calm and sweet and reminded me of a big stuffed animal. How come nobody else is as excited about the
llamas as I am? I’m beginning to think that I might have a problem that is apparent to others but not to me.
When we arrived in the town of Uyuni, one thing was clear. While maybe not in distance, we are a world away from Chile now. The
Bolivian women look exactly how you would expect them to: the colors, the clothes, the deep-set lines on their faces. It is hard to
take my eyes off of them.
We now have our bus tickets to head to La Paz tonight at 8:00pm. We just put back a few beers. The cut-off time was 6:00pm as it
is now time to go into dehydration mode for our bus that is not equipped with toilet facilities. We are about to cap off our Uyuni
experience with some pizza. And then it is off to the bus. I think five hours in this town was more than enough. I am ready to move
|The reflection of the sky on the salt flats.
|Team Fast-Track at the Salt Hotel.
|Striking a pose on the salt flats.