I mentioned in my last post that Cafeyate was like geographical porn but as we’ve moved up the Andes and into Bolivia, it has just got better and better! Warning: there are a LOT of pictures in this post!
After the disaster of the landslide, we had to change our route and had a very long journey from Salta to Uyuni that included a bus, then a taxi, then walking across the border, then another taxi, then another bus then an overnight bus. Only the first bus had air con so many of us were feeling very unwell before stopping at the most amazing restaurant ever for dinner. Bolivia is a strange country to me. I’ve never really heard much about it on the news or in classes at uni but probably because until recently it has been on of the poorest and underdeveloped countries in South America. Although it is still one of the poorest, it is growing 3.5x faster than any country on the continent so there is improvement going on everywhere but Bolivian people are still keeping to their roots.
In 1832 Bolivia split from Peru and then lost many battles with other Latin countries. When it lost its coastline to chile, Britain helped make a train network through Chile and Argentina and it is still in use today. We started our day at the Train Cemetery of all the original trains from this train line.
Our next stop will probably be the highlight of my whole entire trip: Salar De Uyuni. The Bolivian Salt Flat was a lake 66 million years ago but has since dried up and contains the purest salt on Earth. Under the surface it is a funnel shape and is 153m deep at the deepest point. We were lucky that it had rained the night before as some areas were still flooded and we got some good pictures of reflections.
For the night, we stayed in a very small village that is in the process of creating 25 little villas and it is beautiful! All the locals came to see us as we were served dinner and we are only the third group to stay at this new place! The best thing about is was, almost everything was made of salt!!
The next morning a few of us woke up at 4:45am to hike up a hill to watch the sunrise. The towns leader lead us up and told us all about their traditions, which I translated into English. My favourite thing was that every year they have a market at the top of the hill and exchange crops etc for fake money. The purpose is to bring together the community and encourage business. On this day, the children also make little houses for the older generation to “buy” and then they can sit in their house with a beer. The whole festival is the villagers praying for a good year of harvest as they provide all their own food.
The next day we went on a very long drive in our 4x4s. We started off in a part of the Andes with volcanos. There were a few dormant ones and one active one which is very heavily monitored because it would have the most dangerous type of eruption with pyroclastic flow and also the ability to make a rain cloud from the lava of 1000 degrees celcius which could rain down anywhere in a 100km radius. All the surrounding rocks were once lava and are often used as bricks for houses and churches as they are earthquake resistant and easy to sculpt.
Our next few stops were all huge lakes scattered with three types of flamingo; Chilean, Andean and James (which is close to extinction). They are only here in summer for mating season and then move to different lakes. In the Laguna Colorada (the Red Lake) there are approximately 350,000 flamingos which is the densest population in the world. The reason for this is that the alkaline water is the perfect environment for krill which is the main food of flamingos. The krill is what makes their feathers pink which then provides UV protection for them. From the angle we were looking at it, the Laguna Colorada is 3km wide and 25km long!
On our way to our next accommodation, we saw a lot of abandoned villages. The people who lived here used to be borax miners. Borax was extracted for TNT and something else which I can’t remember but became protected so all of the villagers left.
Our next accommodation was even more simple but somehow gave us all the drunkest night yet! We were served pique macho which is a traditional Bolivian dish with chips, sausage, beef, peppers, onions and boiled eggs! Sounds weird but was really tasty! We were able to purchase wine and beer here so everyone drank from 10 mins after we arrived until 10:30 when the electricity was turned off and then we moved into someone’s room with all our torches and carried on drinking. The night started with my fake bat mitzvah and then just got weirder from then!!
The only thing that is difficult about seeing such amazing things is that a photo will never really show how amazing they are! After spending a few days travelling by bus and car, we’ve all used nature’s toilet a lot and I think my butt has seen more amazing sights in a few days than some people will see in a lifetime!