The Last Week’s Adventures, of which there were Quite a Few

Howdy all!

Sorry for the long hiatus from updates, I have been far from any place civilized enough to have internet connections, let alone electricity. Please, allow me to explain.

One of the greatest attractions of Bolivia is the Salar de Uyuni, which is the largest salt lake in the world, weighing in at 12,000 square kilometers, or about twice the size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I was like, “heck yes I’m going,” so I booked a tour from Potosi to do a three-day excursion into the wild. The bus ride was most stunning between the two towns (Potosi and Uyuni, that is) — take a gander at this.

Adobe hut on the road to Uyuni

Anyways, after eight dusty and bumpy hours, we rolled into the tiny town of Uyuni. Along the way we passed an interesting place — a tiny village that I honestly thought was a ghost town until people started emerging from the decrepitude at the approach of our bus. The raison d’etre of this pueblito was that it boasted the first train ever to ever enter Bolivia, but much more cool it had a train that had once been robbed by none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Wow! But regardless, the place was really depressing, and I’m glad we didn’t stop there for long.

After an incredible night in a SINGLE ROOM (what luxery!) with a DOUBLE BED I got up, ran around the market buying up water and munchies, then jumped into the Landcruiser with six other tourists and our guide, Edwin (pronounced with a Spanish accent). First destination, the Salar.

After lunch in a salt mining village (they dig it up out of the flats, then grind and iodize it before selling it) where everything was made from salt bricks, we headed out. Being the rainy season, the flats were totally flooded with about three inches of water, so we unfortunately could not drive very fast. The salt water splashes up and ruins the electrical system, supposedly. This meant we could not do the very cool trick photography on the flats (due to the absolute lack of perspective, you can run way off into the distance, and rather than looking like you’re far away, you just look tiny. This allows for many humorous trick photos, but sadly I have none), but the reflection of the sky and mountains was unreal. It was very bizarre. There you stand, in a total flatness stretching off in all directions, with the only things visible on the horizon being the snowy peaks of mountains about 250 miles away. Where there were no mountains, one can’t even distinguish the line between water and sky . . . a horizonless land is disconcerting to say the least. Being unconvinced about the salinity, I tasted the water. It was indeed very salty, and my curiosity was satisfied.

Our Jeep on the Salar

We walked around in this strange landscape, and for the next four days my pant cuffs and Blundstones were whitely encrusted with salt, which no amount of water would dislodge. In fact, today is the first day since then that I have black boots, thanks to a boot-blacker here in Sucre. Oh, I suppose I’ll tell you all . . . I decided not to go to Chile, and rather just pay the 165 Bs. for a new visa. It probably worked out to be the same price anyhow. Anyways, forgive my digression, and I shall continue.

We left the Salar and drove back through Uyuni to a tiny village where we spent the night. We settled in to wait for dinner, and watched Jackie Chan movies which were unfortunately under control of the remote-control-weilding little girl who lived there. In just under two hours, we watched four movies in little segments, as she would constantly skip some parts or re-watch others. It was certainly the most aggravating movie experience I’ve ever had, and it was just made worse by the fact that we waited for over two hours for the lady to cook some dessicated fried chicken and soggy french fries.

The night was horrible. One of the members of our group, a 62-year-old Japonese man (more about him later . . . this guy was a true character), was unfortunately endowed with symphonic snoring abilities, and nobody (except him) got more than three hours of sleep. He woke up refreshed, we woke up angry. Nobody really spoke to him all day, except Edwin, because he had a seperate room.

But after a nice strong cup of Nescafe, I was ready to roll. First stop, the incredible Bay of Rocks, which is an area consisting of at least 10 square kilometers containing the most incredible rock formations I’d ever seen. They were so fun to scramble around on! It honestly beats Ellison Park or Twin Lakes all to hell for cool rock scrambling.

Californian dude riding a rock.

Soon, we were off again, and began climbing up to the high deserts which made up the bulk of the next two days. A word about these deserts: amazing. It is literally an endless expanse of sand, interrupted by the occasional soda lake or random rock, ringed by craggy Andean peaks, all at about 5000 meters above sea level. For those of you in Victoria, that’s five kilometers, straight up.

We drove all day through this, stopping at various points of interest, mostly the soda lakes, in each of which were hundred or thousands of pink flamingos. Yes, flamingos.


A brief side note . . . all these pictures are also on my Flickr page, I just enjoy taking the best ones to spice up my posts. Don’t hesitate to check out all my pictures! To give you an idea of the immensity of the desert, have a gander at the following picture. It was quite a run out there, and let me assure you, ANY physical exertion of any type is almost impossible at these altitudes. It was a full ten minutes before my lungs stopped burning and my heart rate reduced to a tolerable level. It was an additional fifteen before full comfort had been re-attained. By the time I get back down to sea level, I swear the air will seem like soup!

Me in the desert

There you have it. There’s a lot more great pictures on my Flickr page, and honestly I’m done trying to explain with words. Not only is my butt getting really sore sitting here, but the pictures should explain a lot better. The only thing they cannot convey is the absolute immensity of the scenes, the whipping wind, or the sense of absolute desolation and isolation one gets standing there. But for that you’ll just have to visit yourselves.

Perhaps this is a good time to put in a few sentences about our Japonese amigo. He barely spoke Spanish, but that sure didn’t stop him from trying! I spent many hours answering banal questions about any matter of things, though I’m sure (or am I?) the banality was only due to his barely-existent grasp of Spanish. It turns out the poor guy had booked a flight from La Paz to Santiago, Chile, without realizing that he could have gotten off the tour in San Pedro and bussed to Santiago. The fella had to go all the way back to La Paz (a long way), and for the entirity of two days it was all he could talk about. At one point, while chilling next to a laguna, he came and squatted next to the Californian and I, and asked how to say “shit.” Due to his position, I thought he had to go, and offered him some toilet paper, but the Californian correctly intuited that the Japonese guy just wanted to swear. So we said, “you say ‘shit,'” and said it he did, at the top of his lungs. It was hilarious. In fact, he was very prone to vocal outbursts: any time he found something surprising, or finally understood something he’d been confused about, or in any moment of emotion at all, he let off this huge Japanese shout, somewhat akin to what I would imagine Samurai warriors letting loose before an especially powerful swing of the sword. His gesticulations were a matter of amazement to me as well. As he struggled through his speech, one word by agonizing word, he would define the most delicate abstract finger paintings in the air in front of his face. Geometric shapes, swirls, jabs, and forms which defy description — none were exempt from being traced by his fingers as he spoke.

He had a special amazement with me, and most especially my backpack (actually Lauren’s . . . thank you so much!). He was astounded that it was all the gear I had for three months, and took several photographs of it from various angles. He then presented me with a pad and pen and asked me to write a list of everything I had in the bag. Naturally, I did so, while he watched and slowly stamped his foot on the floor. I showed him some of my packing techniques, which are now immortalized in Japanese script in his notebook. What a guy.

For the last night, we stayed in the dormitories for the park rangers. Praise be, there was a cantina there, with Coca-Cola (honestly the most universally available product. You can get it anywhere and everywhere), but more importantly rum! The Californian and I were very excited, and got down to business.

Gettin’ er done, with the Japonese guy in the background.

Okay, I’m going to speed things up now. We woke up for a ridiculously cold and early morning and headed off for some geysers in the area. These were no geysers in the Old Faithful sense, because only steam shot up from the ground, but were still amazing, because it was essentially giant potholes filled with bubbling mud, emitting this disgusting sulphur smoke. After we walked through them we got to the other side, where a prominent sign was posted, warning any and all not to approach that which we had just walked through. Look at the pictures for more info.

Then it was off to some thermal baths for a quick swim, then to the Chilean border!

I’m fading quickly . . .

Anyways, fast forward to right now. I am now in Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia (but all the government buildings are in La Paz), the “White City” of Bolivia, and the Chocolate capital of Bolivia. That’s a lot of titles! However, most importantly, this place is clean, has trees, and the poverty is not as apparent as in Potosi, Uyuni, or even La Paz. This place is beautiful! It is so nice to be in a place where poverty does not stare you in the face everywhere you go . . .

I’ve decided to stay here for at least a week more, especially considering that the next leg of my trip to Santa Cruz is an 18 hour bus ride. I need to chill out muchly before attempting that one. For some reason, the Bolivians never open the windows on the buses, due to the “dust,” and prefer instead to sit in sweltering stale air, breathing in other people’s (and sometimes my) farts.

I’ve probably forgotten some of the coolest parts of the adventures, but oh well. If I remember I might post it. If not, well, oh well.

Hi Mark!

‘K Bye.


~ by turvyc on February 14, 2008.

3 Responses to “The Last Week’s Adventures, of which there were Quite a Few”

  1. you look like a farmer 🙂

    i like your pictures. they are nice indeed.

  2. Hi Colin,
    That is some neat stuff you described. I will have to try to see this Flicker page. I salute you for undertaking such an adventure and with only a backpack and I suppose limited funds. I am glad that you are getting to see and experience such a different world. Thank you for sharing. Take care of yourself.

  3. I stumbled on your blog while googling something completely different and let me say that I’m VERY jealous of your adventures! I also wanted to mention that the Bay of Rocks looks like Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. I have a picture of a friend sitting on one of the “goblins” in the exact same pose as you! I guess some things are universal.

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