A week in Bolivia and already worked out that this place is different, less tourists, more difficult to travel, very poor BUT this country id the most incredible place to discover, beautiful landscapes and for good reasons is called the Tibet of Southamerica, The people are so friendly, bit shy, half of the population is of pure indigenous heritage…Bolivian women wear traditional clothing, big skirts and bowler hats, they carry their cute babies on the back, happy looking little bundles with red chicks and dark shiny eyes, lots of colors from top till toe…incredible sight. They are poor but proud people.
After the luxury train ride from the border to Uyuni (cost 100 Bs – ca.10 Euro, about a fifth of the average monthly income in Bolivia), we did just like any other tourist and booked the 3-day jeep tour to see the southwest corner of Bolivia including the world´s largest salt flat(Salzwueste) with Turismo Relampago – highly recommended – and really everything about the tour exceeded my expectations.
Firstly, it was like 3 days out of this world, like on a different planet, a bleak terrain, a desert-like, treeless landscape with colorful mountains and lakes, active vulcanos, lamas and flamingos. The tour started off with the famous salt flats and the Isla del Pescado, a vulcanic island with giant cacti offering great views over the snow white terrain that is just surreal and challenging for your eye…after that highlight we did not expect to see much more really but actually it got better every day. We drove through magnificient scenery, stopped in the middle of the most isolated and rugged land to be amazed by crazy rock formations, caves and pre-Inca sites, watched flamingos in a lagoon with perfect reflections of surrounding vulcanos (Laguna Canapa) and in a stunning red lagoon (Laguna Colorado). It takes a bit of wind and sun for the colors to come out. Another colorfull encounter was the green lagoon (Laguna Verde) which is a aquamarine lake, again perfect reflections of a vulcan… Also, we saw quite a few lamas, they look a bit like a mixture of sheep and camel, really fluffy and cute.
Secondly, a hand full of people…low season time, silence and just our in Toyota Jeep in the middle of nowhere, we were on our own for most of the times except for the evening when we joined up with other jeeps and people in basic accommodations. It helped that we were a good group of 7 -2 Argentinians, a Welsh, a Bolivian and a Mexican… and a Kiwi and a German girl (official photographer of the group) And there was EFRAIN our guide, driver, cook…all in one. He made sure we were the first on the set, see the geyers at sunrise in total solitude, jump into the thermal hot springs at 6am before everyone else made it out of bed. Against what other people told us, that drivers are often drunk and bored with the tourists, on coca all the time… not our guide, the only thing Efrain was addicted to were chocolate bonbons which he shared with us. He cooked yummie lunches and dinners for us and had coca leaves handy when the guys suffered from altitude sickness…and we went high!!! At one point we reached the 5.000m and walking slowly was the only way to not get completly knocked out. Brendon suffered from bad headache and some others from stomache troubles…poor boys. The girls were just fine, I had a bit short of breath when falling asleep but well. Our first overnight place was at 3.700m and the second night ar 4.330m…thats quite high. Must have helped to have grown up in the highest town of Germany (:
Lastly, the temperatures got quite low but its wasnt that freezing cold as expected, cosy rooms and plenty of blankets. Still, the wool hat, I had bought in Uyuni, came quite handy and I left it on my head for the full 3 days even when going into the hot springs…that makes for some cool photos.
Now we are still recovring from the trip, the shaking 3 days in the jeep, early mornings and another shaking busride from Uyuni to Potosi. Can´t quite get enough of the highland yet…we are Potosi, the highest city of the world!!! A lot of effort to go for a walk and find a Internet cafe…but I managed and surely there is more to come.