Everything is possible. Nothing is certain…

This was Cristian Castro’s philosophy, our 4×4 driver and guide to the Uyuni salt flats. It became our motto for Bolivia.

We started our tour of Uyuni on a crisp Friday morning; 8 of us in a Toyota Landcruiser (Cristian, his girlfriend – our cook, an Auzzie couple – Laura and Alex, their friend Seb, a Japanese girl called Megumi, Ise and I). First stop was the “train graveyard”, where 100-year old decommissioned trains lie rusting in the desert.

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After that, we headed into the salt flats, which are most surreal – huge expanses of blinding white salt, crystallised into hexagons, where you can play camera tricks with the perspective.

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In the middle of the salt flats, is cactus island, boasting a really tall and a really old (and decrepit looking) cactus, as well as a coral archway, which really helped us to imagine the whole place covered with sea millions of years ago.

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The second day of the trip was mostly lagoons; flamenco (flamingo) lagoon, the Laguna Colorado, which was really beautiful (unusually red, due to the algae), but freezing cold and the green lagoon, which looked enticing, but had no wildlife, as it contains arsenic!

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We also stopped at some pretty cool rock formations which looked like; a pregnant lady, an old man’s face, an Inca and a tree. On our way to that night’s accommodation, Seb asked Cristian if it would be possible to buy some beers at the hostal/shack/barn. Our guide’s reply? See blog title. Luckily, on this occasion there were beers and even hot spiced wine, which tasted like Christmas and warmed us all up immensely as the temperature dropped dramatically after dark.

On the third and final day we got up insanely early to see geysers shooting up from the ground (apparently the cold of the early morning, -2oc, sets them off) and bubbling mud pools that were, by contrast 95 degrees c.

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Seb and Alex were brave (or stupid?) enough to go for a dip in the hot water pools near the geysers, which while cosy and warm once they were in the water, meant stripping down to swimming trunks and plucking up the courage to get out again into the freezing temperatures for breakfast..!

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On the last day we also drove through the “Dali desert”, a desert with just a few randomly placed rocks, with a mountain backdrop. If we hadn’t been so cold, we might have been clever enough to try and do a melting picture here.

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I didn’t enjoy the Salar trip as much as Ise, because I didn’t feel at all well; starting with a sore throat on Friday, developing into a head/eye ache, exhaustion and enough snot to make me look and sound like Mrs F.T. Bogeyman. The severe cold and biting winds of the second and third days, early starts (5am!) and lack of facilities (no hot water, or heating) didn’t help matters and meant that I was much happier staying in the jeep and looking out of the window than getting out to explore. Luckily, I could see pretty much everything from the relative comfort of the backseat and just had to get out for the occasional photo. More of those here

10 things we found to be true in Bolivia

1. Everything comes with chips. Including soup. Actually IN the soup.
2. There’s always something fluffy and long-necked trying to cross the road; vicunas, alpacas, llamas
3. Toilets do not have toilet paper. Or soap. And it will cost you anywhere from 10-50p for a wee.
4. Toilets on buses are usually locked, for no apparent reason.
5. Every plug socket sparks dangerously.
6. Bolivians love a protest – bus travel is frequently cancelled or delayed because of blockading farmers and families.
7. If a Bolivian can help you, they generally will. Even if they can’t speak any English and they don’t understand your limited Spanglish.
8. No one in the whole country has any change.
9. Everything in Bolivia can be suffixed “of death”, be it showers, electrical fittings, roads, buses etc.
10. Whoever the black-market bowler hat seller is (we didn’t see any being sold), he’s raking it in.

UPDATE: We did a bit more research into the origin of the bowler hats and it seems nobody really knows where they came from, although the most favoured explanation is that British railway workers introduced them in the 1920s. Here’s a video with a bit more information, the local ladies take them very seriously indeed.

15 Comments so far

  1. mum H-G on October 21st, 2009

    I love the photo of you both either side of the cactus. What fun you are having – and me too by proxy. I enjoyed the ‘little song’- the first 3 or 4 times it played but have you used Inca magic to make it stay in my brain and sing to me at odd times throughout the day?  I CAN’T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!!! Keep warm, stay safe and remember: everything is possible, nothing is certain – I think that expression will stay in the family lexicon for a very long time. Mx

  2. Mum and Dad C on October 21st, 2009

    Poor sausage, having a cold in the cold! I love the picture of you sitting on Ise’s hand.

  3. Ivana on October 21st, 2009

    Helloooo, Well! I have just about recovered from Isse’s hellish bike ride. I saw the posting and got the gist in a rush as I was about to leave for my 3 day coach trip to Kent, yes Kent you read it right. My heart started racing so decided to read it all when I got back. I realised he survived it all as he sent the blog and there was no report on the national news, but I was still a nervous wreck when I did view it all. Well done and how much was the extra insurance?
    Moving on , I see that the spirit of Nelson lives on in S. America ( black cat in bad mood pic)and that only Gude could make a miners bin bag look good. Sorry to hear you have a cold, get better soon.XX
    Am I right in thinking it is a HAPPY BIRTHDAY day for Isse tomorrow? Well have a fantastic one ,whatever you are doing and have a drink on us. Lots and lots of love and many good wishes. Ivana and Mick

  4. Gude on October 21st, 2009

    That llama song is SO SO catchy isn’t it?!  Sorry…  x

  5. Gude on October 21st, 2009

    Am almost all better now (just a bit of sniffles) – the warm weather and wine ice-cream is helping!  😉

  6. Gude on October 21st, 2009

    It took you 3 days to get to Kent?! 

    The extra insurance was £18 I think and worth every penny!  Would you believe our RTW travel insurance covers us for bungee-jumping and sky-diving, but not downhill mountain biking..?

    Yes, it is Ise’s birthday on Friday and we’ll be in Buenos Aires hopefully winning bets at the horse races and learning to tango…  😎   I am sure he’ll message you separately, but thank you both very much for the drinks xx

  7. Nunk on October 21st, 2009

    Love the Gudi of the lamp photo – it really does look quite believable that Gude is sitting on Ise’s hand. Looking forward to the tango dancing – although I believe the Argentinian tango isn’t quite like the Europeanised version.  lots of love to you both xx
    Nunk

  8. Rhian on October 22nd, 2009

    On broadband at home at last so thought I would say Hi! to both and Happy birthday to Ise and get better soon to Gude.Following your trip avidly.I like the look of Bolivia though woluld not like to be driving my Meriva on my own there.Good chance of going round in circles!continue to have fun.When you get to Patagonia I will send some Welsh phrases for you to impress the locals.Lots of love.Rhian Paul

  9. Isaac on October 22nd, 2009

    A lot more flicks and kicks in the Argentine version I think and will probably be dreadful at either but will give it a go while we’re here!

  10. Gude on October 23rd, 2009

    Thanks Rhian!  Ise would like to know how to say, “I’ll have a beer please” and I would like to know the words for “Honeymoon” and “Discount”!  x

  11. Karen & Jessica on October 23rd, 2009

    Happy Birthday Isaac and get better soon Gude.  Stay warm and well both of you.
    Karen and Jessica
    xx

  12. Sam and Hayley on October 23rd, 2009

    Hello to you both and happy birthday to you Ise. We’ve just caught up on the last three weeks and you’re truly a frinking nutter doing that bike ride! Not too sure that I would have been allowed to have done it myself!!! Off to see the old two tomorrow and the sage on Sunday, glad they’re back in the UK at last! Can’t say we have been up to as much you two over the last month, painted the spare room and walked the hound a few times, not quite fast mountain biking or unique sight seeing but still I like the new colour and watching him swim! lol, OMG have I have just said lol & OMG??!! Take care, love to you both. Sam n H

  13. Claire, Adam & Izzy on October 27th, 2009

    I’m so behind on your blog!  Sounds likes you’re having an amazing time.  Email will be on its way soon, Izzy is just so ENTERTAIN ME at the moment that I don’t get more than 5 mins at a time … xx

  14. Stine on October 28th, 2009

    Happ very belated birthday Goolie! Fab blog guys and love the pictures. Gudie, I hope you are feeling better now. Stay safe guys – miss you!
    xx

  15. Gude on November 1st, 2009

    Hehe, I am behind on writing it!  Love to you all x