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      Salar de Uyuni, La Paz, and the world’s most dangerous road!

      Hello again family! I will try to catch up quickly on my adventures here in unbelievable Bolivia- sorry if it is a bit brief but these computers are terrible! Started on my tour of the Uyuni salt flats on April 28th. We left much later than I had been told we would, and I was put in a tour group with people from four other companies but everyone was very nice. There were two Canadians, two Belgians, two Englishwomen and me. And our driver, Milano, who was a 57 year old Bolivian. Our first stop was the salt flats, but we first had to push start our jeep – an excellent beginning. Has anyone seen little miss sunshine? It was like that…. We had our luggage piled on top of the jeep and the eight of us crammed inside. After an hour down the world’s dustiest road we came to the Salar de Uyuni, pretty much just an unending white nothingness as far as the eye could see. There were people working there, shoveling the salt up into little piles for trucks to take for processing – hot and unbearable work in my mind. We stopped to take some pics, then drove another hour to a salt hotel, which was, you guessed it, made completely out of salt. It was quite impressive sitting out in the middle of nowhere, and had a display of colorful flags in front that looked amazing against the all-white background. We headed further on (who knows how in the world the drivers knew where they were going, as there are no roads, no landmarks and no compasses) to the Isla del Sol, a cactus-covered island rising out of the salt. It was AMAZING, and the cacti on it even more so. The oldest on I saw was 1200 years old! gah! we had a nice lunch there and took a million funny photos. Who knew that just a huge expanse of nothingness could inspire such photographic creativeness?

      We spent the night at another salt hotel. The floor was grainy salt, the walls were bricks of salt, the beds were bricks of salt, the tables were bricks of salt, and the chairs were bricks of salt. You get the idea. I chased down a herd of vicuna to take their pictures, then watched (and felt) the sun sink behind the mountains. You could actually feel the air getting colder. The elevation is so high, over 10,000 feet, and at times it leaves you just gasping for air (not comfortable when you are sitting in a salt hotel and there is lots of salt in the air… I think my lungs are crystallized). There are times when you kind of realize where you are and what you are doing; dinner was that time. As I sat on my block of salt, eating alpaca (kind of fishy if you ask me) and drinking mate de coca I realized that yes, I am in Bolivia and it is indeed everything I thought it would be.

      We had to wake up at 5:30 the next morning (the 29th) and had an amazing breakfast starring what can only be described as hot, cake-like, super-moist corn bread. I was in love. We took off from the salt hotel and raced one of the other jeeps across the salt flats (we took a different route hoping to be faster but no luck… but man, Milano is one heck of a guy when it comes to changing gears and keeping his 1986 jeep in motion). The road that we slightly followed was a rough, irregular path with holes, sand, ditches, water, huge rocks and, well, sometimes just no path at all. It took three hours to reach a moon-like landscape full of huge rocks and craters. We took some pics then headed towards Laguna Colorada. It was aptly named: the lake was a beautiful sparkly pink and filled with flamingos. We stopped only for a few minutes as we were headed to another lake for lunch with even more flamingos. I took a crazy amount of pictures and enjoyed our lunch of fried chicken. Yum. After Laguna Colorada we headed into what looked like the Sahara, with nothing but sand (instead of salt) for as far as you could see. Every now and then there were huge, strange rocks strewn about, and you can only wonder where in the heck they came from, as there is just nothing else there. We promptly got a flat tire as soon as we hit the desert but had it changed in no time (we carried a spare on the roof of the car) and carried on. We got into the hostel we were staying at rather late, as the sun was setting over a very scenic lake. It was freezing, and the place we were staying in was made of as much cement as the Hotel de Sal had been made of salt. It was COLD. We were at 4280m (I think that’s about 13,000 feet?) and I had to sleep in my bag with all my clothes on and my sleeping bag liner and my hat and my gloves and two blankets over me. Did I mention it was cold? We had to wake up at 4:30 the next morning so actually sleeping in all of my clothing made getting up quite easy. We packed the car up under the stars (they were amazingly clear, and so many of them).

      We took off into the cold air and after about two seconds, when Milano started driving with his head out of the window, we realized that we had better do something about the ice on the inside of the windshield. Dennis, the Canadian, gave me two phone cards and I spent the next hour scraping ice periodically off the inside of the windshield so that our driver could see. Sweet. We stopped to watch the sunrise at some geysers (they were huge, larger than those at Banos de Caulle in Chile) and watched anther jeep fully remove and disassemble their carburetor before we headed in the freezing cold (did I mention it was cold? cause it was cold) with the windows down (so our breath would stop freezing on the inside of the windshield) to some hot springs. We passed the most amazing scenery, beautiful colored mountains with amazing rocks, but when we got to the springs I was too cold to even try to get in. I sat on the edge with the other wimps and just warmed my ice-like toes, but the Canadians and the Belgian guy all got into the steamy water. Ahhh……

      oh no, the computer lab is closing in five minutes! Ah! I will have to finish this later!

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