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Salar de Uyuni Tour

sunny 20 °C
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On Saturday, 7th May, I finally went on the tour of the Salar de Uyuni. On the way to the bus terminal in Potosí I had met 3 Australians who wanted to take the same tour, so we decided to meet up in Uyuni to book a tour together. Together with us on the tour was a Peruvian couple.

The first stop of the tour was Colchani, a village were the salt miners live. Here they have a small salt museum and they sell things made out of salt. Not exactly the highlight of the trip, but after this immediately followed the Salar! It is really impressive! The salt lake is massive and all you can see in the horizon is white!

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni


Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni


We had fun taking many (funny) photos on the Salar and when the guides finally told us we were leaving after several hours, we were still reluctant to go.

I got a bit hungry on the Salar...

I got a bit hungry on the Salar...


...and had myself a snack ;-)

...and had myself a snack ;-)


But then the guides got hungry too and made a big stew

But then the guides got hungry too and made a big stew


After having seen the highlight of the tour, we went to wash the salt of the car and then started our journey South. However, on the way our car starting having some problems and suddenly it broke down in the middle of the road. Our driver and cook spent some time trying to find and fix the problem, and luckily they eventually did! So we continued our trip and soon reached the train cemetery. In this location we saw a lot of old trains which were brought here when they were not fit to be used anymore. Interesting to see them all rust away together.

Train cemetery

Train cemetery


This was the last stop of the first day and we drove on to our accommodation in a small village. The accommodation was not as bad as we had heard from others who had taken a 3-day tour. There was running water and electricity. There even were showers, but you had to pay to get a bit of lukewarm water, so we skipped the showers. It was not too cold inside either, which was what many people had complained about. We spent the night playing cards in our dorm, only interrupting the games to have dinner.

The second day, we went to visit a valley with some impressive rock formations and to see 2 lagoons: the Laguna Hedionda and the Laguna Colorada, on both of which we could see many flamingoes.

Rock formations

Rock formations


Laguna Hedionda

Laguna Hedionda


Laguna Hedionda

Laguna Hedionda


Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada


Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada


We had lunch in a canyon and then drove through the Desert of Siloli with the Arbol de Piedra.

Desierto de Siloli

Desierto de Siloli


Arbol de Piedras

Arbol de Piedras


The second night accommodation was similar to the one the first night, except that this time the electricity only came on for some hours at night. The Peruvians gave me a lot of tips this day for travelling through Peru :) Thanks! We then played cards again, had a very unhealthy dinner (chips with sausage, eggs and whatever else was on the big pile of food on our plates) and had some wine which we found in a small shop in the ‘hostel’ next door.

On the third and last day of the trip we had to get up at 5am. We drove up to an altitude of almost 5000m (luckily none of us had any problems with this) to visit the geysers and then see the sunrise in the mountains. Beautiful, but freezing cold, at an altitude of almost 5000m!

Sunrise

Sunrise


After this, we continued to the hot springs. Here we had breakfast and then went for a nice hot bath. So good after the cold cold morning!

The hot springs

The hot springs


Our last stop was the Laguna Verde, from where we continued to the Chilean border. Here I was dropped off and took a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama while the others drove back to Uyuni.

Laguna Verde

Laguna Verde


The group with the driver and cook

The group with the driver and cook


What an impressive tour!

Posted by sarahm_lux 00:00 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia salar_de_uyuni Comments (1)

At >4000m altitude

Potosí

sunny 23 °C
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When I got to Potosí, I was hoping not to have too many problems with the altitude because I had heard of many people having bad headaches, feeling sick or having nosebleeds when they first got to this altitude. Luckily, except for the normal being out of breath when walking fast or uphill, I had no symptoms of altitude sickness whatsoever. Great, so I could fully enjoy my time in this city.

Like most people, I planned to go visit the mines in Potosí. When I went to the tour agency however, I found out there was a local ‘fiesta’ on that week in the small village of Macha. The ‘Fiesta de la Santa Cruz’ or ‘Tinku’. The tour guide convinced me to go there first and then to the mines the day after. This was a great choice since I had a really interesting day in Macha.

We set off at 5 in the morning on the 4 hours bus ride with a bus full with people (there were around 30 of us) to the village in the countryside. On the way we stopped to eat a traditional Bolivian breakfast, meaning soup. It was really good and warmed us up after the cold outside and on the bus.

Driving on, we already spotted some groups of indigenous people in their costumes walking towards the village of Macha, dancing, playing music and fighting along the way.

Arriving in Macha, we first had to buy a pass to be allowed to take photos of the festivities. We then spent the day watching the locals dance, play music, get very drunk, and - most importantly - fight. That is what the festival is mainly about: people from different villages or areas fight against each other, either one-on-one or between the whole groups. When not fighting, the villages try to beat each other by playing music better, having nicer costumes or dancing better. It is basically a fight between villages the whole day. Very aggressive, but very interesting as well.
Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

When the fights become too aggressive, the police needs to step in and the only way they seem to think to stop the fights is by throwing tear gas into the crowd. After the first time this happening, some of us escaped to the top of a church tower and we observed what was happening below from a safe distance for a while. However, during the day, most people got their share of tear gas, which was not the most pleasant experience: runny eyes and nose, aching throat, stomach pain, feeling sick. Even while we were having lunch, tear gas was thrown outside and the fumes entered the restaurant. Most of us managed to escape to the restaurant’s back garden on time, so that I only got stinging eyes for example. However, the ones sat closer to the front door were not so lucky…

Later in the afternoon, when people started getting too drunk, the guides brought us into a chichería, a place where they serve chichi and other drinks. Chicha is the local traditional drink which is made by fermenting maize. It does not have a very high alcohol content (we were told about 2-3%), but it does not taste very nice either; at least for me it war far too acidic.

On the drive back, after we had stopped for dinner (having had the third soup of the day as a starter…), the guides came around with bottles of the famous 96% alcohol. Luckily, it was mixed with lemonade and so it was actually quite nice. Only 5 of us stayed awake during the whole bus ride though, so we got most of the drink ;-)

The next morning, I joined the same guides to visit the mines of Potosí. Most people in the group had been to Macha the day before, so we almost all knew each other. Funnily, one of the only 2 people who had not been on the tour the day before, I already knew from Santiago.

First, we went to get our protective clothes, rubber boots, helmets, headlamps… When we were all set to go, we went to the miners’ market, where we bought coca leaves, soft drinks and dynamite as presents for the miners. Then we visited the refinery where we could see how the silver is extracted.
96% acohol

96% alcohol

Cerro Rico

Cerro Rico

view of Potosí from the way to the mines

view of Potosí from the way to the mines

After all this, we finally drove up to the mines. I was a bit nervous of going into the mines. I had heard that you walk/crawl through very narrow and dark tunnels and that it is hard to breathe sometimes. This all turned out being true, we had to pass very narrow tunnels, and in some lower levels it was hard to breathe or sometimes it was so dusty that the dust hurt your throat.. However, none of this was much of a problem and I enjoyed the visit of the mine. We saw different parts of the mine, met miners at work, went to see the Tio, the god (or rather devil) of the mine and even heard a nearby dynamite explosion. It is interesting to see the mines, the miners and hear something about their lives as well. I was happy to get out though and not have to enter the dark dusty mine every day like the miners do. Another great experience!
At the entrance of the mine - in my great outfit ;-)

At the entrance of the mine - in my great outfit ;-)

In the dark tunnels of the mine

In the dark tunnels of the mine

Tio

Tio

Our mines tour group

Our mines tour group

Posted by sarahm_lux 21:19 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia mine sucre macha tinku Comments (0)

Sucre

The white city

sunny 22 °C
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I got to Sucre in Bolivia at the same time when the English/Scottish couple and the Irish couple who I met on my Route 40 adventure in Argentina where there as well. Just like them, many people were taking Spanish courses in Sucre, so that everybody knew each other and the city quite well.
They told me when I got there that everybody ended up staying in Sucre longer than they initially planned. I would not believe it, but this is what happened to me too. I was planning on leaving the city on a Wednesday, but ended up staying till the following Monday. I have to say though that 3 of the extra days were not spent in the city but on a hike in the area (see next post).

Sucre is a good city to just do nothing in, together with other people who are doing nothing. You go out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a drink or a hot chocolate… You go for a walk around town, to the Mirador, the park, the market…
Sucre

Sucre

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

The hostel we stayed at organised a barbecue every week. So twice I joined in on the all you can eat meat feast. The meat was delicious, the side dishes too, and sitting in the patio eating together was a great activity for a sunny afternoon.

On Sundays, there is a handicrafts market in the village of Tarabuco which a group of us went to one weekend. They sell many typical colourful goods. Bags, jumpers, jewelry, scarves, tablecloths etc. The things you can buy here are exactly the same as in Chile or Argentina, so unfortunately you know that they are ot handmade by the local people, but at least there they are much cheaper. I bought some things I had been wanting to buy for a while, so I was happy with my shopping.
Tarabuco

Tarabuco

Tarabuco

Tarabuco

For some reason there are a lot of Dutch people in Sucre, both living there and visiting, so that 3 of the most popular bars for travellers are actually owned by Dutch people. This of course gave us a great opportunity to celebrate the Dutch Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). Two of the bars had big parties on that night and since it was a Saturday as well everybody was out having a good time till late at night (or early in the morning??)

One of the Dutch bars also organised a charity curry dinner and pub quiz while I was there. This was fun too (feeling a little bit like back in England ;-) ) and, although there were some quite difficult Bolivian questions, we came second and won 2 bottles of beer :-)
Pub Quiz

Pub Quiz

I also had an interesting day out with a bunch of children form Sucre. My Scottish friend was in contact with a woman who is working with working children preparing a magazine every month which the children ell on the plaza every weekend. The children wanted to go see a puppet show in a nearby village, so we all contributed to the cost of this and 5 of us went along to meet the children and entertain them while waiting on the puppet player. Although the whole day was quite chaotic, with the bus not coming in the morning due to miscommunication and the puppet player arriving 1 ½ hours late so that the show had to be shortened to 45 minutes, it was a good and interesting day for me. The children are sometimes difficult, but most of them were really nice and keen on getting to know us ‘gringos’.

By the way everybody, don’t forget that you can comment on all my blog posts as well! I would love to get some reactions and hear form you!!

Posted by sarahm_lux 21:14 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia sucre Comments (0)

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