Sunday, December 23, 2007

Atacama Desert Jeep Trip - Day 1

Our trip was to take on a more adventurous flavour as we abandoned our favoured mode of transport, the bus, and hopped into something a lot less comfortable and a lot less big - a jeep. In this we would travel from San Pedro, Chile across salt lakes and desert to Uyuni in Bolivia. Required for the trip was absolute, unwavering trust in our driver, the resolve not to question at anytime where we were going and we had to pack an extra backpack full of patience which would pretty much all be used up in the first half an hour whilst crossing the border.

After getting shafted at the border of Bolivia we took the opportunity to use their toilet facilities which Jez affectionately named The Bog Bus or The Faecal Funicular. It was here I left the very last vestiges of my princess attitude.

This was our first stop, Laguna Verde. It was NOT home to flamingos like the other lagoons that we had seen due to its distinct lack of microorganisms...or any organisms really since the water in it was full of arsenic.

That night we would find ourselves in pretty rustic accommodation which would not have a working shower. Therefore we took the opportunity to bathe in a natural hot spring.

Having spent our time viewing every shade of colour in lagoon from blue to green, Laguna Colorado was a pretty exciting move forward for us. But interestingly, this lagoon was only red in the afternoon and clear in the morning. We found out that in the afternoon the wind picks up stirring the microorganisms at the bottom of the lake which turn the water red. And we know how much flamingos like pinky coloured microorganism so naturally the lagoon was full of them!

It was at this juncture that our driver pulled out the itinerary and said that if we wanted to we could stop at this point and go straight to our hostel or we could continue on and see more things and stay somewhere else. Of course we chose to continue on but little did we know he had an ulterior motive...

The desert is home to some pretty odd rock formations, this one is aptly known as the Arbol de Piedra or Rock Tree. As Jez can testify it talks the talk but it doesn't walk the walk: It hardly provides much protection from the sun or wind and no bird has ever made a nest in it.

OK, there are rock formations and there are rock formations so when our driver stopped for us to take photos of these so called Dali Rocks we were a little baffled.

When we turned to ask the driver what was so special about these rocks, well the reason for our stop became quite clear...

That evening we rocked up to a little village where we would spend the night. Before dinner the JeTZ decided to explore the pretty surrounding area. We walked up a nearby hill noting the remains of a crashed plane.

As we neared the top we smelt what can only be described as wafts from a pig sty. We heard sounds that could only be recognisable as pig squeals. And what we found was indeed squealing pigs in a make-shift pig sty.

As we were nearing Christmas time, we couldn´t help but feel dread for these poor creatures and so, in some pretty bad Spanish I assured them that we never eat pig.

After saying our farewells to the cerdos, we headed back down for dinner. It was here that we would experience the first of many odd Bolivian chips are often thrown into their soup. As it turns out, this would be one of the best meals we would have in Bolivia.

Coming up...Day 2 of our Jeep trip. Here we discover our driver´s hidden agenda for staying in this village, we find the remains of Lot´s wife and enjoy a Christmas dinner in rather unusual surroundings...

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