Beginning of Day 2, 9/13/07: Snap, Crackle, Pop.
I wish they were the sounds of a deep bowl of freshly poured cereal. No, instead it was simply the salt wall of my hostal crumbling and landing on my head and pillow at 3am. I suppose the hostal thought my dreams were too bland and needed more flavoring. Unfortunately sueños dulces were not allowed, as Lucas (the maniacal driver) came trudging down the salt hallways happily waking us up at 4:30am. His method of gringo rousing consisted of yelling "Papi, laventente, dame leché!" or Dad, get up and give me milk. That was all I needed to hear, as I bothered about preparing myself for an intensive day on that dark morning. Temp was around 15 deg F, which would not be as harsh as the next night, yet that temp still required a caccoon like collection of blankets in the hostal sadly of salt, not heat. The blankets were so thick it felt like sleeping in a multitude of bullet proof vests.
We ate a wonderful breakfast (courtesy of Marta) considering the electricity/gas constraints, and shortly after I was outside watching the first rays of light chase off the lingering dark. Those rays of light lazily climbed into the sky putting the stars back in their shrouded places of keeping. On the road now enjoying the body heat of 8 close quartered people, the first flat tire of the trip was experienced. Lucas and Marta both started proving their veteran skill at that 630am hour by changing the tire in 15 minutes FLAT. In the treacherous finger numbing cold, Lucas was scrambling around in the dirt getting his hands very dirty. This man was already earning my respect. The group piled back in the car after searching out a 50 centavo per use baño, unfortunately every bathroom costs in Bolivia, and every experienced traveler knows to always to be armed with his or her own t.p.
The beautiful yet bitterly cold second day was well on its way after a shaky start. What transpired over the next 14 hours was simply an utterly ridiculous calliedascope blend of
different landscapes in a constant state of flux. Random descriptions of some of those landscapes: serene sage brush valleys whose golden yellow sand was amplified in the midmornings sunlight. Wandering for a short while on brittle rock surfaces stupified in the site of active volcanoes whose sides are caked and crusted in white sulfur deposits. Wandering still on the banks of a gray mud (mineral Pyrex, for glass) mountain lake, trying to avoid getting my timbs sucken too deep. Eating a basic vegetable rice and breadlike substance lunch aside a lazy little stream, hundreds of miles away from any other man, let alone anything man made.
After a post feast organge seed spitting contest we continued on the path leading to other sites knocking you and your grandma clear off your rockers. Sites like Laguna Colorado whose water is turned the color red by numerous minerals and microscopic organisms; the latter in which support the population of 5,000 freaking Flamingos. Yeah...volcanoes, salt flats, coca leaf addicted driver, and three different species of Flamingos. All at Mt. Ranier like heights. Still more sites included Luguna verde, whose water in turn boasts a milky turquoise color by a plentitude of other different minerals. If laguna verde or this trip in general needed anything more it was comfortably situated directly in front of another active volcanoe, maybe 20 minutes by car to the Chilean border. Or how about natural sulfur geysers belching steam laced with the lovely rotten egg aroma. The rotten egg aroma that is so tied in scent memory to sulfur and to the lactate intolarent schmuck who decides to consume milk. My friendly Frenchmen were so overpowered by the noxious fume bubbling from the earth that there tolerance and manners were washed away in a wave of English profanity. I enjoyed it enthusiastically as there is nothing funnier than curse words of any language spoken in a heavy accent. I myself have capitalized on this big time in Spanish.
At this point it was around 4:30pm, and after
leaving Laguna Verde and its debilitating 10 deg F (worse with wind chill), a natural thermal spring of 90 deg F water was sorely needed. Salares de Uyuni, you think you could make some thermal springs materialize? Yeah? Word. So it was that after a 14 hour day of car crammage, bitter temperature, and eyeball ecstasy that Damien and I find ourselves heterosexually lounging in a natural thermal spring. It was momentarily wonderful, letting the heated water undo all the damage dealt by sitting on my ass in a cramped position for nearly 14 hours. Why D and I were the only ones of the group who undertook the thermal spring innitiative was beyond me until we had to get out and dry off.
The Uyuni trekking squad finally started back on the road in the waning light towards yet another rustic hostal in the middle of nowhere sans heat. Highlights of the night were a complimentary bottle of repulsive wine and a social game of UNO which was stopped dead in its tracks when the generator (and power) was cut off at 930pm. Trying to go to sleep that night
wearing my entire wardrobe all I could do was prey that the needs to urinate could be staved off until the morning for having to get up in that polar bear weather without electricity would have proven lethal. Thankfully my prayers were answered. The third morning started off much the same way as the second, with frigid breakfasts and flat tires. I will not even bother to describe events of the third day as it was just more of the same head scratching and dumbfounding natural beauty sprinkled with lost pueblitos in the middle of Bolivian deserts. I will let the pics speak for themselves. A few closing notes I would like to leave you all with, positive and negative in nature. There was just too much. This is hardly a negative element, but there was just too much to see to be given fair appreciation. At each of the amazing places we visited, we seldom had more than 15 minutes to explore. Just as you started to approach a mindset of communion and inner peace with an enormous active volcanoe, or valley of jagged spikes of orange rock thrusting out of the ground, an annoying 4runner horn would sound. Alternatively, aside from the obvious freak show of natural beauty, one of the more impacting factors of the trip simply consisted of being completely cutoff from any form of society. Driving for hour upon hour through roadless desert, salt plane, rock valley, sulfur geyser, volcanic lake alone with 7 other human beings for a matter of days was something deeply impacting. We might as well have been on the moon both because of the terrain and because there was simply noone else in existance but us. Actively searching for something as basic as a paved road became a game, a game which gained all the happiness of the moment at losing. Joey B signing off.