4 wheel driving,bus
31.10.2005 12 °C
You have not heard from us for awhile but they did not have an internet in the hospital. After the bus crash our broken bones are not restricting us too bad and we are able to get around. Just checking who actually reads these messages!!
From Uyuni we left in our Landcruiser around 10.00am, the two of us, kristy and adam, the driver and a cook. There are no tared roads in this area at all so it was straight onto dirt tracks. First stopl just out of town was the railway graveyard where all the old trains that used to carry minerals (borax we think) from Uyuni to the coast in Chile - not terribly exciting but a photo opportunity. next stop was a salt making establishment just on the start of the salt lakes. The opertion is pretty basic - families are given some land opn the salt flats and have to remain in the little settlement (50 families) to retain their land. they ride out to their plot on bicycles and dig the salt by pick then shovel it into little piles to dry. It is thenn transported back to the settlement where it is dried, finely crushed and then bagged into 1kg bags by hand. Continuing across the salt lake to a hostal made out of salt - the building, beds, tables and chairs everything except the toilet. Some of the tours stay here but we continue on as it only just the beginning of our journey. The stop for lunch is at a rocky outcrop called 'fish rock' it looks like a fish lying on its side from a distance across the salt plains - and has these huge cactus on it perhaps 3-4 m high and from the top you get a terrific view around the salt plain and it is still pretty amazing when you have snow capped mountain ranges around the salt plain. After lunch (bar b q'd alpaca)we continued to our overnight hostal and by this time we had exited the main salt plain and had travelled around the edge of a dusty alto plateau. we had been warned that accommodation on this trip was basic and they were right - twin bed room and pretty basic toilet facilities and showers. In the afternoon we walked across the plain to a rocky outcrop where there we a number of old graves and the people (mummies they call them) had been preserved in the dry air - not that exciting compared to the 'ice maiden we saw in Arequipa. Power was from a generator that went off at 9.00pm so no late nights. The wind sweeping across the plain was freezing and quite strong so a cold night was had. After breakfast it was off again on the journey across the alto plain visiting a pink and a red lagoon that both had pink flamingoes on them and an area of rocks that had a rock that looked like a tree (if you let your imagination run wild) and another rocky outcrop that had long tailed rabbits living in it and they came down and ate bread that you put out. The drive now is on really rough roads across a very dusty rocky alto plateau and there seems to be tracks going everywhere, Reached our overnight camp and this is more basic than the previous with the 4 of us in a 6 bed dorm, very very basic toilet and no showers although no-one had one the previous night so no-one cares. The bed is a base of concrete and rocks with a thin rubber mattress and a cold night was had. they said it got down to around -5 degrees and very windy so the chill factor was high making it even colder most probably. Last day on the trip saw us see at a geyser area, which was at around 4,600m with outcrops of ice formations around the geysers, a red lagoon with more flamingoes and then a swim in a thermal spring - it may have been hot if the freezing wind hadn't been blowing across it but we still had a go. Lunch was at a small hostel just inside the Bolivia/Chile border and we waited here for a little while as our bus from the border to San Pedro in Chile was not till 3.00pm. The border post is pretty basic with only the Bolivian side represented here. Our bus came to pick up us on time (incredibly)and then off to San Pedro via a 2,000m drop in altitude. The Chilean border check point is on the outskirts of San Pedro and far more proffessional then Bolivia with all bags searched etc. As we didn't have accommodation booked the bus driver drove us around until we finally found a B&B type accommodation. This one had a kitchen so we cooked our own breakfasts and dinner to save money but as food is really so cheap it was most probably just for a change to eating out. Had a couple of pet llamas in the backyard that we fed our scraps to. Not much to do in San Pedro, it is a very small town with very dusty narrow streets with this ongoing wind blowing dust everywhere. The first time for weeks that we have been able to wear shorts and t shirts. Kristy and Adam left us here to continue their travels through Chile whilst we head off to Argentina. On saturday we went for a bike ride out through a valley surrounded by lava type mud formations, including inca ruins etc -quite hot and dusty but good fun apart from the sore bum as the seats and suspension were not made for rocky rough roads.
Our bus left Sunday morning on the journey to Salta (argentina)and took 12 hours. If you take out the time we waited at the Chilean border (1 hour) and the Argentina border (1.5 hours) the trip would have been a lot quicker. The trip was again through very mountainous country, dispersed with long flat straights, and roads winding up and down the mountain ranges. On this trip we would have gone from around 2,500m at San Pedro to up to 4,800m over the Andes and then down to 1200m at Salta. This is the lowest altitude we have been for over four weeks. Arrived in Salta around 8.30pm, and got a taxi to our hostal which we had pre-booked via hostalworld.com (our first time)and everything went smoothly. Accomodation near the centre of the town, small room with en-suite, and friendly young staff.
Had a walk around Salta today and on first views it is like a small european town. A different type of people here, and the shops are a lot more up market although things are still cheap compared to home. Had lunch in town at a cafe on the edge of the main plaza (hamburger, toasted sandwich, coffee, milkshake) and it cost around A$6 in total. One of the amazing sights is the amount of police and security guards, that are around the banking area and all have machine guns slung over their shoulders - and there are police very visible walking around the city it all feels very safe.
We are staying here for a couple of days before heading off to Iquizi falls in the north eastern corner of Argentina. We will go by bus but it is a 24 hour trip so we will break it up into acouple of shorter journeys - these old bones can´t handle too long a trip.
Some facts for those interested. For the last few weeks we have been above 3,600m and up to 4,800m travelling over parts of the Andes mountain range. It is always cold at these altitudes and with the windy always blowing the chill factor is quite high, resulting in very cold nights and cool days. Long pants and coats are the dress of the day, together with beanies and sometimes gloves. Temperatures at night are at or below freezing with the days in the high teens if lucky. San Pedro was a good change being able to wear shorts and t shirt during the day until the winds started blowing and the sun went down. Salta is the lowest altitude we have been at only 1200m but still need long pants and coat during the day. The vegetation during the trip has been different ranging from thick forrest type vegetation in the Peru mountains to the barren wind blown mountains in Bolivia and Argentina.