Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia = clear some time to read this one...
So here goes possibly the longest awaited blog ever. It turns out the putting it off technique catches up with you at some point, and that point is now. It has been around a month and a half and a lot of travelling, from Quito to where I now sit in Salta, Argentina. Here goes...
After a few free rum and coke nights at the good old Centro del mundo hostel I headed out solo to the Quilotoa loop. I thought that this was a major tourist destination but apparently I was going at a quiet time because there were so few people walking the route. The first days walk was around 15km through small, very basic villages along a rough track. I ended up in the little town of Quilotoa, set just aside an amazing lagoon. After freezing my ass off trying to read in the hostel I headed down the steep path into the lagoon. It is hard to describe the colour of the lagoon, it was so bright blue and turquoise it was unreal. The next day walking was great scenery but with the Ecuadorians giving directions it turned into a bit of a chore. The first place I asked for directions demanded money or clothes or food in exchange for the directions. after following his directions I got lost within 10 minutes in the maze of paths along the outside of the lagoon, so I ended up having to ask another person the way. Mistake. This farmer lady literally would not tell me the right direction until I hired her as a guide. So eventually I stumbled into Chugchillan, generally pissed off at all Ecuadorians and so the next morning I took the first bus I could out of there. Back in Quito I pulled an all nighter with a French guy from Bayonne and an American from Washington State. After recovering from the hangover I headed on to a night bus down to Montanita, where I met Wrighty in a great chilled out hostel out by the point. Over the next few days I read 3 books, watched quite a few movies and generally settled into the beach bum life Wrighty had been living for the previous two weeks. I did get one day of surfing in, and had my first ride down an unbroken wave, followed by a big wipeout. One night big night out ended with me sleeping on the beach by a blazing fire and soothing reggae beats in the background.
To meet up with Rosie down in Peru we faced a 27 hour journey, taken of course on the shittiest buses to save money. Also in Huanchaco at the same time was Nicola, a German girl who Sherwin and I volunteered with back in Puerto Lopez. The town itself was small, simple and very quiet at night, although we did find another reggae party on Friday night. For the next few days we hung out in the hostel, with a couple of hilarious welsh guys. Whenever we saw them they were smashed off their faces or drugged up to their eyeballs on elephant tranquilizers. And yes, they went to a vet in town to buy the things. Also while we were there me Wrighty and Danny took the opportunity to go watch the new ironman movie. I also got some surfing in with Nicola, and then after everyone left I had the best day surfing of my short career. With a good chunky longboard I caught some great waves and rode them for ages including pulling off an incredible 180 maneuver, Kelly Slater eat your heart out! I also caught a few unbroken waves. The only problem was that the water was freezing, and my wetsuit was short sleeved, not a good choice...
Next on the cards was the mountain town of Huaraz, and the Santa Cruz trek. This was a 4 day walk through mountain passes, and stunning scenery in general. Me, Rosie and Danny set off on this with a group of other people, of which one lived in Bourton-on-the-Water. a few aussies, some English girls turned out to be a good bunch of people, as we played stupid games for hours everyday after finishing walking. We passed the highest point on the 2nd day of walking at around 4800 metres, and this amazing lagoon lay at the base of a mammoth peak covered in a huge glacier. I even saw some of the glacier breaking off while we were eating at the top. The third day we headed down the Santa Cruz valley, past the mountain from the paramount pictures logo. The valley had huge amounts of glacial melt running through it, at one point stopping all us and we had to use the horse to paddle across the water. Late on that day we in the managed to find a tiny little shack selling beer to enjoyed a river chilled beer mountain shadowed valley. The worst part of the trek was after dinner and a few rounds of yarniff, it would be bed time. While the later nights weren’t too bad, the first night was ridiculously cold. I spent most of the night awake and shivering, and that was with my thermal, 2 jumpers, trackies and a thick sleeping bag. After a short walk the following day we ended the trail and headed back to Huaraz, barely stopping before hopping onto a night bus to Lima.
Arriving early in Lima we headed out to the Barranco district, and found the point hostel, one street from the cliffs, although not that we knew as the whole city was cov3ered in a thick mist. Later that afternoon we checked out the old town, had some Chinese in the Chinese quarter, and went into the catacombs. There, right under the church was a staggering collection of bones and skulls. Next to the Barranco area is the famous Miraflores region, one of the most westernized places in Peru. I wandered around there for a while then went off to check out a pre Incan pyramid, right in the centre of the city. Although a lot of it had been restored, they had kept some of the original stones in place, giving an idea to what the site used to be like. Also they kept some Peruvian dogs here, famous for having no hair at all, and in my opinion being the ugliest dogs in the world. That night, after finding Wrighty, and then Nicola, we headed out to a park with fountains in it. Sounds exiting I agree...walking through the world of water seemed like an odd way of passing an evening, but it turned out to be amazing. In total they had around 18 different fountain displays, set into a beautifully kept park. My favorites included one which formed a tunnel you could walk through, another which shot water very high, straight up in the air, and then the piece de résistance. The focal point of the park was a 25 minute display which involved music, lights, lasers, projectors, and of course lots of water. While these jets were shooting up, the lasers dancing around and making shapes, they projected images and videos of Peru. But there was no screen to be seen, we then realised the screen was just water, an almost sheet like jet of water was shot out and the images were being shown on this 'screen'. A toffee apple later and we headed back to the hostel to start the festivities of what was our last night before the truck tour.
With pisco sour and beer flowing we ended up pulling an all-nighter, chatting, playing pool, and generally mucking around. Already running late, I said a quick goodbye to Nicola then headed off to meet for the oasis truck trip. Now people say first impressions are vitally important, well in the eyes of our tour leader and driver, I think we had the worst first impression ever. Falling into the hotel around 45 minutes late, looking like we had been up all night, without half of our payments, without any of the needed details. Some power napping later, we were brought over to our home for the next 35 days, our big yellow truck. This truck was split so that the drivers section was separate from our section, which had around 20 seats, a bed and a table. We stored all our things under the seats in big lockers, and met the other people.
There were 5 people who had started on the trip in Quito, they are Big Matt, 25 year old, then little matt, 18 year old, and yes one is 6 foot 4 the other is rather small. Also there is James, from Camden town. I was glad to have Big Matt and James there as we could actually talk some proper football, although they were Leicester city, and arsenal fans respectively. The last two of the 'originals' are Jess and Chloe, jess being from Bristol and actually sharing a family friend with Rosie. Then as well as me, Wrighty, Rosie and Danny there were 4 other new people joining the tour. Charlotte, another English girl, Steve, a 29 year old Aussie, then two Scottish lads, graham and Lewis. With introductions made we headed off for our first stop, the Ballestos islands. That could wait for the next morning, first we faced our first night camping on the tour. Having been assigned a tent with Wrighty, we set it up and then enjoyed a freshly cooked meal while we huddled around the lights of the truck. The next morning, some of us headed out onto a boat which lead us to the Ballestos islands. On the way we saw a famous trident shaped into the cliff which is linked to the lines found at Nazca. Going around the island I saw some little jackass penguins, like the ones around the cape in South Africa. Also I was lucky enough to get a seal to look right into the camera as we passed by. Apart from that the island was covered in thousands of Peruvian boobies. This gave the island a silver lining, only achieved from millions of little bird shits. In fact we found out they use the island to excavate the guano every 5 years or so.
The next morning on the way to Huacachina, we popped into a pisco factory. Although the tour was slightly boring, it brightened up at the end with around 6 free samples. Tasting the different types of pisco put us in a good mood for the short trip to Huacachina, and so the tunes blasted out of the trucks speakers. Huacachina, an oasis in the desert, is actually featured on the 50 soles Peruvian banknote. It is now famous for the centre of the sand boarding and dune buggying of the area. Split into two 8 seater buggies we headed up into the dunes with the sandboards in the back. Although we had heard good reviews of buggying, it turned out to be a bit of a let down, with the driver backing off every time a little lip appeared. However, timidness aside, it beat driving down the M25. At a number of stops we got out and shot down the dunes on the sandboards. For the most part this meant going down face first, although we had rented an actual b9oard you could stand on, as well. When it came to my turn on this board, I strapped in the boots, just like an actual snowboard, and then headed off down the dune, falling just at the start, but then managing to get some good speed up. Sandboarding finished we drove further along to the coast, to a little spot where a nice fire and tents awaited us. We sat round the fire as they brought out kebabs, sausages and chicken to barbeque. Satisfied with a tasty meal, we played a few games and had a few drinks before heading into the tents. o and when I say tents I mean 2 tents, for 13 people...and trust me when I say, they weren’t big tents. The following day I got a bit of a rest bite as the others set off in a little plane to fly over the nazca lines. As the lines didn’t interest me at all, and it cost around 70 bucks, I decided to give them a miss. I was immediately glad with my decision as I saw the rest of the gang walking back to the hotel, apparently about 5 of them vomited, and the rest were still feeling a bit worse for wares.
After heading out from Nazca we faced some long days driving to get to Peru's second city, Arequipa. Stopping only for lunch and a few piss breaks. At night we drove on till around 5 30 then literally stopped the truck in any old place and set up camp. The scene was slightly reminiscent of the horror movie, 'the hills have eyes', so that’s what the camp sites became known as. The next evening we were sitting on the balcony of a restaurant enjoying a beer while looking out over the beautiful main square of Arequipa. The church is said to glisten in the sun as it is made from volcanic ash from the nearby mountain range. That night, for some reason unknown, me, Danny, Lewis, Graham, and little Matt, signed up for a climb up the nearby Chachani Mountain, at 6,075 metres. With little acclimatization even walking up to base camp and setting up the tents was a bit of an effort. Being camped at higher than Everest base camp, the temperature was crazy low in the tents, so after possibly the worst nights sleep of my life we started walking at around 3 in the morning.
The first section of the climb was up rocky terrain for around an hour, then we hit the ice and snow, and so strapped on the crampons. Although not feeling the headache I normally get at altitude, I had to go very slowly, and it was tiring me out. The climb continued as the sun rose over the city in the distance. Crampons and ice axes as we snaked our way across the slopes, then back just to hiking boots for longer sections without ice. Every break we took I fell asleep and really didn’t want to keep walking before a good long kip. But on we went until finally we got to around 5,900 metres, and for the first time saw the mountain Chachani. As it took us a long while to get up there, the guide advised against any of us going up to the peak. But we all refused and so we headed off up the rocky path to the peak. While the others raced ahead I was dying of tiredness and realised that the guide was most likely right, and that I would be in trouble of not being able to make it back so reluctantly I stopped at the 6000 metre mark. For now I would have to be content with 6,000 metres as the highest I have ever gone. Starting on the way back the tiredness really hit me, and on an icy part I actually dozed off while walking. Luckily I didn’t fall down the slope but it was a close call. After that display the guide tied a rope round me and him and we headed back down together. After falling about 3 more times, a lot of rest stops, we were getting close to the camp. There the rest of the guys caught up, and I heard that they had made it to the top, a very good effort. We finally got back into the camp together after around 12 hours of solid walking, and checked up on our mate graham. poor graham hadn’t even manage to leave the base camp as he had been feeling drunk and dizzy, and couldn’t even walk in a straight line. After helping Graham down the slope and waiting for hours it seemed, we finally got a lift back into the city and collapsed into bed at midnight, totally drained.
A few days later after recovering, and another 'hills have eyes' campsite, we arrived in the Kolca valley. The valley being home to the Kolca canyon, which at some points is 3 times as deep as the Grand Canyon. On a tour of the canyon we went out a look out point to see the massive condors gliding over the canyon. In total I must have seen about 12 of the things including two which settled down onto a rock, barely 15 metres away from us. The town we were staying in was absolutely dead at night so we just had a few beers at the Irish bar, played a bit of killer, then hit the sack early. Our next destination on the truck, Cusco!
Our hotel was just a few minutes walk from the main square of the city, so a great base for exploring the town. Although obviously from two different worlds, Cusco reminded me a lot of Bath. The striking architecture, all with the same brick colour and style. Then the armies of tourists crowding the streets, and the sort of shops that no local would shop at, catering for the exclusive rich visitor. That night we enjoyed a meal at the real McCoy restaurant, an English restaurant offering such delicates as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and meat pies. That night we also had possibly the biggest night out of the trip so far. First pre drinking in the hotel, enjoying some queen sing-along’s, before heading out to a few bars in town. This was the first place that free drinks were so easy to come by, literally as we walked down the street we would be crowded by guys giving free drink tokens for their bars. We only settled on one called Mammafrica, because the promoter actually took Wrighty and dragged him into the bar. Enjoying some drinks and some amazing dance moves in there, we headed off to another bar called Mystica. There we managed to secure a spot on a platform and proceeded to destroy the fragile ceiling that was above us. Dancing up on the bar, with the entire group, it had to be one of the best nights out on my gap year so far. After shaking another hangover the next morning, we rented out some quad bikes and sped into the hills around the city in the afternoon. It was going well until around 15 minutes in when I hit a rock on the side of the path and flipped the quad. Luckily as I fell I propelled forward and away from the bike, which finally rested on its side. Another rental another crash, later I found out that I had mucked up the whole steering of the thing costing me 70 bucks. After that I took it a little more cautious, but my nerves weren’t helped by the kid who threw a rock at my face when we passed through a town. Back on small rough paths we sped along, stopping at a point overlooking Cusco. After mucking around for a bit, we headed back to the city although it was getting increasingly difficult as the sunlight faded, and surprise surprise, my bike had no lights. With a fair deal of difficulty and nearly blind riding, I made it back into the city. The Inca trail awaited...
Out of the group only me, Wrighty, Danny, Rosie, big matt, and Chloe were doing the classic Inca trail. The walk involved 3 days walking then the fourth day was a race to Machu Picchu. Beforehand we had been given the option to take a porter, which meant paying 30 bucks for them to carry around 7kg of weight for the walk, meaning only a small day pack was needed. I did not take this option. I thought, how hard can it be, and it is only 4 days, only around 35 miles. Only. What I didn’t account for was the terrain on the second day, apart from that it was not a problem, and I enjoyed saving the 30 bucks. The first day walking we passed by a few Incan ruins of towns, similar to Machu Picchu but not as large. The porters that would be carrying the tents and the chef would get ahead of us and then they would set up the camp for when we arrived, on the first day setting it up for lunch then moving on and setting up the later one. Our main tent for socialising was like our own private restaurant, with a table being separated from the cooking section of the tent. At night we would play cards and relax then have dinner and bed. After an easy first day, the second day was a killer. For about 4 hours we walked up, up steps, up paths, up everything. Wrighty was the first to make it to the top, out of everyone walking the Inca trail... then followed Rosie Danny and matt, then me about 15 minutes later, and Chloe a bit after me. Just a short downhill remained to the camp where we arrived at around 12 30 to an applause from our porters. The applause from other tents kept going till about 4 30 in the afternoon as people arrived. Really it was the porters we were impressed with. They were carrying loads of around 20kg and doing a lot of the walk at a jog, including one of our porters who was 55 years old! The next day we passed Inti Pata, an Incan site where food was grown to feed some of the people of Machu Picchu. The site was basically a load of terraces built into the hillside, nestled amongst the forest. At our final camp we even got a cake made for us, with congratulations, team champion written on it, you can’t say they didn’t make an effort. That third day wasn’t a good one for Rosie as she drank some bad water, was vomiting along the way, then faced loads of steep downward steps at the end of the day.
Although we all made it up at around 3:45 to get down to the checkpoint for 4am. This would only open at 5:30 in the morning but we wanted to be first in the queue so that we could maker a break for Machu Picchu and get the elusive tickets to walk up Wanapicchu. By 5:30 we were ready to bolt, and the queue behind us was too, so we passed the checkpoint and set off at a jog. Around an hour later the sun had risen and we were at the sun gate catching our first glimpse of the most famous of Inca ruins. although unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take a picnic as we could see coaches driving up to the entrance, bringing tourists who would no doubt like to get their hands on the Wanapiccchu tickets as well. Only 400 people a day are allowed up the mountain which looms over Machu Picchu, so it was very unlikely we would be able to get into that group. Wrighty and I set off sprinting down the cobbled path and within 10 minutes we were seeing other tourists, passing by many bemused faces we reached the checkpoint and frantically searched for the guy giving out tickets. I got ticket number 389 and Wrighty 386 out of 400; we just hoped the others would be quick down. After a long few minutes we caught a glimpse of the others and so crowded the ticket guy, all got tickets, but Chloe hadn’t made it down yet. In the end I think the guy felt sort of sorry for us and we were all sweaty, smelly, tired, and red faced, so he gave us an extra ticket for Chloe. Danny’s ticket number? 400. A close shave indeed. Out of around 500 people walking the Inca trail we were the only ones to get the tickets. After a celebratory shot of rum each, at 6 50 in the morning, we headed into the ruins. It is hard to describe a place like Machu Picchu, it is such an iconic image, but it really takes a bit of Incan knowledge to appreciate it. The fact was that Machu Picchu was sacred, very sacred, reserved for the highest class Incans, and religious figures. Also due to the Spanish invasion, Machu Picchu was never finished; estimations put it at about 70% completed. The reason for its position was principally to hide it, and also it was high up to put the people closer to heaven and gods, part of the condor world. The Incans believed the condor was heaven, the puma represented the present and the living, and then the snake represented the underworld. Moving amongst the buildings and walls really gave me an impression of the incredible architects they must have had. The walls surrounding the sun temple, were so perfectly made, with no joining materials, just the rocks, and apparently gold pins to hold the walls in place of an earthquake.
At around 10 we headed up Wanapicchu, me and Wrighty racing up, and missing the correct path up, meaning going up some incredibly steep and thin steps, instead of the easier, less steep way. Enjoying the view from the top, we chilled out for a while, just relieved we had made it, looking down at the tourists flooding around the site like ants. Back down into the site, one thing remained, finding that perfect postcard picture. We headed up to the spot, meeting the others in the group that had done the Larus trek. After the customary shots, we lined up for a very special photo, something that we had panned earlier. We had all been assigned two letters of the word Machu Picchu and Rosie had written them onto our butts. So the others not having any idea, we asked them to take photos as we mooned our message in front of the site. That ticked off the list, we headed back to the nearby town of Aguascalientes, enjoyed a well earned pizza, and a soak in hot springs. Back in Cusco the next morning I enjoyed a great full English breakfast, and then chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. We then headed off to action valley where the biggest bungee in South America awaited. The bad news was that they didn’t have time for all of us to do the bungee so instead we had to settle for the slingshot, which happened to be the biggest in the world. this involved being strapped to the floor while the elastic chords where pulled to a maximum strength, then let go, shooting the person into the air, then swinging and bouncing them around for a while. Wrighty was first up followed by me, as it was a superman jump we took our tops off and where given a superman cape. The acceleration as I was shot into the air was unreal; it slammed my head down for a few seconds before I could raise it just at the top. Just then a floating feeling then a strong yank and I was falling down again. I think the floating feeling was the closest I will ever come to flying, maybe until the skydive. Uttering many profanities I came back down to earth flying high on adrenalin. Back in Cusco we had another big night, starting with some classic ring of fire then ending in me and Rosie taking home Danny.
The next day after waking up with about a minute to be out of the hotel, we stumbled onto the truck and headed off to Puno, along the shore of Lake Titicaca. at our hotel their, definitely the most luxurious of the whole trip so far, me and Rosie enjoyed the steam room and swimming pool, before heading out for some Chinese followed by an early night. The next morning we got on a boat out to the floating reed islands. Although it was a major tourist trap it was still interesting to see how the people lived on their own little island. We were then rowed across some of the lake by the villagers, while their little kids sang songs, for money...
After the most tortuously slow boat ride ever, we arrived at the island where we would be staying the night with families. I made an effort to speak Quechan but after finding out that our hosts spoke perfect Spanish I did lapse into that for most of the time. In the afternoon we headed up to the football pitch, at 4,000 metres. The dream team was Wrighty, Lewis, big matt, little matt, James, jess and me, against a team of locals. At half time we were in the game at 2-2, but after that things went down hill. Our superhuman fitness at sea level didn’t help us up at altitude as we struggled to keep up with the pace of the game, eventually losing 4-2 and having to buy the opposition a bottle of coke. Also an important lesson was learnt; never play football on concrete, in loafers. After the game I pulled off my sock to see a massive blister on the bottom of my foot, not good news for the dance later that evening. After a simple dinner of soup, rice and beans; Danny and I, in our finest ponchos, headed to the dance.
With some weird Peruvian dancing somewhat similar to the hokey cokey, we danced away a few hours, also showing the locals some proper English dancing. Whipping out the skipping rope move and the bowling ball, and the limbo moves we even received a round of applause.
The next day we headed out of Peru and into Bolivia, along some shockingly bumpy roads, but we made good time into La Paz and settled into our two apartments. With 11 of us all on the same floor in two big apartments we took the opportunity to have a party the next night, but before I get into that we have the issue of cycling the death road to discuss. By around 8 in the morning we were waiting at around 4000 metres at the top of the death road. The first part of the ride was a blisteringly quick downhill on asphalt to get used to the bikes and the breaking. After that hair raising ride we hopped back on the buses for a brief stretch before getting off again and started seeing the big drops. Within 5 minutes we were hitting the biggest drop offs of the whole ride, some 600 metre straight cliff drop offs. I thought I was going slowly as I rounded corners, just to be safe and all, but when we saw other riders I realised we were shooting down the hill. Passing through some waterfalls and past a fair few crosses, we would have to break for a bit to wipe the mud off our goggles. Eventually after around an hour the drops decreased and we were cycling down a dusty path with small flat parts, before the final descent to an animal refuge, 64km from the top of the road. Down at the refuge we had a much needed beer then shower before getting jumped all over by the resident monkeys. While we were there they were telling us how some of these monkeys were actually trained as pickpockets before they were rescued, and I found this out the hard way. I had meant to change a 10 sole note at the border but I had forgotten about it, however a monkey picked up on it, actually pick pocketing it and ripping it up in a tree. We then had a pasta buffet before heading back up the death road, managing a nice sleep, Clarkson eat your heart out.
Back in La Paz the festivities got under way with the changing into the costumes which we had bought for each other. The costumes I have to say, focused around ridiculous gay costumes. The costumes were follows:
Rosie the Barbie or baby spice as she was known for the evening
Graham in an England kit, an ultimate humiliation for a true Scott
Big matt the hulk
Little matt the gay flower
Wrighty the gay Bruno type
Danny the gay green fairy
Lewis the Scott
Me the sheep, or I should say it was a costume cut in two because it was so small
Big James as Ronnie the rhino
Jess the pirate
Chloe the clown
And the best till last, charlotte as ironman, homemade costume by me. You have to check out the photos to really believe how ridiculous we looked. With a vast supply of very cheap alcohol we set about partying in the apartment. I have to admit I can’t give a full account of this evening due to my level of inebriation; however I do remember it being a hell of a party, and after some classic dares and many glasses of fruit punch I passed out on top of Rosie, after enjoying a fun night. The next day as fragments of memory came back, aided by numerous embarrassing videos, I remembered the point where it all took off. After many fruit punches I felt I hadn’t drunk enough so in my slightly tipsy state invented a genius game for me, James and big matt, the infamous higher or lower shot game. Higher or lower followed by a shot for a wrong call, turned into a serious amount of alcohol with me and matt finishing off around 5 litres of very strong cupa libre with little help. Next morning I heard we were chanting Maradona down the street and ended up jumping on a moving taxi... memorable, but at the same time not....
The next morning involved the clean up, and yes, there was a big one, then a mix of shopping and recovering, before heading off for Potosi the next day. Potosi, as I was informed by Rosie, is the highest city in the world, at a shade over 4000 metres, and also the second richest city in the world back in the day. The reason for this opulence in the heart of Bolivia? Simple, silver. With a booming mine industry it transformed the city, although as always most of the profits of the sliver filtered back to the big guns in Europe. While in Potosi we took a tour of the mine, going around 1 kilometre down the tunnels, ending up around 150 metres below the surface. However booming the industry was, these tunnels were not designed for people over about 5 foot. As our petite tour guide led us through the cramped tunnels with ease, most of us struggled behind, smacking our heads every 50 metres or so. Now most of the pure silver is exhausted in the mine, but they still find impure silver and tin. While down there a few mine workers passed, hauling little carts along the tracks, filled the brim with rocks. We found out later these workers have to pull 10 or even 12 hour shifts, for around 6 quid a day. Also in the mine I helped one man who was making a whole for dynamite to be planted. Hammering in a steel rod was fun for around a minute but I can imagine how quickly that novelty would go for someone who has worked in the same mine for 19 years. Passing Tio Jorge, or Uncle George, we made an offering to pachamama; a dribble of 96% alcohol. With world cup fever in the air we headed off that afternoon to a camp in the bush, before arriving in Uyuni in time for the England USA game. Although I will not dwell on our shortcomings in that game, I will say we had a good time up to that howler by Green. The next day we did our tour of the famous salt flats, travelling out in 4 by 4’s, to an island right in the middle of the salty expanse. Looking around this island, we noticed the high amount of coral then the volcanic rocks underneath, and we realised that this island would have once been at the bottom of the lake. When the Nazca plate collided with the South American plate it trapped a part of the ocean, now Lake Titicaca, the salt flats, and other lakes. While the plate was submerged it pushed up the Andes range, forming a volcanic mountain range on the western side of the lakes. With the water cut off, most gradually evaporated, leaving huge amounts of salt in a v shaped deposit, now known as the Sal de Uyuni. These are replenished by volcanic geysers bringing up salt from as deep as 500 metres below the surface. At the surface this salt water crystallizes, adding a thin covering of salt. Mixed with the rain water in the rainy season this salt water spreads out over the flats, before the water evaporates away leaving the fresh slat layer. Then in the stormy season, dust and silts are blown over the flats leaving their own layer, before the process of salt formation repeats itself. This process explains the salt sculptures and furniture we saw, with alternating layers of salt and brown mud. After lunch on the island, also by the way, covered in giant cactuses, we hung around on the flats setting up numerous photos. My personal favorite had to be me crouching down with my bottom out while Wrighty did a handstand in the background. If you can’t imagine what this would look like, try checking out the photos on the blog.
Back in Uyuni we got rid of our last few bolivianos before heading towards the Argentinean border, and Salta the next day. Here finishes the longest and most boring blog ever, I hope I haven’t caused too much boredom in your cause to hear about my travels. With only around a month left I am on limited time, but hope to sneak in the deserts of northern Chile, snowboarding in Mendoza, along with visits to Buenos Aires and Uruguay. Until then....