Randomness from Salt Flats

We spent the second night in the middle of the Bolivian Desert.  Typical of the dessert….very cold during the night.  Our second night accomodation was basic..to say the least.   We knew that we were going to be spending the night in a dorm situation with all of us sharing one room, we knew that we would be without showers, running water and with limited electricity.  I think we were all a bit surprised by the accomodation on our arrival.  We pulled up to a series of bulidings in the middle of no where.  The first building we stopped at and Isreal (our guide) hopped out and told us to wait…..when he returned…we drove past the center buildings to the buidling near the end and Isreal repeated his jump out/wait.  He returned the second time and we started driving toward the middle of the buildings…..

At this point, we are all becomming a little concerned and Flavia rattled off something to Isreal in Spanish.  When we stopped a third time and Isreal hopped out, we all looked to Flavia to explain what what happening.  Unknown to us, we did not have accomodation reserved for the night.  This took all of us by a bit of surprise.  First, we had paid quite a bit extra to go with Red Planet and second, we are in the middle of the dessert with no other accomodation than those in front of us.  It’s obvious that Isreal’s first two failed attempts were most likely the ‘best’ of the accomodations available and we were not getting them….

We did get accomodation at the third place….spent a long and cold night huddled in our beds with good old fashioned hot water bottles as bed companions.  It helped…a little.

Having the sleeping situation taken care of; we were given coffee, tea and biscuits to ward off the hunger until dinner could be prepared.  We sat around the common tables and grumbled and complained a bit about the lack of reservations.  Perhaps this is just the way it works?  I really don’t know.

In the same building as us was a group of French.  They had carried a cake with them to celebrate the birthday of one of their fellow companions.  The cake didn’t survive the 4 x 4 ride very well….half of it was in crumbs and the determined looks on their faces told all.  They were not to be deterred in celebrating a Birthday simply due to a crumbbled cake.  As we watched….they proceeded to completely crumble the rest of the cake, then using frosting as a binding agent and their hands and mixing tools; they managed to glob the whole mess back into a semblance of cake form.  They decorated it with Oreo’s and left over frosting.  They stored it in our room until the after dinner reveal.

Again, expecting something a little better than the rest of the groups, due to the additional amount that we paid for our tour service; we were horribly dissapointed with dinner.  We were presented with a vegetable soup (that was actually quite good) and then something that vaugely resembled spaghetti.  Exactly the same as the French group that had paid significantly less than us.  Oh…we did have real glasses instead of plastic!

Teresa and I had brought a bottle of Port wine to share with dinner which was a nice addition to help the ‘spagghetti’ go down a little easier.

After dinner the French group brought out the cake and we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’.  I don’t think anyone actually ate the cake but the Oreo’s did get eaten….good call by all.

We spent our remaining 2 hours of electricity playing “Shit-head”; a game we were taught by our UK counterparts.  Fun.  With a 0400 wake up the next morning we all called it an early night and snuggled in bed with our hot water bottles.

Somewhere around 1 or 2 in the morning I began tossing and turning….feeling nauseaus.  I held out as long as possible knowing that it was freezing outside of my wool blankets.  Finally,  I couldn’t wait any more….I struggled to my feet, grabbed my head-lamp and toilet paper and rushed to the bathroom to evacuate everything in my stomach.  I spent the next hour freezing in the dark bathroom sitting on the toilet with diarrhea and my head in the waste basket vomiting…..quite an unpleasant wake-up call.  I crawled back into bed and had just started to drift off to sleep again when we were woken by Isreal to start the day.

I don’t think that anyone slept very well with the cold.  We were all quite sluggish.  The day for me was a blur…there are pictures below that I will try to explain; but honestly….all I wanted to do was lay down and sleep.  I couldn’t eat and had to force myself to drink water to hydrate myself.  I was terrified that I was going to have a hypoglycemic episode…..which fortunately didn’t happen.


This is one of my favorite photo’s from Day #2.  The green of the moss, the red in the rock, and the perfect blue sky were amazing.  The pictures in no way do the landscape any justice.   The diversity from one moment to the next was indescribable.


This is also from Day #2.  We had stopped in the middle of the dessert and gotten out for some photos of a lake that isn’t pictured.  I asked to walk for a while and requested Isreal pick me up when they left the stop.  He obliged me and it was wonderful.  This was perhaps one of my favorite moments of the entire trip.  I really didn’t walk very far from the group but it felt like I was in the middle of no where.  The beauty that surrounded me and the silence that ensued were overwhelming.  Nothing for miles and miles in any direction…..a beautiful moment in time.


On Day #3 we visited ‘Rock Tree’; so named for the rock pictured that would appear to have been wind-shapped in somewhat of a form of a tree. I wasn’t in any mood to enjoy the views due to the aforementioned sickness that woke me early in the morning.


Me.  Sick.  Couldn’t care less about the beauty surounding me.  Red Lake is the reportedly one of the best stops on the trip and this is how I enjoyed it.  Flat on my back.


Rock formations from Day #2


Day #2…..me wandering alone.  I stepped up on a lone rock and couldn’t resist a picture of my shadow.


Day #2 A beautiful overlook.


Flamingo’s at Red Lake on my sick day….  Thank you Teresa for taking such great photos!  I wish I could have enjoyed it….

One of the highlights of the trip was the view of the Milky Way from our 2nd night accomodation.  Being in the middle of no where with no electricity and at somewhere around 5,000 meters the stars appeared brighter and closer than I have ever seen them.  Had the temperature been just a bit warmer….I could have gazed at them all night.

Even with cold and sickness and mild dissappointment with the accomodations….it was an experience that I will never forget.