Saved the best for last.
Laguna Verde Travel Blog› entry 11 of 20 › view all entries
Last night was a bit colder, but I think having the seven people in the hostal dorm room generated enough heat the it wasn't so bad. I had read review after review about the expeditions into the altiplano being the coldest people have ever had to sleep in. Awful, horrible stories, that had me frightened and determined to be prepared for anything. So I brought ten sets of those hand warmers that hunters and campers use in the great outdoors. They can slip them in their shoes, or pockets, or where ever.
I also brought long underwear that I had purchased over ten years ago for a late season Green Bay Packers football game. Also from the game I brought a pair of socks that were so thick that I would have had room for another pair of pants had I left them behind.
For the last day, we were all going to wake up at 4:30am to see the geysers and fumaroles at sunrise. I don't think we made it that early, although I'm not sure because the only time piece I took on the trip was not working. I took my iPod out after Juan's music supply had run out yesterday on the trip, and I don't think it liked the altitude, because it acted the same way going over the pass from Chile to Argentina. It was totally locked up and non-functional, which was a bummer 'cause I wanted some rock & roll. I was confident that if I docked with my computer it would work, but I left my laptop in Uyuni, so that would have to wait.
The TLC (Toyota Land Cruiser) seemed to be working better despite not having a shock absorber on the right rear, although I have no idea how that could be. I also began to realize that no matter how bad the conditions in the TLC were, these were sights that had to be seen. That the memories of all of the unique and fabulous sights in this remote area had a price. And if that price was $63, two nights in shit hole dorms, and having just half a seat for over 1,000 kilometers, then I was happy to pay it. I'm in Bolivia for Christ's sake. Maybe it's not meant to be easy. Maybe the profit margin for jamming one extra person on a tour makes a big difference to how some people live.
We arrived just as the sun was rising at Sol de Manana, a geothermal field at 5,000 meters that was like nothing I have ever seen.
Next up was a very long drive over some of the roughest road yet. Some of it was the typical rocky, or washed out, roads headed up the sides of hills. But the worst type of road was over more gentle terrain between mountains. Here it was wide enough for there to be maybe ten different tracks through the area, but every one of them was horrible, rutted, and washboarded to the extreme. Now I have actually seen two road grading machines in my short time in Bolivia, but they had never seen this part of the region.
We arrived at a large lagoon which appeared to have areas of steam coming off of the water near the shore. I figured out that we must be at the Thermales, or Aguas Calientes.
We left our cook at Thermales to prepare our lunch for later, so it was very nice to have the seat to myself. And I was actually able to nap a bit on the long trip, and our early morning. We first saw Laguna Verde from a distance. It was near a few other lagoons of similar size, but if stood out due to it's striking green coloring. Juan said it had something to do with the oxidization of copper in the nearby soil, but whatever it was made it breathtakingly beautiful. There were many flamingos here as well, and we were in the shadow of the Volcan Licancabur on the Chilean border. I had seen this volcano from the other side in San Pedro about eight days ago, and it was just as impressive here.
We took a bunch of group pictures here, as Chantel was being dropped at the border to head to San Pedro.
We drove a bit longer before setting up camp at a secluded little lush green valley for lunch.
It had also been sprinkling rain on and off all day. And there was much more evidence of rain on the horizon, with dark nasty clouds everywhere. We crossed a few streams along the way, which was very exciting because of the extra water. After we crossed the biggest of them all, we came upon a TLC that had almost made it across the same river at a wider point. But not quite. It turned out this was the TLC that had saved everybody the day before in the mud flats, so Juan was more then happy to pull them out quickly.
Shortly afterwords were were on another main road. Every five kilometers or so there were signs touting the progress of this fancy new graded gravel highway. We made it to the small town that was to be our last stop, and Juan asked if we were up for it and we declined. It had a cute little restored stone church, but I got a nice view from the TLC. More importantly, the town's gas station had closed 10 minutes before our arrival, and Juan seemed concerned. We drove through two more such villages, and Juan made fuel inquiries in each to no avail.
The gauge was perilously low when the city light of Uyuni started to appear. I superstitiously refused to look for fear that we wouldn't reach them.
As I had guessed there was a trickle left in each of the roof tanks. So Juan made a makeshift funnel out of an empty 2-litre water bottle, and Mathias and he drained them to the last drop. The TLC fired up and we headed into town. We passed three other TLC's stopped by the side of the road, but there was no helping this time. The town gas station closed at 8pm, and if we didn't make that, we were in big trouble.
I got a room at the same hotel as Wednesday night for $40 Bolivianos, and plan to get a good shower, and a good night's sleep. I wasn't all that hungry. I'm not used to three meals a day I guess. But I found a food stand serving what turned out to be llama burgers. This was walking around food. There was a normal sized bun with a White Castle thin patty of llama meat, but as big as a whopper, cooked on the spot. Then throw in some lettuce, tomato, and onions, put about ten thick cut french fries on top with your choice of ketchup or mayo and there you go. $2 Bolivianos (~$0.25) get you one of these, and I had wished I'd gotten two.
Tomorrow I hope to catch the 10am bus to Potosi, although I've had not alot of luck reserving early buses the same day, so I may have to settle for a 7pm overnight bus. In that case I should be able to catch up on the blogs if I can find a good connection.
BTW, my iPod is working fine, which makes me happy. But I wish I could have subjected everybody to my musical tastes for part of the ride. It must still be the disk jockey in me. Further reading does confirm the iPod hard drive has a maximum operating altitude of 10,000 feet. That solves it I guess.