Bolivia Update:

Well Iīm in La Paz today working on my reports J

Well four days ago I got up and went to the Colque tour office in San Pedro de Atacama. At 8 am all of us going on the overland to Uyuni, Bolivia loaded onto a bus and drove to the Chile border post right out of San Pedro to clear customs. The next two hours we climbed from 2500m to over 4000m to the Bolivian customs. This amounts to a small building in the middle of nowhere. On the way we stopped once to take some pictures of volcanos on the border and to hear about the old sulfer mine at 5500m where the people of San Pedro used to work before the town became a stop on the gringo trail. The landscape is all bleak desert and at this altitude the air is thin and the sun very bright. After customs we drove to Laguna Blanco to have some breakfast of bread and marmalade with coca tea for those suffering from altitude. Here we split into smaller groups and changed to Toyota Landcruisers. My guide was an older man named Roberto, in my 4WD there was Michael from Spain, Cory, Steven, Emily, and Becky who were all from England and Australia. The guide only spoke Spanish so no one except Michael listened, and Michaelīs English wasnīt up to long translations.

Most of this trip therefore is visual so you will have to wait for the pictures to get uploaded. Anyway, first stop Laguna Verde as you can guess a green lake. Then to some hotsprings where we had lunch and then on to Laguna Colorado a bright red lake with lots of flamingos. The wind here was fierce and you had to constantly lean into it, as night came it got very cold and the bunks we were sleeping in were marginal at best. The next day was spent again driving through the mountains on dirt tracks to different lakes up in the altiplano. We had some real 4WD along this strech. Saw a smoking volcano and around 6 pulled into a hotel at the edge of the salt plains. This was a much nicer place to sleep and we even got cold showers. There was a ping pong table at which I went undefeated the whole night against all challengers! This was also a little lower and most of the rest of the group woke feeling much better, the altitude had given most bad headaches or worse. Luckily for me I havenīt had problems since Cuzco. After breakfast we loaded back up and found out the drivers had been up all night drinking. This didnīt matter the first part of the day as we drove out into the middle of a vast salt plain. No roads at all, just aim at a distant mountain on the horizon and drive along the perfectly flat and blinding white ground. By far the smoothest road in Bolivia. Isla Pescara is a outcrop of volcanic rock in the middle of the saltplains with 1000 year old cactus growing on it and a small hotel and restaurant. Explored the island and played some frizzbee as a change from the hacky sack we had been playing. As we left Robertoīs night started catching up with him and we would watch his eyes close and then jerk back open a minute later. This finally caused trouble as he eventually ran off the hard salt and into some softer mud sticking the landcruser. 20 minutes of pushing and reversing and such finally got us back onto the hard part of the plain again and off we went to see the salt gathering operations and then onto Uyuni. There is a old train graveyard there, but not much else and after waiting for the cambio to open so we could get some bolivianos  we all had lunch and then decided to take buses out that night rather than spend the night here. While the rest got a bus for Potosi, Micheal and I took the night bus to La Paz. This was a full size bus and it was quite amusing to see it driving on these dirt tracks in the middle of no where, as it twice drove through streams to ford them. We paused for a while to watch the full moon rise over the mountains. Of course we stopped along the way for locals who crowded in reguardless of seats available. Micheal spent 4 hours with a small boy sitting on his lap. With the crowding and bumps along the road I didnīt get much sleep. Finally at 7 in the morning we got to La Paz. After breakfast with some of my bus mates, I went and found hostel Torino for a shower and nap. Spent the afternoon walking around La Paz. The city is in a large valley with the downtown in the bottom and slums flowing up the surrounding hillsides. Spent a lot of time walking around the barrios trying to get high enough for a good picture. Finally found an abandoned section with a gate that wasnīt closed where I could get in and after contesting my right to be there with a local pack of dogs, I climbed on some crumpled concrete to take some pictures of the city. Probably would have been easier to just find a postcard J As dark fell it was back to the hostel to get on the internet and fill out the trip report. Wound up spending a lot more time than planned to get some maps and dot my route in red on them.

Tomorrow I have a bus to Cobacabana on Lake Titicaka where I will try to get a boat out to the island of the sun. But weīll see.

            11/21/02

In the almost so late as not to matter I will try to give a close to this report. The bus ride from La Paz was scenic and was fun when we crossed a narrow section of Titicaka by boat, with the bus being loaded onto its own small raft/barge to be motored across empty. Cobabcabana was a great little town, the lake was beautiful, and lots of little places to eat. I had a great trout dinner, a specialty of lake Titicaka. I also had a nice climb to the hill overlooking town where pilgrims come each year to pray to St. Mary who is the patron saint of the region, possibly country. The room was nice and overlooked the lake. I was feeling sick for several days so I never did get out to Isla del Sol, but I would love to return here someday just to hang out and relax. After a couple of days I went and took the bus on to Peru and back to Ariquipa. Left 11/24/02

Update from Singapore on 3/18/03 I regret I didn’t get around to updating this while the trip was fresh. Same problem will also apply to final Peru update.