Chile – Bolivia (Ollagüe – Estación Avaroa)
Ascending by bus into the mountains, we enter into Bolivia to begin a 3 day 4×4 adventure across the desert to the famous Uyuni Salt Flats.Highlights for Day 1 – Stunning blue and pink lagoons, thermal pool swims and venturing over 4000 meters above sea level.￼￼￼
Our lodging for the night is basic and I have no idea what town it’s in. Powered by solar, there’s a 3 hour window per evening we have electricity and hot water.
Tired of playing cards, I step outside and kick a ball around with Frazer, Elva, Tina, a local boy (no older than 5) and his dog, Pikachu. Yes, the dog was named after a Pokémon. The sun sets. The moon is bright. The temperature… lower than I’d ever experienced, yet it was nice… until it reached -15 degrees. It’s bf weather.For dinner, the soup featured an interesting ingredient; left over french fries. Yep, really immersing myself in the local culture and cuisine.
I slept with 3 layers of clothes, a jacket and 4 blankets. Others were plagued with headaches, nausea and shortness of breath due to the altitude. Fortunately, I was not being impacted by the change in altitude (besides a blood nose and slower running pace). It was interesting to be pushed outside our first world comfort zones and get back to the real world… the one where wifi doesn’t exist.
Day 2 – Waking to minus -8 degrees, I can safely say I’ve never been so clothed in my life as I am right now.
The longest day of driving today. Sites included active volcanos, areas of boulders resembling art installations and the red lagoon of Laguna Colorada where we see flocks of flamingos. Did you know flamingos are actually white and their pink colour is caused by the coloured algae they eat?!For lunch, I unknowingly ate Llama It was tough but tasted like beef.Darkness descends on our convoy of 4×4’s and I bare witness to a low lying lunar eclipse. Such a special sight and to be seen in this location and circumstance is magical.Arriving at 8pm in the Santiago de Agencha community, we stay at Jurik Community Lodge in huts built with salt bricks, mud, wood and straw. The community-owned salt lodge was renovated and expanded through a major project in 2016 funded by Planeterra. With many of the village’s younger residences fleeing for economic opportunities, this lodge is seen by the community as a way to rescue their indigenous culture and provide opportunities for the future. The community specialises in quinoa production. Naturally, dinner features quinoa soup, sides and a warm drink made with quinoa.
Locals are celebrating the anniversary of their community. After the quinoa buffet, a few of the group join in, drinking and dancing in circles around bonfires to a brass band. It was lit in more than one way. Considering this is the country of salsa and tango, the lack of rhythm displayed by locals whilst dancing was unexpected. Tonight’s celebration was only the warm up, yet it carried on til dawn. Can party!