|Border open so off we go! Only a two hour wait for immigration ...huge queue of people was waiting to get stamped out because of yesterdays closure. We also picked up a guide for this section as the roads tend to change in the National Park depending on the weather. Braulio appeared to be about 60 and was specifically asked for by Anki as he is not only a good guide but helps around the truck as well. Mamasita followed us as her guide didn´t turn up. There was a two hour drive through no-man´s land and we were quite sure that it was because the land wasn´t worth having. the Bolivian border is at around 5100m so breathing is quite an effort but at least the immigration for Bolivia is easy we didn´t even get out of the truck. Very cold outside. The scenery changed to absolutely spectacular ice on the side of the road and snow capped mountains. One of the main things to do for altitude is drink as much water as possible and pee as much as possible so lots of bare bums out in the cold. I got a little tingly so had some oxygen and felt much better a couple of others were much worse.
Passed by a couple of very pretty salt lakes and saw my first Vicuna a small version of the llama and the fur twice as expensive if you can get it. They don't mind drinking the salt water in the lakes.We also saw our first flock of pink flamingos. So we were about 1.5 hours from the nearest settlement when Mamasita broke down so it was lucky we were there. Juan stayed with her and all 7 of the travelers came onto our truck.Juan eventually got her into the village at around midnight meanwhile we had arrived at our refuge in a tiny little town and were warned it was very basic but it was OK the beds were clean and warm and there was running water and toilets which sometimes is really all you need. We were glad that no one had to spend the night with the truck or camp as the temp went down to about minus 10 pretty frosty.
So our next day was a full truck with one sitting on the fridge and two in the aisle couldn't have done it if we were travelling fast but there is no such thing as fast in the Altiplano.
Stopped a couple of times first at an area with large rocks which presumable to look like whatever you can imagine one group was a king a tall rock, a lion and a duck. Passed by San Cristobal a mining town that was moved by an American mining company including moving the church brick by brick still not quite first world standards but livable. Stopped for lunch in a village that had been deserted but recent mining has made it habitable and it had been re built in the Inca style.
Finally arrived at a little town of mud coloured dingy houses which turned out to be Uyuni our stay for the night and a quite nice hotel.
And the highest pizza place in the world. Pretty good pizzas too.
It is from Uyuni that people go to see the salt flats / I've already posted a few photos on Face book. Out in the middle of the salt flats there is a Salt Hotel made completely of salt and some of the buildings in a nearby village are also made of salt. Spent the afternoon taking pictures pretty good fun if you can get it right. Our guides supplied lunch for us better than many of our truck lunches have been and even supplied hot tea and coffee..
Next day headed for Potosi via some very dry dusty roads and a stop in Pulacayo to see the caboose in which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid were finally stopped its very small and the bullet holes are visible yet another dry dirty deserted looking place which is really a quite full community.
Potosi is a large thriving community with a few tourist shops set on hillside so walking is quite breathy for me. It used to be the richest place in south America so there were a lot of beautiful colonial buildings and some nice statues. Also a good selection of places to eat and finally some good coffee.
There is a current demonstration going on in Bolivia something to do with doctors pay .. and it was May Day so quite a few parades as we were walking to dinner we passed one large group of men and were surprised!!! by a stick of dynamite blasting our eardrums / this happened quite a few times during the afternoon and evening but this time it was very close.
The altitude is really making life difficult for me as I am not the most cardio fit person not as bad as some but bad enough to make me very slow when walking any distance apparently it gets better the longer you stay at altitude and when you descend it feels great. We will be above 3500m for at least 25 days and this includes the Machu Picchu walk can see myself being thrown onto the back of a donkey!
While it is cold ,because it is OK on the truck and I wrap up when I get off it really hasn't been too bad so far fortunately we have not had to camp in sub zero conditions and the hostels and hotels supply lots of blankets. Menopause has also been useful for keeping warm at night.