Chilean greetings beloved blog-readers!
As far as writing environments go, my current location is holding its own fairly well – I am sitting on the veranda of a higgledy-piggledy hostel on the outskirts of San Pedro de Atacama, looking out onto the magnificent cordillera peaks that separate Chile from Bolivia. I’ve also just been fed large amounts of pasta by the guy who runs this place and his Brazilian, bongo-playing sidekick, so if my writing takes on a slightly dazed quality then it’s because all my brain power has been directed towards my digestive system, eased along by the lazy drum beat in the background. It’s a hard life eh.
But before I am lulled into full-on slumber, let’s crack on to the intended subject of this entry: the Salar de Uyuni, a.k.a. Bolivia’s trump card to end all trump cards. There are few places that have stunned me with such raw beauty – doing the three-day trip descriptive justice is going to be quite a challenge! The tour consisted of an exploration of the salt flats themselves, a glittering mosaic of hexagonal plates which are locked together like Arctic pack-ice and which stretch for as far as the eye can see. This was followed by two days of taking in blood-red, crystalline green and opalescent blue lagoons, sweeping desert-scapes speckled with islands of cacti, mountains slashed with multi-coloured rings and an array of enchanting native fauna including flamingos, vicuña (like llamas but smaller and more dainty), viscacha (like rabbits but larger and with long tails) and a friendly desert fox! The first night was spent in a hotel made almost entirely of salt from the flats, and the second saw us shivering away in slightly more basic accommodation – it was bloody freezing!! After wrapping myself up in about ten layers, however, I was able to drop off for a few hours.
My fellow explorers included Stuart from Scotland, Elena from Switzerland and her partner Fernando from Italy, Argentinian gems Paula and Monica, and our Bolivian guide Placido, who had us roaring through the flats in his jeep to his hilariously eclectic music collection (Red Hot Chili Peppers to traditional Bolivian pipe music by way of Ke$ha). Placido also took great pleasure in ensuring that our cameras were loaded up with as many classic cheesy touristy perspective photos as possible (see below), and took every opportunity to have us jumping in the air for motion shots (“Katriiiina! Vamos chica – JUMPY JUMPY!”):
Me being me, the linguistic diversity of the group was a source of great excitement and amusement; the conversation bounced about in hybrid combinations of English, Spanish, Italian and Swiss-German, which all hung together perfectly somehow. Some of the most uplifting moments of my journey so far have emerged from situations like these, in which I can code-switch to my heart’s content and play about between different languages, laughing off and bonding over errors, making random additions to my vocab bank… Sharing languages is a truly heart-warming, barrier-breaking experience. Highly recommended regardless of level – swallow your fear and pride and get stuck in I say!
The tour ended at the Chilean border, where we were all duly searched and charged a few bolivianos before being dropped off in sleepy San Pedro. I still haven’t fully digested the salt flats experience (or the hostel pasta for that matter), but writing this has definitely helped somewhat! I hope it gives you at least some kind of impression as to the magnificence of this part of the world.
Next stop: Salta, Argentina! It’s been a flying visit to Chile, but I’m sure that I’ll find my way back before too long 😉
Love love love love love x x x
P.s. I’d just like to make it known HOW LONG it’s taken me to upload above photos on the current snail-like internet connection, so please have a good long look to make it worth the while!