Day two of our crossing from Chile to Bolivia was just as spectacular as day one, with strange desert rock formations, more beautiful lakes, some weird rabbit-type creatures with long tails, a beautiful green valley as we emerged into inhabited areas, and the start of the famous salt flats that day three would be all about.
The day started off bright and early, with pancakes and tea. I was feeling fine, despite the altitude, although had woken in the middle of the night convinced I couldn’t breathe and on the verge of a panic attack. Only knowing Lauren was in the bed beside me got me to focus enough to breathe deeply and calmly, working every bit of oxygen I could out of the air. By morning, I was coping well enough, although still pathetically breathless after any exertion. Lauren of course was coping fabulously, generally running around outside with the llamas. Some people had headaches but paracetamol seemed to do the trick.
We set off driving along what passed for tracks, sometimes across broad empty plains, other times through deep canyons, and even at one point along a riverbed. First stop was at a huge collection of rocks, thrown from a volcano at some point in the past and eroded by the wind into weird shapes.
Next we found ourselves driving through a canyon with steep sides, and some rather unstable-looking boulders we could just imagine falling at any moment, as some obviously had in the past as the track wound round big chunks of rock. It was worth it though to see the weird rabbit-like creatures who live on the rocks….
We reached another beautiful lake, filled with flamingos, with an ‘ecolodge’ that had pay toilets. Its the first time I’ve been to a toilet where half of the bowl is restricted to ‘number ones’ and the other half to ‘number twos’. Not only that, but the ladies had a window, and the (male) attendant came and peered through it while I was on the loo, presumably checking I was aiming accurately enough….. it was a bit odd, but hey, you take any chance for a wee out here, there aren’t many bushes!
Lunch was by another beautiful lake…..
Eventually we reached ‘civilization’ with a few scattered dusty villages, and enjoyed about ten minutes of an actual road before another diversion, this time to clamber on yet more rock formations. Lauren and Connor found a ‘fortress’ and were quite happy up there until it was raided by the others…. cue lots of shrieking and squealing (and that was just the boys!).
After that, Paul promised us beer, although it seemed an awfully long time coming – first we drove up a valley that was actually green due to a river running through it, and we went for a walk through the waterlogged fields amidst a herd of llama.
We drove through a lovely green valley full of llamas, and went for a walk among them….
Once back in the car we came across one of the other vehicles, that had broken down. Apparently, the drive shaft had ‘popped out’ and was ‘popped back in’ using a stake one of the drivers wrenched out of a villager’s field and a rock.
The day ended with beers (coca beer, cactus beer…) at a local shack before heading to the salt hotel where we would have dinner and spend the night in the relative luxury of private rooms (and bathrooms!).
By 9pm we were both in bed, having had warm showers, as we would be up at 5am for a 5.30am departure to the salt flats. However, I needn’t have worried about getting up in time, as I got about one hours sleep all night, due to an explosive reaction to what I can only imagine was some bacteria on some of the food at dinner, or possibly something I picked up on my hands, despite regular applications of antibacterial gel.
Within a couple of hours I was vomiting profusely, and had terrible diarrhoea, and I spent most of the night in the absolutely freezing bathroom. Lauren, thankfully, slept on regardless.