Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to view some pics.

So needless to say I´ve had some difficulty sharing pictures due to various mobile device and connectivity limitations. I have however been able to upload forty pics to a flickr account that I will try to share now. Here´s a link to the first pic: Folks should be able to view the others on the account as well since they´re set to public.  Let me know if you view them with success! Thanks!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bolivia's Southern Altiplano

Bolivia is truly an extraordinary place. Despite reading about the extremes of the country in our Lonely Planet guide, I really didn't get the extent of those extremes until touring the country's southern altiplano. The entire area sits above 3,500 meters and during the trip we reached heights of over 5,000 meters. Our guide was an affable Quechuan with a beautiful smile who very naturally produced the name of every volcano and mountain range and pointed out various flora and fauna while navigating the challenging terrain.  In addition to Mathilde, our friend from Sucre, we traveled with an Australian couple and a South Korean college student on break from studying abroad in Mississippi. The first day we visited the 'train cemetery' where abandoned trains from the 19th century sit slowly sinking and rusting in the desert environs. We then spent the rest of the day driving through the very impressive Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, stopping for lunch at an 'island', Isla Inkahuasi. That night we stayed in a hotel made of salt. The next day we entered the national reserve where we got to observe three of the world's five species of flamingos dining non-stop on algae, the Laguna Colorado (a lagoon colored red by a kind of algae which also happens to be where the flamingos get their color from), and curious petrified lava formations. The second night we stayed in a rustic camp at 4,700 meters but only until 4:30am the next morning when we proceeded to a field of steaming geysers and holes of bubbling sulphuric mud. By 6:30 we were having breakfast and bathing in hot springs. Finally we visited the Laguna Verde colored not by micro-organisms but by a toxic mix of lead, sulphur, arsenic and calcium deposits.  We then proceeded to the Chilean border, passing desert hills dotted with smooth rocks that are said to have inspired certain works by Salvador Dali. We dropped off three of our traveling companions at the border before heading back to Uyuni, a 7 hour stretch. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunny Sucre

Today is election day in Sucre and everything is shut down. No cars on the street and no alcohol for sale on this day. Muy tranquilo. We´ve been staying in this homey city in southern Bolivia for almost two weeks at Santa Cecilia; a comfortable B&B that has wireless (occasionally) and hot water in our baƱo privado. Our accomplishments include: a full 7 days of Spanish classes at the friendly Sucre Spanish School, mild food poisoning (or was it the altitude?), and a day trip to a nearby market pueblo Tarabuco where tourists and locals alike purchase handmade indiginous textiles alongside mass-produced made-all-over-the-world items. Things we are enjoying include the fresh fruit drinks (jugos naturales and zumo), impressive vistas, and the abundant chocolate that Sucre is known for as well as the charm of the locals and many fellow travelers we´ve encountered.

Tomorrow at 7am we head to Uyuni, a mining town to the west that is the jumping off point for what is known as the "southwest circuit" . We´ll be traveling with our new friend Malthilde, a quirky but endearing tour guide from France. From Uyuni we will sign up with a guide company to take us for a three-day tour through the salt flats of southwestern Bolivia. We expect high altitudes, cold weather and a striking pure-white landscape along with gysers, a red lake, flamingos, and multi-colored lagunas.