We headed into the large open expanse of the Slat flats, passing tiny mud brick houses, with women washing their clothes in the stream, and Llamas grazing. The brilliant blue sky was broken only by the odd fluffy white cloud (I think its the one from the Expedia advert following us about!)
Our first stop was the Valley of the Rocks - guess what was there! We spent a while clambouring and spotting faces with the boys adamant that they could run the 100m sprint and climb a rock to get in a group photo set on timer on my camera. We have photos of Jimmy and Roberts bum as they try and get there.... some might say it was their better side!
With dusk setting we reached the Laguna Colorade (red lake), but with poor visibility and a wind picking up we headed to our lodging, with a promise to return tomorrow.
Our lodgings for the night boasted "Quality and Elegance for you" on the sign - debateable use of these words, I feel, as we didn´t even have running water!
4.30am start (eugh!), and out in time to watch the sun rise over the sillhouetted hills.
The landscape is arid and rocky - as I imagine the landscape of Mars would be, and our first stopwas certainly something out of science fiction. The view was of large areas of steam rising out of the middle of nowhere, and with the sun rising behind it casting shadows and sillhouettes of tourists throught the steam you could believe that you were in themiddle of an alien invasion, and this the crash site of the UFO, the Geysers and the bubbling pools of mud were very impressive.
We stopped for breakfast at Laguna Polques, where a thermal pool at the edge of the lake sat invitingly in the morning sun. Impolite to refuse the invitation Terry, Jimmy, Robert adn I sat in the warm water, admiring the sun twinkling over the large lake, spotted with Flamingo´s - and it was not even 7am! Pure Bliss!
From here to Laguna Verde - (Green lake) which, imaginatively, is in fact both green and a lake. The arsenic, and other minerals give it its colour, and the water was so still there was a perfect reflection of the rolling hills behind it in the water.
Back to Laguna Colorade, and today the red in the water is clearly visible. We sat for ages admiring the flamingoes, and trying (and in my case failing) to get the perfect photo of a flamingo in flight!
Then back to arid landscape and the Pampa Sidoli, to see the Dali - esque Arbol de Piedra (Stone Tree - can you guess what it is yet?), and then past more lakes, a random Andean Fox, amountain of 7 colours (which were all beige!), the ollague Volcano, the border of Chile, and views of dust tornados sweeping the plains. Each sight more amazing than the last.
To top it all off, the view of the stars when we went to bed was amazing!
Someone had been partying all night, and there was evidence of this the next morning - it wasn´t any of us and I was just praying that it hadn´t been our drivers!
The stars now made the 3.30am (new meaning to stupid o´clock) worthwhile, especially as now they had moved we could clearly see the Southern Cross twinkling above us.
A the sun started to rise, we watched in awe out of the jeep window. The sky turns every colour of the rainbow, from the red at the horizon right through tothe violet sky still with twinkling stars. The hills turn a lilac colour and as the sun rise go darker and sillhouette against the sky. Photos and words just can´t do it justice but this morning was one I will never forget.
The feeling of being insignificant in such a desolate place is very real, as is the absolute silence.
We stood in wonder for a long time, admiring the shadows cast, and the tesolation of cracks in the salt, almost like a lino of hexagons.
Our next stop was Incahuasi or Isla de Pescasdo (Fish Island - named after its shape), which stands in the middle of the flats and is covered with Giant Cacti. We breakfasted and then spent ages mucking about with the use of perspective to take some silly photos. Below are some of my favourites:
Finally we headed to Hotel de Sal Playa Blanca, a hotel made of salt, and then to see how the locals refine the salt for cooking.
Our last stop of the day was at a Train Graveyard, where with silly pictures on the brain the boys re-enacted some Indiana Jones Style Action Shots!
The day ended with a 7 hour bus ride to Potosi on the bumpiest road in history. My teeth are now all loose in my head!