November 19, 2005
It was still completely dark outside when we got up today at 4:00 AM. Actually, everyone else got up at 4:00, but I just laid in bed for twenty minutes saying, "I hate mornings. I can't believe I'm paying for this." Somehow, we still managed to leave at about 4:30. I couldn't fathom why we would have to get up so early to go and drive all day.
After about an hour of driving, the sun finally came up. We made our first stop at the Michina Geysers, just as the sky was getting very colorful. Seeing the steam shoot out from the ground with lots of colors in the background was amazing. I guess that's why we got up so early. We walked around an area that was full of boiling water and rising smoke. Unfortunately, I could only enjoy myself for about ten minutes because it was probably about -10 Celsius and very windy. My hands were numb by the time were got back into the truck.
After freezing our asses off, we made a short drive to the hot springs of Challviri. The water was only slightly warm, but it felt great after walking near the geysers. We stayed in the are for awhile and had breakfast. This was also the part of the tour where we split up. The hot springs are located in the far southwestern part of Bolivia, just a few miles from Chile. Chris, Katrina, and Jenny all left to go to Chile. Kirsten, Stephie, and I joined Jill and Marie, from France, for the rest of the tour in their truck.
Our last stop before making our way back toward Uyuni was Laguna Verde, the Green Lagoon. It was very calm and highly reflective with Licancabur Mountain in the background. Supposedly, the color of the lagoon was supposed to change at around 10:00 AM when the sun got high enough in the sky, but I couldn't tell. We sat at the lagoon for over an hour and leisurely made our way back. From this point on, there would be no rushing to see everything.
We stopped for the day at about 2:00 in another small town in the middle of nowhere. At least the hotel we stayed at had running water, hot showers, and electricity for two hours per day. We got settled in and relaxed for a few minutes, at which point normally we would eat dinner and go to bed, but it was still the middle of the afternoon, so we had to find something else to do.
Our new guide, a large, fat man with a tough image that could've landed him on the cast of The Soprano's, suggested fishing. We piled ourselves and a bunch of neighborhood kids (making about 15 people in all) into the truck and drove down a long, bumpy road to the river. The kids took off upstream with their net. I thought it was a little unfair to be fishing with a net, but then I remembered that we were fishing for dinner, not for fun.
The rest of us walked with our guide downstream a bit. He had a more familiar looking setup: a shiny lure attached to some fishing line with a bobber. He demonstrated how to throw out the line a few times and guaranteed that there were huge trout in the river. The river was completely free of potential snags except for one tiny little patch of land in the middle, but our guide made a direct hit on about his third cast and left it up to us to get the lure unstuck.
Given that there was only one line for the five of us, and that line was stuck in the river, I quickly got bored and started throwing my Frisbee around with Kirsten. I'm glad I had been fishing before and knew enough to bring something along to stave off the boredom.
The snag was eventually undone, and we continued fishing, playing catch, and sitting around for an hour and a half before giving up. None of us got so much as a nibble. I figured the kids upstream probably caught all of the fish in their net, leaving none for us. To my surprise, however, they also left empty-handed. I guess fishing with a net isn't unfair after all.
I thought our dinner was going to be a plate with rice around the edge and a trout-shaped empty spot in the middle, but we actually got to eat sausages. I explained to the German girls that not only do we have bratwursts and other sausages in Wisconsin, but we glorify them by dressing people up in sausage costumes and letting them race each other in a baseball stadium. They were slightly amused.
When your day begins at 4:00 AM, it can seem very long by the time it gets dark. Nobody seemed to want to do anything on the last night of our trip, so I took a nice, hot shower and called it a night early again.
The photo album for this entry is here.