03.11.09

Salt Plains – Day Two

Posted in Bolivia at 7:47 pm by Jackson Lee

Darkness, like meeting big bird in an alley, has the power to scare the crap out of me. Add this to a serious dose of altitude sickness and the four walls of a guest house can feel like the least oxygenated space outside of the Russian submarine service. Imagine trying to sleep while breathing through a cocktail straw – my night was miserable. Under the full moon, I paced the yard chewing coca and admiring the distant snow capped mountains.

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Morning, with a 4:30 start, was a relief. Havier was back on the wheel driving us cheerfully into the sunrise, past tall peaks and endless, spot the Llama, barren land. By 11:00 am we had arrived at our first stop – the abandoned mining town of San Antonio, one of the highest (mining) towns in history – 4690 meters.

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Founded not long after the mineral hungry, El Dorado seeking, Spaniards reached the new world in the 15th century, San Antonio initially boomed before the more prosperous mine’s of Potosi took center stage. In true, do or die, miner fashion a small group stayed on in the town until 1991, at which point inbreeding forced the surviving group to leave. Nasty

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Heading out of San Antonio I couldn’t help but think about the faith these people had in the world as they saw it. Would you live in the roof of the world, breed with your relatives, dig away at dirt all day, if you had swum the beaches of Rio, meet the beauties of Dalmatia or had worked / sung / danced as a Bollywood superstar?

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Passing one of the trips high points of 4855 meters, we soon entered into ‘Reserva National De Fauna Andina Eduadro Avaroa’ – a national park of Bolivia – which to my untrained eye looked identical in landscape as the area we had driven through for the past 4 hours.

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Turns out that seeing Flamingos for the first time is some what anti-climatic. Animals such as large cats, snakes and unicorns fire up the ‘oh-gosh’ parts of the brain which burn an unshakable memory. Bright pink birds with cool beaks, however, leave the same impression as rush hour traffic. In saying this, watching packs of Flamingo swoop over the still lake was stunning.

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Like many a traveler before me, I found myself thinking… ‘What the f@ck were bright pink birds (with cool beaks) doing in the middle of nowhere and how the hell did they ever evolve to call this place home….’

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Lunch had been on my mind most of the morning. Showers had not been available the previous night and the bumping road had been constant reminder that ‘Adventure Tourism’ has its draw backs. Lunch, however, came with a swim in a hot spring (Rio Amaro) and beautiful views.

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The afternoon took us past lakes (Laguna Verde, Laguna Blanca) full of nasty stuff like arsenic, magnesium and sulphur – which cause differing water colours (for which the lakes are named) and the human body, like penguins at a beach party, to die horribly. Some of these minerals are mined and exported to Brazil – where they are processed.

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One lake was dry leaving behind a small salar (Salt plain) called ‘Salar De Chalviri’..

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This part of the trip is within sight of the Chilean border and close to the Chilean tourist town of San Pedro De Atacarma (cool name huh!). Some cool pictures of the area.

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In the late afternoon we arrived at the geothermal area ‘Geysers Sol De Manana’. Jamie, our brave very un-Steven Siegel like chef waved his hands enthusiastically and lead us into the thermal area. Weirdly, most other tourists were admiring the park from a safe distance on a nearby hill.

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The thermal park is remote – it has no staff or nearby inhabitants and is basically a feel free to burn yourself to death zone. There is, thankfully, one sign stating ‘be careful’. The nearest hospital being two days drive away.

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A few minutes into Jamie’s wordless tour, Elodie’s foot broke through thin dirt and dropped into very hot volcanic mud – screaming loudly we rushed to her aide. Her shoe was a mess  – her foot was okay. Jamie would have made Steven Siegel proud with his quick response.

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I’m pointing at Elodies hole in this photo. Yup, I’m still not at a safe distance.

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Often in life we are reminded that other cultures hold different ways of seeing the world. Bolivians, like many South Americans, are known for their comparably careless attitude towards public safety. We travel to immerse ourselves in foreign cultures – this leads us to taking on some of the values of the places we travel. Some travelers go home and dance the salsa every weekend, others stop believing in normal sleeping hours (thanks Buenos Aires) while a really small group go home with a slightly burnt foot. This was a good reminded to stay practical about safety.

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Leaving the thermal park we were soon relaxing in simple accommodations at the edge of a large plain. Thankfully, we had dropped attitude so my head was feeling less like a used soccer ball. So ended another day of drama and adventure.

5 Comments »

  1. Sarah-Jane of Onehunga said,

    May 2, 2009 at 2:47 am

    I am reading with horrified fasination about a place that I now never want to visit. It is extraordinary, amazing that people lived there. Thanks for going so we can travel there in your thoughts. Much more comfortable!

  2. Nana said,

    May 2, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Cool photos and script to go with it Jackson. Really enjoy your blog.
    By the way the
    Hurricanes are at the top of the Super 14 table at present and just look to have a chance of making it this time. I can hear saying ‘Yeh – just watch them blow it!’ You never know Jackson their day may be nigh. love Nana

  3. Ian said,

    May 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Hey Jacko!
    I see that’s quite amazing out there! It seems you can always be amazed about something huh?
    Como está tu español? Is it getting better or are you taking shelter in the international hostels and kind turists?

    By the way, Alan’s been wondering about the book “Falklands to Patagonia”, who was it that had it? Can you let her know (Brazilian journalist was it?) where or how to contact us?

    The Ultimate Scene keeps getting bigger oververhere. We had to succesfull tourneys and a fourth team getting players together.

    Anywho, good luck por allá Jackson!

    Saludos!

    Ian

  4. Ian said,

    May 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Hey Jacko!
    I see that’s quite amazing out there! It seems you can always be amazed about something huh?
    Como está tu español? Is it getting better or are you taking shelter in the international hostels and kind turists?

    By the way, Alan’s been wondering about the book “Falklands to Patagonia”, who was it that had it? Can you let her know (Brazilian journalist was it?) where or how to contact us?

    The Ultimate Scene keeps getting bigger oververhere. We had two succesfull tourneys and a fourth team getting players together.

    Anywho, good luck por allá Jackson!

    Saludos!

    Ian

  5. Summer said,

    December 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

    . “All his poetry turns aronud frustrated love. His tormented characters who can’t live the life they want are precisely the metaphor for his sorrow. He was a genius who turned his suffering into art.”After Lorca was assassinated by death squads in August 1936, at the start of Spain’s civil war, his brother Francisco and sister Isabel made every effort to expunge any trace of homosexuality from his life and work, Gibson claims. A family spokeswoman, Laura Garcia Lorca, says they never talked of her uncle’s homosexuality when her father was alive. “We didn’t want his murder to be considered a sexual crime but to stress it was a political crime. It was difficult for my father to accept the homosexuality of his brother. However my Aunt Isabel [who died in 2002] spoke openly in her later years about homosexuality, and came to accept it as something natural. I imagine my father spoke of it among friends, but never publicly,” she said recently.As late as 1987, a long introduction to a standard textbook of Lorca poems, The Poet in New York, contained not a word about his sexuality. But that US trip in 1929, which produced an explosion of anguished creativity, was the result of a failed love affair with the sculptor Emilio Aladre9n, Gibson reveals. The beautiful sculptor abandoned the poet to marry an English woman, Elizabeth Dove, which plunged Lorca into a deep depression.Poems written shortly before his death were finally published in the mid-1980s. But the title, Sonnets of a Dark Love, was softened to Love Sonnets, even though the verses clearly referred to a man: “You will never understand that I love you/ because you sleep in me and are asleep./I hide you, weeping, persecuted/ by a voice of penetrating steel.” The masculinity is clear in Spanish, in which nouns have gender.Gibson says he went back to the beginning and re-read all of Lorca’s earliest poems for this latest book. “I discovered an anguished, tortured gay love … Those who deny his homosexuality must now shut up, or at least question their prejudices. It’s a relief after so many decades of obfuscation and silence, to reveal the truth.”

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