Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Thursday, October 20, 2022

South America : Day 8 : To the volcano, mummies!…

More silly photos ahoy! Sorry!

Today I headed out on my own. Stu wasn’t feeling too good. Nothing serious. A touch of Bolivian belly. So it was just me and 4000 sq miles of rock salt for the day. What a grind! 😂

Bit of info on the salt flats themselves - on average the salt crust is 3m thick. Then there is a layer of intensely super saturated saline water below that. And beneath that about another 11m of crystalline salt. 

The flats are very… er… flat. Very flat. They only vary by 1m over the entire expanse. You can even see the curvature of the Earth. 

It’s dry season at the moment hence driving across the flats was fairly easy (if a little bumpy). The wet season is great for the famous mirror photos as the salt flats are covered in up to a metre in water. But you have to circumnavigate the whole area so you miss out on all the good stuff in the middle. I still managed to find a puddle or two to take some silly mirror photos though! 

As I resumed my journey speeding across the whiteness the main target of today’s trip came into view. The impressive Thunupa Volcano. Or as I call it “Couch to 5k”. 5k straight up that is. It’s 5700m up to the top part of the crater. Not that I ran, or even walked it. It takes 9 hours to climb. Great views from the top (apparently).  I got to 4200m and the views were pretty good from there. There were some fabulous mountain fauna too. 

Bolivia has comparatively little volcanic activity. Couchy is one of the only active ones and last popped his top about 70 years ago. 

After the volcano I headed to the famous Coquesa mummies. Weird doesn’t begin to describe them. Buried with no covering in a cave 800 years ago the dry air has preserved the bones to a creepy degree. 

Further down the slopes I visited a couple of museums. I say ‘museums’. Locals had collected local artefacts - pottery, stuffed animals, and rocks - and displayed them together with cacti. All very charming. 

I then had lunch overlooking the edge of the salts flats where flamingos were feeding and the local llama herder was rounding up his flock. Idyllic. 

Lunch was great. But a pang of guilt set in afterwards so I headed back to our salt hotel to check in on Stu and, to be honest, grab a bit of a siesta. It’s been a long week so far and we are only a third of the way there. Next stop, today’s nine hour drive to see…. more of Bolivia! 🇧🇴  

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