Thursday, June 27, 2013

I never thought it could be this cold…

We’re 2 days in to our 4-day tour of SW Bolivia. It’s turning out to be a little more rugged then I (Steve) expected. We’ve seen a ton of amazing landscapes. The elevations have been remarkable. From Tupiza we went straight up to about 14,000 feet and we’ve been around there ever since. The landscape originally looked very much like parts of Arizona, except the elevations are so much higher. We’ve seen wonderful canyons, volcanoes, and lots of snow and ice. Last night we slept at 13,600 feet. No heat in the lodging. I’ve had a day of upset digestion – I went to the toilet at 11:00 PM and there was a layer of ice in the toilet bowl. Nice. Since it was a little cloudy it didn’t get as cold as usual, only 9 F. Today we saw much more snow and ice. The Land Cruisers got stuck in icy stream crossings a number of times and we had to work to get them across. The highest point we went today was 16,100 ft. Not much air up there. A highlight of the day was thermal hot springs that we stopped at before lunch. The hot water was on the edge of a frozen lake and felt wonderful. After soaking for 30 minutes we went in for lunch and I hung my wet bathing suit on the Cruiser. When we came back out it was frozen. It’s pretty much cold and windy most of the time. Tonight we’re sleeping at 14,200 ft. and we’re looking out the window at some horizontal snow and…seagulls. We are very near the Laguna Colorado, a beautiful reddish lake with some hot springs, llamas, and flamingos. There are many surprises in Bolivia. As we were having dinner on the second night the snow was beginning to fall. Well not really fall, it was traveling horizontally through the air. The drivers went out to put tarps over the hoods of the jeeps to keep the snow out. There was a small wood stove in the dining area of the hostel that was fired up with some wood from one of the groups and it quickly became the gathering point for everyone in all of the groups. There are about 24 of us in all at the hostel. We’ve met many nice people on the tour, and of course all of them are the age of our kids or younger. In the morning there were a few inches of fresh snow on the ground and some drifts behind the vehicles. The drivers decided to change the route a bit based on the fresh snow to skip some of the higher elevations. We still saw many beautiful canyons, lagunas, and salars during the day, ending at the edge of the Salar de Uyuni. The Salar de Uyuni is one of the natural wonders of the world. It is the largest salt flat in the world. Across one direction you can travel over 150 miles on salt. We got up before dawn to go to and small island of volcanic rock and big cardones cactus in the middle of the salar to see the sun rise. It was beautiful. Lots of photos and sightseeing. It was time to say goodbye to some of our new friends as we headed to the north end of the salar. Our driver and cook (Jose and Berta) dropped us off at a hostel and they returned to Tupiza. We reassembled the Surlys and headed out for a ride across part of the salar. It’s a bit of a surreal experience. Still cold and windy, but sitting in the dining area of the hostel talking to 4 new friends (trekkers) 3 from France and one from Argentina. All of them are younger than our kids (of course) ☺. It is fun though to see the reaction on people’s faces when they discover we are riding our bikes on this route. One other interesting note: of the 50 or so tourists we’ve seen in the past 4 days, I’m the only American. Pictures: Laguna negra and laguna colorada, dining room at the hostal made of salt and Steve riding on the salar


  1. Steve, that frozen toilet should not have been a problem (if what I have heard from others that you are a flaming ...).
    As I sit in a comfortable motel room in San Simeon, CA (apparently the Hearst Castle is not part of the Warm Showers system), I marvel at what you and Patricia are experiencing. Looking forward to seeing you both in July.

  2. Thanks for the update. I am so glad that you are having this excellent adventure . You compel me to stop complaining about the 111 that it will be here today.