Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Southwest Circuit of Bolivia

After the Salar de Uyuni, our next destination was the "southwest circuit" of Bolivia. It's well known for it's Mars-like landscape on a very high-altitude plain around 15,000 feet (4500 meters). The southwest circuit was everything we expected - bad roads, volcanoes, crazy rock formations, odd-colored lakes, hot springs, icy winds, DUST, a bazillion stars, llamas, and lots of flamingos.

Asking a local for directions

One of the awesome camping spots we found during our drive

Hot springs at 14,000 ft - blissful

The circuit lived up to it's legend with horrible roads and the feeling that we were really out there. It no-doubt tested the structural integrity of El Tigre as well as our bodies. Sleeping at 14,000 feet was still a little difficult, and we had to be careful to drink tons of water and not consume too much food or alcohol. Where's the fun in that?

Sandy, washboard roads as far as the eye can see

We also struggled with the freezing temperatures. Every evening we parked the truck facing due east so that we could pop the hood in the morning and warm up the engine block. Scott was very pleased that the truck easily roared to life every morning. We also switched bedrooms - from the poorly insulated top bunk to the warmer sofa bed. We drained the water heater every night, and opened our cabinets to expose the plumbing to our body heat. Normally, we collect our shower water to wash the truck in the morning, but that was impossible with a 6 inch block of ice in the bucket.

Eating up some sunshine

Laguna Colorada is the most famous and picture-worthy destination on the circuit. It is a shallow, pink lake (due to algae) flanked by large mountains and covered with flamingos! Very picture-worthy indeed.

We had to take a side road up (and I mean UP) to 16,500 feet at the Bolivian customs office. It was 45 miles from the actual border. So weird.

Laguna Verde - green due to suspensions of arsenic and other minerals 

Just as we were exiting Bolivia near 15,000 ft (at the crossroads between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina), we saw a guy BIKING up from Chile. I couldn't believe that he was about to do what we just did ON A BIKE with A TENT! How in the...? I would love to chat with him about his life and adventures. We did get a picture of him (below), to remind us of how lame we are.

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