Day 5 – Hito Cajón, Bolivia

29 Mar

Getting later – a 6:30am wake up call, followed by a 30 minute lie in, still gave me enough time for toast and a full breakfast.

Packed our bags and the minibus had grown a trailer to take as us far as the Bolivian border. We joined the queue to check out of Chile just after 8am.

After a slight problem with the queue we had joined, we rejoined it at the back. People were going to Argentina as well as Bolivia, but the border guards prefer to stay on the edge of town, rather than in the middle of nowhere. That means that we now have a 40km drive through no mans land until we reach the Bolivian border post at Hito Cajón.

Judy made friends with a dog she called Rabies. We had lots of discussions about previous or future possible holiday destinations.

All the drivers here stick to the rules of the road. With the highway stretching into the distance and absolutely no traffic he faithfully comes to a full halt at the stop sign! Would never happen in the UK.

Skirting a very conical volcano today. How the snow on the top still exists, I’ll never know. Roasting again. Jo is freezing, which she blames on low blood pressure. I am turning a bit red, which means I need to remember the sun cream today!

Road to Bolivia was quite steep, and the vehicle only managed 30kph. We felt that we could be quicker walking!

Bolivian border guards don’t do plush. We left our guide, Oscar and driver, Jonathan to head towards a small building in the middle of nowhere. Apparently this was Hito Cajón. Passport duly stamped, we headed for four 4WD vehicles.

I managed to sneak a photo of the border without getting arrested.

We stopped off at the next place, which was only slightly larger than the previous hut, only to be charged 30p for being allowed to use a toilet.

It was immediately obvious that roads in Bolivia were going to be somewhat different. Don’t think of roads, more of a general direction. “Keep the volcano on the left and the lagoon on the right” kind of thing. None of the 4WD vehicles took the same route as we journeyed on.

On the list for today were the white lagoon and then the green lagoon – both spectacular! I was sitting beside Penny who literally ran out of “wows”. She managed to tell us that she was speechless. There were some spectacular reflections on the still water.

We stopped for lunch at another hot springs and lagoon, where we didn’t take a dip, but did enjoy llama kebabs and quinoa. Look it up. Altitude here is about 4200m and this caused a small problem when trying to open coke bottles! They explode! Also tried some cocoa tea, but won’t be making a habit of that.

Next stop was some more geysers, but this time it wasn’t water but molten rock that was coming out. Lots of smelly fumes as well, which made it the ideal place to pass wind. Had to be careful to stick to the path, or we might have been stepping on liquid rock. Unfortunately everyone made it back to the cars in one piece.

We drove on to the red lagoon, where there were lots of flamingos. The red algae they eat is what makes them the colour they are. Two other types of flamingo were also there, but they live elsewhere, so are not so pink.

Also saw lots of wild llama aka vicqhuña, and some domesticated ones with colours in their ears, much like cattle at home – but far more colourful.

We arrived in Villamar – and drove to our hotel on the far side of the small village. It was wonderful – and a far cry from anything we would have expected. Modern lighting enhanced the foyer and it was very pleasant overall. The only slight problem was the low lintels on the doorways. Also the first hotel with heating rather than air con. It was needed. Highest hotel so far at 3600m.

Meal tonight was lamb and rice, although most were suffering from headaches and sore neck muscles due to altitude sickness and made a quick escape to bed. Not seen a single sheep yet! Worryingly.

We also met a young american man, Nathaniel, who was travelling on a motorbike from Chile to his home in San Diego, California. His Spanish put us all to shame.

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