Friday July 10, 2015
I accidentally get up at 6 not knowing there is a time change in Bolivia after Chile. It is absurdly cold. There is ice on the inside of the windows. Two of our travel companions tell me last night was the worst night of their lives. Drama queens, haha. I cannot face breakfast as my altitude-induced headache has worsened considerably. Felix encourages me to neck a giant mug of coca leaves tea. It is strangely pleasant.
Our 4WD passes Lake Colarado again but instead of appearing red it shimmers like a giant white mirage in the distance.
The national park check point operates as a second border post for Bolivia as this porous border is used for trafficking of drugs and people and almost anything else.
My head is getting worse. I feel sick and exhausted. I don't want to let on to Katya quite how dodgy I'm beginning to feel.
Today's weird and wonderful delights include a stone forest and three lagoons. It is almost as if God got stoned when he was creating this part of the world. Now there are vicuna and llama regularly dotting the terrain.
We stop for an amazing lunch beside the jeep in the middle of one particularly epic setting. There is a heavily smoking volcano in the distance above another oddly beautiful lake. We meet a gorgeous wild fox, who clearly has never seen human kind before. The pink flamingos are now so common that there are no longer gasps of appreciation each time we see them.
And late in the day we see the first stretch of Salar de Uyuni salt lake shimmering in distance. This is just a taster of the world's greatest salt lake which is brilliantly white. A simple two-track train line connecting the Chilean coast passes through here. It makes me think of Butch and Sundance.
All in all this is incredibly tough driving terrain. It constantly changes and thank heavens Felix is a fantastic driver.
This whole 520-kilometre journey is all so absurdly unreal and off the scale. It is primeval. You half expect dinosaurs to pop up. It is truly epic and hard to compare to anything or anywhere that most of us have seen or know in our lives. Up here in the heavens there are just so many different weird and wonderful landscapes.
I have thought a lot about life today. It is futile. Pointless. None of it; none of this makes sense. And yet the exhilaration I have felt today makes that same futile, pointless life we all have seem boundless.
Tonight we are staying in a salt hotel on the edge of Salar de Uyuni. The walls are made from salt, salt covering the floors like Santa's grotto filled with pretend snow. It is silly mixed with brilliant.
Tanned, pink chubby cheeked kids that look almost Mongolian occasionally run into the chilly dining area. My altitude sickness was cured by the coca leaves and to celebrate most of us are drinking far more red wine than we should at altitude.
I stumble outside into the freezing darkness and stare up at the brilliantly clear Milky Way stretching across the heavens. It makes me feel incredibly minute and reminds me of my earlier thoughts of futility and pointlessness. I feel a long long long way from home. I feel a universe away from anywhere. And it comforts me.