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  • So it has been a while since I have both written and posted a blog. This is because we have had a hectic few days and I just haven't had the time or energy to write them, nor the WiFi to post them. I am however now laid in a hammock at a wonderfully warm and oxygenated 2400m, so I will be writing and posting them shortly.

    Today was the final day of our three day tour from Uyuni to San Pedro. Although I am writing this blog before writing those for days one and two, I am going to write as though I have already told you about them to save repeating myself.

    So today we all awoke at 4am to the sound of Robs alarm. It was bloody freezing!! More cold than I have ever been and we had no heating to wake up to either. It was such an effort to get up, despite being fully clothed already, but we had no choice if we wanted breakfast. Us girls also had to put our bikinis on in prep for the thermal springs later 😑

    After realising once again that being cold, shivering and trying to rush about getting dressed makes you pant like you've ran a half mile when at 4300m we were finally ready for breakfast.
    We weren't too thrilled this morning with the choice. It was cold thick pancakes and some sort of yoghurt drink. Not the most wonderful breakfast and after last night's weird meal I think everyone had hoped for a little more. But never mind....we didn't have time to moan as we had to be in the Jeep by 5am. Rob and Rich managed to brave the cold a little more for some photos of the starry sky (good photos but it was so cold Rob did not think it was worth it). Heading outside to the car was like stepping into a freezer. It was somewhere between minus 5 and minus 15 and inside the car it wasn't much better.
    We set off to the geothermal geysers and our breath actually formed ice inside the windows :( brrrrr! It also made it impossible to see out of them and my plan to sit in the front to avoid travel sickness was not the best as the passenger side of the window was the same. Fortunately the driver had just enough room to see out of to get us through the sandy roads (or tire marked areas of desert lol). We overtook a couple of other jeeps and it was a pretty fun ride. We also saw the result of a small crash between a couple of jeeps, likely a result of the blinding sun ahead that made it near enough impossible to see, even when the ice had melted.

    The skies in the way in were absolutely glorious. We set off in the dark and the stars were above us along with the milkyway. You could just make out where the sun would come up because of the paler, silvery blue layer of colour to the left that the mountains stood silhouetted against. As we carried on this silvery blue layer of colour stretched higher into the sky and the mountains were I stead offset by a greeny yellow, and peachy orange layer that looked stunning. The stars eventually faded and we were left with the peachy orange sky that crept into a pinky haze higher in the sky.

    We reached the geysers before any other group and as soon as you opened the car door you could hear the jet of sulphur billowing out of the ground. It was like listening to the jet engine of a plane. What also hit us was the cold once again. SOOOOOOO COOOOOLD!!!! We all looked pretty stupid with our hats and scarves covering our entire faces but it was the only thing to do. It is also the reason the geysers look so impressive though, which makes it worth it. They were spectacular. We walked through the park and the colour of the sky looked amazing against the planes of steaming gas and the golden sand, tinged with reds, greens and whites from the minerals. The gas was escaping from both tiny holes barely even visible in the ground, to huge craters where there was so much steam you couldn't see inside. There were also boiling clay pits that made an awesome gloopy bubbling sound as you walked past and spit boiling clay up into the air. Once again, another spectacular and contrasting site that takes your breath away. Cannot believe how many different types of landscape we have been witness to in South America and particularly so close together here in Bolivia. My up the altitude slowly (we have had no headaches or sickness and no coca tea) and then enjoy the beauty of this absolutely stunning continent! My words and pictures just will not do it justice.

    After enjoying the geysers and walking through the lovely eggy smelling sulphur gases we headed back to the Jeep. We left as more people started to arrive and were glad to have got there when we did. Not only for the quiet but also for the was much brighter now and the colours a little less spectacular.
    We headed off on another fun journey in the Jeep, bouncing along the sand and kicking up dust. Once again we were all freezing and we sat listening to a mix of our drivers Bolivian music and 80's disco lol. A bit much for such an early morning.
    We arrived at the hotsprings after about half an hour, ice still on the windows. We had passed a huge lake on the way, which the springs sat on the edge of, and saw a huddle of flamingos that had seemingly become frozen in the ice that had formed on the surface. Our guide Pablo told us this happens sometimes and they have to wait for it to melt. They must have been looking longingly at the smaller waders and gulls that were sitting in the steaming edges of the lake that just caught the golden glow of the Sun. It was a surreal sight, steaming clouds coming off the lakes surface, the rays of orange and golden sun just about making their through as a glowing haze. The lake itself was interspersed with patches of green land, sandy rock and white ice and birds enjoying the water of flying through the steam.
    We had paid for the entry to the springs (60p) in a gross makeshift office with toilets that just smelt like wee. I didn't use them but Rob informed me they were the hole in the ground kind. We then headed to get undressed. Nothing had seemed more unnatural or crazy given the temperature, but when else do you get to do this somewhere so beautiful. The very shirt walk/run to the water was breathtakingly cold, but my goodness was it worth it. The water was at a glorious 38 degress and after almost slipping on the algae rocks on my way in I was in heaven. We sat and just enjoyed both the warmth and the opportunity to be soaking in something as showering had not been option before. It was beautiful, and only one other group were here before us which made it even better. We looked out from the steaming pool across the lake and watched the birds and the steam rolling over the surface. It was gorgeous. So relaxing and so needed.
    We were in the water for about an hour, it got a bit busier half way through and again we were glad to have been up so early. Getting changed was a little less unpleasant than getting undressed, I think the warmth of the water gave us some time before the cold hit. It did once again leave you panting a little for the breath though!

    By 8:00 we were off again and on the way to the Laguna Verde. The journey took us up high and through Mars like scenery with mountains that had stunning colours seemingly running down them. Whites, reds and greens. It is called the Salvador Dhali Desert for this reason. The green lagoon sits up high (as everything is up here) alongside volcanoes. It is arsenic that turns the water green and it is most spectacular when windy, which unfortunately it was not for us. The view however was still incredible and the still water allowed for a few reflections of the towering volcanoes to be seen. Rob was a little annoyed by the salty edges (they ruined the reflection for photos 🙄) but wow...once again just amazing. We stood and took in the last great view we would see in Bolivia (well...the boys the stones down to the lake to try and hit a black rock) and they we set off for the border. The sun was also higher now and the air warmer which meant I could see out of the windows. We passed through yet more red sandy desert and mountains, with large rocks dotted about as evidemce of past volcanic eruptions and eventually arrived at the border.

    Here we had our passport stamped (and paid a shady 15 Bolivianos for the honour) before saying goodbye to Marion, our guide and driver. We waited to board the bus to San Pedro (a little apprehensively as they didn't seem keen to let us on at first) and then we were on our way.

    We crossed the border and withing minutes the first signs of Chilean wealth were visible....tarmac roads in the desert. We joined one such road and headed downhill into the Atacama Desert (apparently once Bolivian soil). It was a steep and fast descent and Rob was enjoying the ever more gravy like air as we descended further and further. We went from 4300+ at times this morning to just 2300 in about half an hour. It also went from freezing to gloriously warm.

    We went through customs (I was a little worried about my teabags) and then got directed to our hostel. The directions weren't perfect but Google maps out us right and we got to our hostel, which is where we are now.
    Since my hammock time this morning we have been down the main street for lunch (massive burgers but not too great), saw a swirling sand tornado in the distance in front of one of the massive volcanoes that circles the town and had much needed showers, or at least the boys have. I unfortunately had belly ache and have since been overcome with tiredness. Off to chill in the hammock again now though :)

    Not much else planned for today, pasta and bed most likely!
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  • Good morning Auckland Chili her I come.
    Around 8 o'clock we woke up, took our time and packed all our stuff carefully so everything was in the right bag with the right person. At 11 we could walk free around the city in very good weather again and had a nice brunch downtown. After brunch we played some pool at our hotel and went to the airport at 15:30. Rush hour already starts here at that time, so 16:10 we were there 3 hours before my departure. Mariska's flight would leave 2hours and 50min after mine sadly not much overlap behind the security 😑😉.
    Check in went smooth and sadly all window seats were taken by aussies 😉since this is the flight from Sydney witch I was on 3 weeks ago. Dreamliner it is, so comfort enough. Now the hard part again, we moved the goodbye to 1 hour before my departure so had some time left to spend at the Mac Do haha😆. The hugs and kisses for coming 6 weeks came after this 😉 at the passport control. Thankfully we had a perfect time together to look back to and will make it easier to be apart this time. We were ready and started whatsapping again until I left, the internet ran out so did some tethering tricks with my backup phone to use it till the end haha.
    Leaving at 19:10 and arriving 5 hours earlier at 14:10, after an 11 hour flight so how is that going to mess up your sense of time? This day will just be 8 hours longer? Unless you sleep than you will have 2 short days 😂 but it will have the same date 😆.
    I land while I write this and it's 6:15 in Auckland... I am still in a deep sleep with Mariska next to me....time travel... I am at 2 places at once haha. You think you won't notice this? Well you will because all my pictures on my phone are mixed know.
    I arrived at Santiago de Chile and went to the buses, a guy with a Trans VIP pass ( I looked for this) should be a free ride to airport hotels. He said yes but only the way from the hotel... I thought ok what else could I do? There is no bus here so ok I went with him. Soon it appeared to be 15000 is 20 dollar, normal price you would say? No it should be 5000 I found out on my app (to late haha). Ok well he lied about being TransVIP, and he transfered me to a normal taxi. In 10 minutes I was at my hotel that 's the good part. From here I went into the city with a cab arranged from the hotel. I asked it to be billed on my room, this was all right. I asked the cab driver he said this wasn't possible haha here we go again, he needed cash and I didn't have any. He would pick me up anyway so I pay him on the way back at 21:30 at the spot he dropped me ( Plaza de Armas). I had 4 hours I also said to him this should have rung some bells. My watch was set on Lima time, my phone automatically does but..... don't forget to switch off summer/ wintertime aaaah. So after my beautiful walk trough the city and some food at the cosy university area I returned apparently 1 hour to late. I called him and didn't notice it was my fault since I didn't had my watch on me ( safety reasons). So he arrived at 22:00 and couldn't convince me since he spoke no english. I paid him a little less since I tought he forgot me. He accepted it, so the next morning I gave the rest plus extra with his contact card to the reception to make it right haha. I slept a bit later and had to wake up earlier since my alarm was also behind, the cab was there while my alarm went off.... whoops... I need to get back in the travel rhytm.. that's it for today's haha since it feels like 2 days 😆
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  • Um 4.30 ging es los um die Geysire in Tatio aktiv zu erleben. Diese liegen auf 4280 m und so früh morgens sehr kalt. Aber es hat sich gelohnt und ein Fussbad im heiss-warmen Wasser hat mich wieder aufgewärmt. Auf der Weiterfahrt gab es jede Menge Tiere zu sehen: Vicuñas, Lamas, Vizcachas - eine Mischung zwischen Hase und Chinchilla, Enten und tatsächlich Flamingos. Ich war echt erstaunt, so viel Leben in dieser kargen Natur.

    The early start at 4.30 to see the geysers active in El Tatio. They are located on 4280 m and it was freezing that early in the morning. It was worth it and I could war up bathing my feet in the hot water. On the way back we saw a lot of animals: Vicuñas, Lamas, Vizcachas - a mix between rabbit and chinchilla, ducks and yes Flamingos. I was really surprised that there is so much life in this scarce nature.
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  • We are at our AirBnB for the next few days in Valparaiso, Chile. Best news ever: there's a cat! His name is El Gato. We explored Valpo a bit today and bought some budget dinner at the neighborhood mercados, as well as a nice bottle of red wine for 1790 Chilean Pesos (about $2.50 USD). It is really delicious (not like two buck chuck).

    Here are some pictures from our apartment at different angles, as well as El Gato saying "hrmph, why aren't you sharing your chicken with me?!?!"Read more

  • Unrfortunately Lisa was poorly with a tummy bug for the next two days so couldn't do very much. But we did manage the classic Atacama desert tour of the Valle de la Luna and watched the sunset. Clare did a nighttime star gazing tour. We both managed the onerous task of having a spa day with massage & yoga.

  • Merry Christmas to you all from Chile! It's 32C here and rising - who needs snow?!

    Having a big meal today here with everyone in the hostel - sangria and secret santa shortly!

    Hope you are all well and have a great Christmas!

    Missing you all (no, not you Bradley)!!

  • Up at the crack of dawn again we set off back up to the towers in the dark with only a headlamp to guide us.. even though we already saw them yesterday we were told that seeing them at sunrise is pretty special.. its our only chance so might as well do it properly! It was worth it :-)

    Another 3 hour hike back to the base and we are done! We made it! And we seriously need to shower!

    Heading back to Puerto Natales we realise just how tired we really are. Back to base camp to return our gear, a couple of beers, pizzas and stories with Kuhn and we are spent. Great way to end the day :-)Read more

  • We're back in Argentina having spent the last 7 days camping & hiking in the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Group of 9 of us, 2 guides & 5 porters! Sun, rain, snow & lots of famous Patagonian wind, but overall lucky enough to see most if not all of the views. Condors, kestrels and eagles glided overhead & hares & foxes scurried away. Feet and legs ached and 8 nights camping was a bit of a challenge in the wind & rain. But a fabulous experience & a real sense of achievement. All that training in the home counties area was worth it! We need to download photos from the camera but got a few here.Read more

  • Happy New Year from Chile! We celebrated in La Serena, a small city on the beach that's the last green city before we venture to the desert in the far north of Chile. We spent the 31st with Pete and Mirsini at our hostel where the staff cooked a big 3 course dinner with wine. Then we headed to the beach just in time for the countdown to midnight, the fireworks AND a live concert with all our fave Chilean party classics where we danced the night away!

    Today we headed back to the beach in the afternoon sun to witness the aftermath of last night - sand was littered with party debris - and Tom enjoyed his first swim of 2015 in the beautifully warm (!) sea.

    Tomorrow we leave to San Pedro on an overnight bus where we'll be booking our salt flat tour into Bolivia. Unsure of the Internet availability in the desert but we'll be in touch when we can!
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