We will be spending time at a Volunteering Project in Chile: 'Save The Wild Chinchillas' - Habitat Re-establishment

Monday, 13 February 2012

Volcanos, Lagoons, Flammingos, Llamas, Geysers and so on....

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Ok so it's been a wee while since my last post, but we've been a bit all over the place! From the Chinchilla Reserve in Illapel we headed back to Santiago for a week. We took it easy, enjoyed going to the cinema everyday (we strongly suggest seeing 'The Help', an amazing film!), eating good food and slurping on tasty Raspberry smoothies on a daily basis :)

We really enjoyed Santiago, although we're not usually fans of the city, but it was a stylish and relaxed place to be, with everything we could really wish for to veg out. Only downer being that it was a tad expensive.

Anywho, from Santiago we took a 24 hour sleeper bus up to San Pedro De Atacama, where we planned to sandboard, star-gaze and then take the famous 3 day trip over the salt-flats and into Bolivia, all via 4WD.

The weather to begin with was boiling! We stayed in a 5 bed dorm room in a really nice hostel. Though we don't particularly enjoy dorms, we had to deal with it in San Pedro as the prices there were mad! 9,000 Chilean Pesos each for a bed, which is around 11 or 12 quid! For a dorm that is expensive. Luckily the hostel was nice and quiet, something we always look out for when booking. We're more like an old couple when it comes to our surroundings, any sign of 'party-time' and we're outta there! ;) Peace and tranquility is where it's at.

Typically, the weather took a turn for the worst after the first couple of days, leaving us sad and massively disappointed that we couldn't go sandboarding OR star-gazing! The only two things we wanted to do there. GREAT. The rain poured down and the temperature dropped rapidly. They say it only rains approximately 15 days per year there, how typical that it rained on our watch :(

Our first attempt of sandboarding failed miserably as the heavens opened just as we were about to begin. The wind whipped up and the sand blasted our bare skin, it was like being held against one of those sanding wheels you get in Tech class at school, ouch! Sand in our eyes, sand in our ears, sand in our mouths. We were wet, uncomfortable and miserable, so we abandoned ship and returned to the tour office disheartened and annoyed. Thankfully we managed to get booked on another sandboarding tour a few days later for no extra cost, phew. Thankfully the next attempt was wind and rain free, and we had a great time, ending the tour  by watching the sun set over Moon Valley :)

Unfortunately the Star-gazing never happened, I honestly thought Jack was going to cry. It was something he'd talked about before we even left the UK. The rain subsided, but the clouds reamined overcast for the rest of our visit, of course making star-gazing impossible. We were both really gutted, but what can you do!

We continued with our plans and departed San Pedro De Atacama on a mini-bus full of tourists, many of whom were English :) The bus took us to the Bolivian border, where we showed our passports, aquired our stamps, and changed over into 4by4 vehicles.

The next 3 days saw us bumbling along through Bolivia in our all-terrain tin can, passing by various beautiful lagoons, volcanos, mountains, crazy rock formations, Flammingos, Llamas, smoking geysers and salt-flats. We shared the experience with 3 other people, and the driver of course, and we all had an amazing time. Though Jack did say "If I ever see another lagoon....!" Haha. We did see a fair amount of lagoons, it has to be said.

The only downer to the whole experience was the altitude sickness. I didn't for a second think it would affect me, I don't know why, just one of those naive assumptions I guess. But it was pretty ovbious once we arrived at the first hostel, in the middle of nowhere, and WAY above sea level, that we were not going to escape it. Many of us were hit with relentless thumping headaches that just wouldn't go away! I woke up various times in the night only to be reminded of the pounding in my head. There is just something about being so high up that makes you feel rather bizarre, kind of like you might 'pop!', an increase of pressure all throughout your body. Some people even had mini nose-bleeds, Jack and I included. Nice.

It was a brilliant trip regardless and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about it. My only word of advice being to go with a reputable agency, as some of them are just no good (over cramming the vehicles, lack of safety etc). We went with Estrella Del Sur, and I highly recommend them!

Upon arriving at the end of our trip in the somewhat unimpressive town of Uyuni, we headed to Sucre, further East in Bolivia. This is where we are now, spending time relaxing, sleeping and eating, all in preparation for our trip to the Animal Refuge in March, where home comforts will be non-existent!
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