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Travelling means being confronted by making choices. The hardest ones are usually related to the itinerary. The next destination and the journey to do can impact the next adventures. Should we opt for asking a little supplementary effort to the side-cars to go up and see a lagoon recommended by another traveller and therefore risk to have a mechanical issue? Can we make a detour by this city which maybe means not having enough time to reach Tierra del Fuego?
So, we chose to have a quite short stay in Bolivia! It’s hard to assess our own decisions on these conditions but these few days offered us unforgettable experiences.
Swimming in the Titicaca lake
The Titicaca lake is the highest natural lake in the world. With its 3 812 metres above sea level, it offers a peaceful scenery to the travellers, with the sun and the cordillera reflecting in the blue water.
We didn’t need more to make us wanted a boat trip to explore the Pata Patani Islands on the minor lake. With a Tri Yann’s tune (French folk group), we went at our own pace to meet the fishermen on the lake.
Each village of the bed of the lake has his own team of fishermen who are meeting together to help each other to increase the fishing. Each fisherman is on his own boat and has only a paddle helping him to navigate and to fish. The strategy is simple: fishermen are making a large circle with their boats to catch a shoal of fish. Then, they are getting closer, bit by bit, until the boats are spaced of just a few centimetres. The first ones are standing up in at the front of their boat to hit the water with their paddle in the hope of knocking out a fish.
On the way to go back to Puerto Perez, we negotiated with our captain to stop for a swim in the lake. After having asked if we know how to swim, he accepted!
With Julien and without a second thought, we got into position for a first dive. The water was fresh but its transparency enchanted us. After we managed to go back on the deck, we dived a second time. The lake was not that deep and the seaweeds ticked our feet. A few lengths and it was time to dry ourselves in the Bolivian sunshine while our boat was heading to the shore.
A night in the middle of a salt desert
The Salar of Uyuni is a large field covered of salt of 10 582 km2 located at the South of the country, 3 658 meters above sea level. This desert has been created after the disparition of Tauca, a prehistoric lake, 14 000 years ago. Then, the largest crust of salt in the world appeared, covering today the Salar.
To discover this desert, we opted to give a break to our sidecars and we chose the “colectivo” (the local bus) as a means of transport. After the hundreds of journeys in the Salar, going back and forth, the bus is damaged due to the salt. The bodywork and the floor were damaged by the rust, we were able to see the road through little holes in the floor. This reinforced our choice of not using our own vehicle!
We left for the Incahuasi Island at the beginning of the afternoon. The driver started the engine at 12:30pm. The engine was coughing, the breaks were squeaking, but nothing to worry the driver!
We were heading to the Cactus Island on a 4 hour-journey. After 20 kilometres on the main road going towards La Paz, we turned to the left to use a path crossing the Salar. At the first loop, the tires were spinning in the rust but quickly the vehicle reached the 80 kilometre per hour, its cruising speed. On the large field of salt, it’s better to know where you go. Here, there is nobody or any sign to help you to find your way. The path is barely visible. The contrast of the white path on a white background requiers an optimal concentration for not loosing your track.
We arrived mid-afternoon on the Incahuasi Island, enough time for walking on the island between the cactus and take a few photos of the Salar. At the end of the afternoon, it was beer time for us. The last 4×4 of the operator agencies left and we were almost on our own on the island. With us, only a guide, the Chef of the restaurant and a souvenir seller.
The Salar offered us one of the best sunsets from the beginning of this trip. The colours of the sky were unbelievable, we enjoyed our Huari beer in a peaceful silence.
After a burger lama at the restaurant, we enjoyed the starry sky in the desert. There was almost no light pollution, allowing us to watch the stars and the constellations of the Southern hemisphere. For the first time, we saw the most famous and the smallest one of them: « The Southern Cross ».
We spent the night in the refugewith the souvenir seller. We woke up early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Salar. Many backpackers arrived with 4×4 vehicles for this opportunity. The show was less quite than the precious day, but still sensational. It was 7:30am when the colectivo arrived on the island to pick us up. We went back on the path with the same old bus than the previous day, leaving the Incahuasi Island and the Salar of Uyuni behind us.