The Bolivian South West is a expansive and rugged, resilient and optimistic synthesis of unique topologies, an amalgam of past eruptions and new dirt, of accumulated wisdom with new landscapes with few circumscribed references to the stuff of industrial Modernity. It is no country for young men (only Arthur Miller).
After returning from the Uyuni Salt Lake, I tied the moto to a post, bought two litres of water and jumped into a jeep headed into the Bolivian South West. A jeep with four wheels is much better in the South West than a bike with two as I had encountered many experienced bikers coming from the region on high-powered and expensive motos looking rather shattered and distraught, thus it was no place for a girly-man moto.
The first day we crossed the Uyuni Salt Flats, and although I was happy to be back there again, it was much more fun on the bike. There were five other people in the jeep, who didn’t natter that much which was refreshing because some nubile travelers tend to see the world through layers and layers of generalised banality, but then again they possibly have a very long, enriching journey ahead of them, and one can forgive someone for being an idiot when they are young but to be old and an idiot it is a tragedy (and never argue with a fool as other travelers may not know the difference!).
The first night we stayed in a salt hotel, with salt walls, salt beds, salt tables, and a salt floor. For dinner we had a simple meal of soup, meat and rice, except ironically there was no salt shaker on the table. The beds were surprisingly comfortable and warm, and I slept well and was up at the crack of dawn ready to tackle the bumpy road ahead.
Indeed, we traveled on some very rugged and corrugated roads on this day, through multi-coloured deserts, past smoking volcanoes, ochre lakes, bizarre shaped rocks on desolate moonscapes (and not to forget hundreds of pink flamingos). The landscape was remote, inhospitable, barren, yet incredibly beautiful, one of the newest parts of the Earth as opposed to Australia, which is one of the oldest (been there, done that).
On the second and last night , we left at 430 AM to see volcanic geysers at sunrise. The desert at this time of the morning was full of surprises with altering colours and long shadows bringing new depth to the visceral bareness. Steam violently shot out of the sand at many different places promising to upturn the jeep and strip us of another layer of banality.
The final and most beautiful of many lakes we visited was called Laguna Verde, one of the most stunning lakes I have seen. Set beneath a Christmas pudding volcano, it ranks high as one of the nicest bits of real-estate I have seen on this journey (and it takes a lot to impress us Tasmanians).
On the third and final day, the jeep drove us back the few hundred kilometers to Uyini where I rested ready to cross into Chile.