Our first toll station
We decided to stay in South America
for the summer and travel to Ecuador and Bolivia. In all honesty, we
traveled four countries for the price of just airline tickets to the
states so it was worth the trade, plus, we had no desire to participate
in the heat wave that seemed to be everywhere a relative lived! We
started in Ecuador and visited projects in Quito. We were able to
donate an LCD projector to the church in Guayllabamba to help them with
their services and Bible Institute classes. We spent a few days at the
beach and then headed to La Paz.
trip was to the Salar de Uyuni. It started out with a ten hour
overnight bus ride from La Paz to Uyuni where we met our guide and
headed out over the salt flats. Luckily it was a comfortable bus with
reclining seats and heat. I still don't do that well on buses so I had
cracked the window a little before we left. I tossed and turned and
woke up with blasts of frozen air in my face as the pounding on the
dirt roads had opened the window about a foot and because of the cold,
had frozen over with ice. I couldn't get it shut and the people behind
me were not happy so I had to wake Steve to break the window free to
shut it; I looked at it as refreshing moment on the ride.
We would drive for three days and cover
over 600 miles on roads that only pack animals should have been on
before our trip would be complete.
I liked this picture of La Paz because it shows the hillside that is
covered with houses
The most amazing sight we saw were
the Andean Flamingos that were in the lagunas.
The water had to be freezing as there was snow and ice on the water as
well so they
must have some pretty insulated feathers and tough feet.
The salt that is processed for use is
a relatively small section of the overall flats which is 4,086 miles in
size. It is done by hand, scrapped from the ground and then transferred
for processing. Up close, the salt looks like ice and has a variety of
textures. The flats look like snow, but is actually a salt lake bed
with 23 islands that dot the surface.
Some of the islands had lots of
cactus, while others were barren. The farther we drove on the flats,
texture we saw. Luckily the guide know where he was going as you can
see the road below.
In case you missed that, you pretty
much follow trails and make your own road. The dust was not the
swirling kind but the invasive kind that gets on both sides of your
sunglasses and inside the
fabric of your clothes so you feel like a cowboy coming off the plains
that needs a hot bath.
close up of the salt
Steve at the gysers and the road with the
gysers in the distance
As we left the salt flats, we headed
into a mountainous area that got more desert-like as we went.
I always think of Honduras as full of
children and I'll remember
Bolivia for the most rocks I've ever
seen in one place in my life. Fields
of rock were lined with walls of
rock next to mountains of rocks. I kept
thinking about being a kid and having
to pick rocks from the garden for my folks and thought if you
were a kid in this place, you
wouldn't know where to start!
In one area were dozens of gysers that were bubbling and steaming that,
of course, had no safety rails
or warnings so you could fall right
in if you wanted to. They are working to harness the energy and
there are now about three times as many gysers than four years ago so
it seems to be an increasing resource.
It was funny though that we would drive around for awhile, no signs
anywhere, and we'd drive over a hill
and be at the next "sight". It was only us and the driver in our car
and about six other similar groups we'd see
occasionally as we went through the days, or see them at the hotels at
Llamas were everywhere, as well as
some vicuna and alpaca which are in the same family. The vicuna are
thinner and smaller with finer fur; they reminded me more of deer. Because it was winter, there wasn't
and it was dusty and
really dry. We went through two bottles of lotion and
still felt like alligators.
Sights on the drive included the
"road," and several recently discovered tombs and caves.
You really can't see too many llama
drives but you can see too many mummified people!
This is the first hotel we stayed at called the Salt Hotel. As the name
everything was made of salt - the walls, tables, chairs, beds, etc.
They also used
flattened dried catcus to make the doors and cabinets. It is located
right on the
edge of the salt flats with lots of llama views.
I didn't even think about gas as we
traveled and eventually realized that the tank on the roof rack
was full of gas, along with two spare tires, one of which we needed to
Several recently discovered caves
showed evidence of the previous lake with fossilized algae and
cactus. The little town above
actually had a souvenir shop! When we pulled into town, we didn't
see a single person, but when we
beeped the horn, people spilled out of everywhere and
helped us out.
Part of our trip took us to the
border of Bolivia and Chile and you can see the volcano
blowing smoke in the picture above as it is an active one. You can take
a train right across
the border into Chile.
My friend told us that we had the
best hotel in the area which may be true
as it is the only hotel in the middle of the desert, aka, middle of
As you can see, there are no power lines so it all operates on solar and
a generator. Hence, only electricity, heat, and hot water from 8 AM to
8 PM so
plan accordingly and know where your flashlight is and find someone
to keep you warm. We had to get up at 5:00 in the morning to leave so
dark, cold, and the candle won't light and that is the time they
chose to ask me to fill out a guest survey. Really? Bad timing.
Anywhere there is white, is either salt, borax, or snow. There were many
lagunas and lakes with different mineral deposits creating the various
Village of Tarata
Famous for being the birthplace of
four of Bolivia's presidents, Tarata is a colonial town that
still has a lot of the old architecture. You can even work right on the
street doing shoe repairs.
All in all it was an exciting and
interesting trip. We got to visit with my friend, Lily, and her family
in Cochabamba and to see more of the country. It was amazing that
in one day we could go from the highest capital city the world, La Paz,
level in Lima, Peru, to the second highest capital city, Quito, and
back to Medellin, Colombia. Imagine if the Wright brothers could see
what their idea turned into. We are now preparing for some visitors
from the States here this week and next and then time to go back to
school. This will be our last year in Colombia so we will be looking
ahead to see what will be next.
Cathy and Steve
- Safe and good experience for Santiago, an exchange student living
with my brother and his family in NY for the summer
- save travels over the summer
- opportunity to get involved with another outreach program in Bolivia
- ability to provide an LCD projector for the church in Guayllabamba
- the engagement of our niece, Sara, to a nice young man in the Marines
- God's daily blessing and protection in our lives
- new addition to Tim and Erin's family
- being able to spend time with my Bolivian sister after 30 years being
out of contact
- pray for the health and recovery from upcoming surgeries for my
friend Lily's father in Bolivia
- my brother Steven and recovery from a deviated septum operation
- traveling mercies for those returning to and coming to visit Colombia
- no passport issues
- good last month for Andrea in her pregnancy
- nephews headed off to college for the first time - God to guide their
paths and protect them from Satan's traps
- all to finish strong as Steve heads into the last classes to finish
- the US economy and leaders to work for what is best for America and
not their parties or other countries