As much as we enjoyed the startling landscapes we spent three days traveling through by jeep, there were a range of logistical issues which punctuated our progress which bare recollection.
Not long after we left the serenity of the salt plains a storm began to roll in from the horizon. Its clouds swept up an almighty amount of dust. It massively reduced visibility and was, at times, enough to halt our progress completely.
More worrying was when our driver, trying to navigate with a blurry brown windscreen, lost the track entirely. He reported that it was important we stay on the right track as there was quicksand about, which is not really what you want for your Toyota landcruiser and six passengers. He tried turning off the lights to get a better view but just got an eerie blackness. Eventually he got out of the car and wandered around for about ten minutes before settling on a direction of choice. Once back on track the rest of our journey that night was without incident. Well, except for when we careered off the road and barely hung on to the edge of the ditch.
Assessing the snow conditions
We knew our tour was going to be curtailed because of a massive snow storm that had closed the southern parts of our route. But no one really knew how serious the snow was. Our driver, to whom we give credit, kept us well informed and gave us lots of options. So we pushed on further south than most other tours. He then chose the valley floor route rather than the plateau route to our destination for which we take away his credit. It took an hour and a half to dig ourselves out of the snow we got stuck in. The rest of our journey to our second night’s accommodation was without incident. Well, except when we got stuck in the snow, again.
A night in an ice box
Our first night was spent in a hotel made of salt. That was atmospheric and just on the acceptable side of temperatures. The second night was freezing. We arrived to a hostel of sorts made exclusively of concrete blocks that barely made an effort to dampen the howling wind. Inside a Bolivian toddler ambled about in a gangsta beanie and half open jacket as the rest of us shivered. After some grumbling heating was provided. The first we heard of it was the banging on the roof. In the dark someone was clambering about removing enough roof tiles to insert a metal pipe as a chimney. A box was attached at the bottom for a small fire.
I’m very sympathetic to the proposition that New Zealand homes, and especially rental properties, are inadequately heated and insulated. But the next time a university student complains about frost on their windows I will exile them to southern Bolivia. Another group with a thermometer reported sub zero temperatures in their room when they woke, and negative 19 outside the door.