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Day 67 Poor Man's Dakar - Special Stage #1

sunny 10 °C

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Read so much about it, heard so much about it, and it is finally the day for The Poor Man's Dakar, a 3 day jeep trip in to Bolivia, thru the desert, the pampa, the mountains and everything in between.
Bummed for missing the chance to see the real Dakar while in Chile, we hope to get a feel for it on this trip.
So we get up early and walk down to the agency where we are supposed to wait for the pick up at 8:00 AM. There is no bus in sight but a fellow traveller Dan is there, as punctual as a German should be. We start chatting to break the ice, and after about 45 minutes finally the bus shows up packed with 9 other fellow passengers, we are the last 3 to get on it. By now there is no ice left anywhere in sight, everybody except us, got to know each other pretty well it seems.
We drive for five minutes and we are at the Chilean customs. The place is packed with other jeep tourists, we are the last bus to get there. Customs cleared we get back on the bus for the Bolivia border, an hour drive up to the mountains, this is where we get off the bus and will get on the two jeeps for the trip, 6 passengers on each one.
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Once again, the Bolivia passport control is packed with other jeep tourists, so first thing first, open buffet breakfast is served in an abandoned stone house, which might have been the former customs office, who knows.
After breakfast, we clear the customs, the officer in charge goes thru his visa waiver list and grants us Turks 30 days in Bolivia.
Our driver Beimar, a small stocky Boliviano, who speaks little English but never misses a chance to joke around, loads all the bags on top of the jeep and orders us to board the vehicle, we are already behind schedule.
In 10 minutes, we are at the National Park entrance, we pay our fees and in 2 minutes we are at our first stop, Laguna Bianca. IMG_9680.jpg
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Then off to a hill by Laguna Verde, where the wind is so strong, it is the only help we have to climb back up the hill to the jeep after visiting the shore.
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Next up is the "Dali Desert", a strange set of rocks adorn the slopes of the desert, a surreal and a magical sight definitely.
Another 30 minutes of drive and we are at the Termas de Polques hot spring. Since we had our share of thermal waters two days before and knowing that there won't be any showers to rinse off the salt later at the refuge, we decide not to take a dip, but we observe the others dipping.
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Later at about 4500 meters above sea level, we visit the Sol de Manana geysers with the usual foul sulphur smell. We then cross a pass at 5100 meters above sea level, for an instant, we are higher than anybody back home.
A little after noon, we reach the refuge, a basic shelter structure with a mess hall, toilets and a couple of dorm rooms, this is where we will be spending the night.
Lunch is served, and we're told we need to finish all food or there won't be any afternoon excursions! At this point we are so overwhelmed by what we have seen so far, we do our best to chow down as much as possible, but there are still some leftovers, unfortunately...
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Despite our misbehaving, after lunch we are taken to Laguna Colorada, a reddish salt lake, home to many flamingos. As it is customary and with flamingoes too far away to really observe, our crew put together their own rendition of a flamingo flock.
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Back at the refuge we are treated to coffee and tea, while a group of kids show up in the mess hall to perform what seems to be the "Bolivia's Got Talent".
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Pasta dinner and some scored local wine from the local shop, we are treated to a magic show by our friend Dan, who apparently is a well known magician in his homeland, Germany.
With the solar powered electricity batteries exhausted just like all of us, we switch it off in our freezing dorm rooms.
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Posted by ayca ozer 06:23 Archived in Bolivia Tagged desert border geysers jeep verde laguna solar dakar customs talent refuge bianca colorada

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