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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Stripping Down in Zero Degree Temps

BOLIVIA | Saturday, 8 December 2007 | Views [1062]

Buen dia!  It's 4:00 a.m., our wake up knock on the door caught us all off guard, as we bumped around in the dark, attempting to pack up our bags, and load our stuff on the roof of the truck.  We speed off to Sol de Mañana to catch a glimpse of the geysers at sunrise and to take a dip in the aguas thermals.  Our driver prides himself on getting us there quickly and wants to be first... we were out earlier than anyone else in our prison cell sleeping area, and there’s only a couple of cars at the geysers when we arrive.  I’m wearing every layer I brought with me, including my long johns, fleece, down jacket, wool hat, gloves and socks.  How will I ever be able to strip down to my undies to go into the aguas thermals when it's so cold out, and I'm so sealed up?  I gaze at the guy across from us from another group, he's puking blood out his mouth and nose, suffering from the altitude, and I realize just being cold wasn't so bad, tough it up!  Looking back at our driver, head in the truck engine again, butt hanging out of the front hood, it will be awhile until we head out, so I make a race for the thermals, stripping down with our other "team salt flat" members and slip into the 30 degree celsius natural thermal pools.  After 4 days with no shower, we are all thrilled to soak for a bit.  Well worth the initial shock of the frigid morning air, I am warmed internally, and any remnants of hangover (or is that altitude sickness) quickly dissipate over warm breakfast in the refugio.  Our last round of colorful lakes (Laguna Verde), flamingos, painted mountains and Salvador Dali-esque landscape give way to the windy, cold, dusty, desolate road leading to the Bolivia/Chile border crossing.  The colors and landscape change every few kilometers, and it keeps me snapping pictures out the window in awe.  
To the left is Argentina, the right and ahead is Chile, and behind us, the vast altiplano de Bolivia.  We get out to process our passports at this remote Bolivian immigration office.  They make a joke about having just entered Bolivia in time; we entered just two days prior to Bolivia initiating a reciprocity tax of $100/per person, just as Chile has in place, for American citizens.  While we still think in Chile we will only get hit with it if we fly into Santiago airport and process our tourist card at that immigration office, we're still not quite sure and wondering if we'll get hit as we leave Bolivia today, entering through the San Pedro immigration office.  I think that Bolivian immigration collects their $100 reciprocity tax at all land crossings as well as airport entrances, as the officer made such a big deal of it, suggesting we use our saved $200 to give our guide a nice "propina" (tip).  I told him in Spanish that we had already used it up, spending it on fine Bolivian products, and the money will remain in Bolivia.  
We exchange many handshakes with our driver Domingo, hugs and kisses with our Dutch friends that we're really going to miss.  It's hard to find people you're compatible to travel with, and to travel in such a 'rough' way.  Valerie and Bas have been tremendous travel mates, and we look forward to meeting them again someplace in the world for more traveling adventure.
We catch a shuttle bus into Chile, and as we cross about a kilometer into Chile, there's actually a road - it's the first real road we've seen in over 4 days, and our internal organs are now loving us!  We plunge nearly 2,000m into the high desert of Chile, the air becomes hot, dry and super windy, like a really strong Santa Ana day in San Diego.  Here, though, there's no risk of fires, as there's absolutely nothing around to burn... just a lot of rocks, dirt, and tiny "crucifix" memorials along the roadside where people have died in roadside crashes.  
Chilean immigration and customs are very particular about what we can bring in and not bring into the country.  Similar to Australia (especially Western Australia), there are big fines for any veggies, meat or dairy products.  It's kept their agriculture industry pure and for that we're thankful, although that also means we have one hour on the bus to eat and drink all our fruit and snacks products before we arrive in San Pedro.   The driver jokingly tells everyone to also immediately consume all their drugs as well.  We arrive all dusty at the border, and get our passports stamped... whew, we're through, without having been asked to pay $100 reciprocity fee.  We smile, exchange pleasantries in Spanish with the immigrations officials and are moved along into the next room, the customs search of our bags. Despite the guide books saying that you should not make jokes with the customs guys at the border crossing, these guys are in rare form today, cracking jokes about whether anyone has cocaine in their bags.  The officer assigned to me goes through my pack and compliments me on how neat, clean and organized it is... of course, Darrin should get all the credit for turning me onto his way of packing; an organized pack full of Eagle Creek pouch packs which we use to compartmentalize all of our worldly belongings into neat bundles.  The system is quite handy for our daily need to access important items, and is the only way we survive moving so many times in one week, and not losing anything.  My customs guy is so impressed he points it out to his buddy, who has a good chuckle (or probably just plain making fun of me), and then they even let me take through my bag of cornflakes and juice that I had forgotten Darrin stashing in my pack cover.  We're cleared and now free to play in Chile!

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