Oct 8, 2013
We woke up early and went to the Hostal los Salares to meet up our driver and his young wife who would be our cook for the next four days. We will spend these days in the jeep, driving up to ten hours a day, stopping along the way and staying with local families. I sensed abit of an edge with the cook, but her husband, our driver seems really nice and competent, hugely important on a trip where jeeps are known to break down, drivers are known to get drunk, and seventeen tourists have died in auto related accidents since 2007. (For the record, I researched tour companies thoroughly and selected the Hostal los Salares because they did not have a single negative review on Tripadvisor. It is a family run business where all the staff are part of the family, are known to be excellent mechanics and again, no complaints. I also made sure to point out that we will be traveling with three kids and need a driver and cook who are flexible and patient.)
Today’s drive was quite meditative and the kids did really well. They started asking me “How much longer until we get there?” about 30 minutes into the trip, but when I responded, “nine and a half more hours”, they settled in and relaxed. It also helped that I am somewhat of a food nazi at home and don’t keep any junk food in the house. For this trip, however, we brought along potato chips and candy. The kids were in sugar and chemical dye heaven!
But back to the scenery…. red rock formations giving way to dessert and mountains. Above 4,000 meters/13,123 feet, the colors of the mountains and the sky were out of this world. The landscape seemed painted on, surreal.
The food was also good, if not exactly vegetarian as I had requested. As we drove past small villages with mud houses and no running water or toilets, we wondered where we would be spending the night.
After a long and bumpy ride on dirt semi-roads, we arrived in a dusty high-altitude desert village full of mud houses. This is where we would be spending the night. From the inside it looked quite basic, but once inside we were nicely surprised – decent beds, thick blankets, nice, thick walls to keep out the bitter winds, and, best of all, an en-suite bathroom! Who could have expected such luxury????!
The kids were hungry and it was a struggle to wait a couple of hours until dinner was ready at 9 pm but the cook did an amazing job cooking up a really delicious meal on what was essentially a small camping stove. My husband was not feeling well so he took some saroche (altitude sickness) pills but the rest of us were feeling OK. I put a gazillion layers on myself and the girls, crawled into the freezing cold bed and hoped for a decent night.