We left the refugio after a decent breakfast. We were a bit worried last night when Javier had the hood of the Land Cruiser up and had the whole master cylinder out and was fixing things for over three hours. When we asked him if the brakes were ok, his one and only response was “tranquilo, tranquilo”… which roughly translates to “chill out, dude, no worries”. We asked again in the morning if we were going to die going down a steep hill today, and he of course responded, “yes… but chill out, dude, no worries and we could only hope that his mechanic abilities were better than his great sense of humor.
So today we saw more lagunas, more flamingos, some Vicuñas, and the infamous Arbol de Piedra or Tree of Stone . After that, we saw some funny looking wild rabbits with long tails, forgot the name of them though. Soon after that, we got a flat tire as we were driving 65 or 70 miles per hour in the rocky flat plains between the towering volcanos. We had told Javier that we had 5 dollars on him to beat the other older land cruisers that were hauling tourists from the other tour companies like Colque Tours… the biggest tour agency. Since we were with a small tour company they just hired the independent bolivian guides… which makes for a much cooler, and less predictable tour :) We fixed the tire and made our way to the base of the one active volcano we would see on the tour, where we had lunch and snapped photos… the active volcano was spewing red hot lava hundreds of meters into the air and we were scared for our lives… well, not really but that would have been cool, huh?
We traveled a few hours more and finally passed the other tours and arrived at the Salar almost out of gas. We stopped at the entrance to the salar, had a warm Bolivian beer (Huari i think it was) to wait for someone to come by with some more combustible for us to finish of the tour tomorrow, but no one ever came. We trucked up to the Hotel de Sal for the night which was a real treat… a hotel made entirely out of blocks of salt cut out and dug up from the salar. We threw frisbee for the first time in about a month outside the hotel and missed the sunset over the salar due to our untimely decision to take a shower for the first time in 2 days.