Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thursdays with "Anita"!

For the past month or so we have been having "Anita" over on Thursdays. Anita just turned seven, but is behind in her schooling and motor skills. We thought that we could help out with her by having her over one day a week. We sneak in some school on her when she thinks she is just having fun and playing games! I want our house to be a place she looks forward to coming to. Not just another place that is trying to fix her problems. So far it seems to be working, because every time I see her she asks when she is coming to our house again. It has been a pleasure to have her for the few hours each Thursday. I took pictures the day we made playdough. 

Anita and Paulita "Helping"
 She loved all the measuring, mixing, and pouring. We shredded beets and cooked them to give the playdough the red color, as I haven't found food coloring down here. I have come to prefer the beets, because it is so pretty. You drain the water off of the beets and use the water for the food coloring.
Cooking the Playdough

The finished product...perfect playdough!
 All of our younger girls had fun playing with the playdough together! They look forward to having Anita over on Thursdays too! Since we started having Anita over she has shown improvement at school. It has been rewarding to see how just one day in the week and really just a few hours can make a difference in a child's life!
Playdough Fun!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Adventures in Uyuni (Part 3)

Our last day dawned bright and early and COLD! That morning Rudi found a bottle of Coca Cola that had the six inches of liquid in it frozen solid. 

Bolivian Dawning!
 Our first stop was the geysers. As we came up over the hill and down into the valley of the geysers, our driver informed us that we were at 16,000+ ft. The highest I have ever been in my life. Lydia was the only one in our group who preferred to stay in the car and "felt" the altitude the most. The geysers were spectacular and powerful. It was amazing to feel all that energy under your feet. A little spooky feeling also!
The Geyser Valley
The white formations behind Myles are made of ice. Most of them are as tall as a full grown man. They looked like giant shark teeth. I can't believe I did not get a closer up picture than this, but oh well! These formations are made from the steam of the geysers. At this elevation my Spanish was not functioning very well and so that is the best explanation I could make out! I am sure that one of my scientist friends could give me a good explanation in English sometime!

The geyser that the group is standing behind was made by someone who had poked a hole in the ground, so that the steam would spout in that spot! Not everyday that you can take a group picture behind a geyser!

Clara, Clancy, Myles, Emily, Lauren, Elyssa, Victoria, and Ruth
The "Man Made" Geyser
Rudi took a close up of where they had punched the hole in the ground.
Close up of the hole!

 There also were the bubbling mud spots that reminded me of Yellowstone.
Bubbling Hot Mud!

More Ice Teeth
 And it is not everyday that you can warm your hands up on a geyser, either!
Rudi and Paula warming their hands on the mini-geyser!
I have to admit that the geysers were my favorite part of the day. If we could have taken a helicopter home from that point, the tour would have been just about perfect for me! The nights of not so amazing sleep, or not any at all, were beginning to take their toll on me, as well as the BUMPY roads! However, helicopters were not an option, so onward we pressed until we were in the very southwest corner of Bolivia and we could see the mountains in both Argentina and Chile. That was very cool and Rudi really wanted to just walk over both borders just to say we had been there!! The mountain below was half in Chili and half in Bolivia.
On the way to the "Laguna Verde"
 One of the stops we made was at the hot springs and it was packed with people. All of our kids along with Victoria braved the crowd and enjoyed the hot springs.
This mountain range was in Argentina!
 After the hot springs we went to the "Green Lagoon" that was not green because the wind was not blowing. It has to have wind blowing to create the green color! It was still gorgeous. Nothing lives in this lagoon, because it has yet another mineral substance, arsenic, as well as sulfur, which helps to make the green color! Don't worry our boys did not collect any minerals from this lagoon!
Green Lagoon
One of the thoughts that kept running through my mind off and on the entire time that we were on this journey, was that this area is so inaccessible and feels like it is at the ends of the earth, and yet it is so extravagantly beautiful and packed full of the wonders of God, it felt like God had created this just for himself to enjoy! It had a way of making you feel small and making God feel sooo big. It is hard to put into words the feeling of awe that this part of the country inspires.
Another gorgeous mountain range!
And then it was time to head back to Uyuni. It was five more hours of tedious driving to get back. On the way we say lots of Llama and lots more fields of Quinoa! 
Inside the Jeep that we dubbed "the torture chamber" for various reasons!!!
Lydia rode in this Jeep the whole time...She deserves a prize!
The other thing we saw a lot of the whole trip, was an animal like Alpaca and Llamas, only wild and smaller. They ate what seemed like invisible plants in the lava/sandy soil. Our driver jokingly said that they eat dirt, because you couldn't see what they were eating at some points. We couldn't take very close up pictures, because like anything wild they would start to run away!
Wild Vicicuna's

Altiplano Llamas
 They drive was very beautiful on the way back home and we stopped at different points to use the "natural bathrooms" and enjoy the scenery. We forded countless shallow rivers that were beautiful as well! One of the rivers had this footbridge where we stopped to take some pictures!
Clancy, Emily, Lydia, Lauren, Victoria, Clara, and Myles
 And then it was home sweet, Uyuni, where we said farewell to our drivers.
The group with our drivers!(minus me!)
 I think most of the groups do a better job of keeping their stuff contained. Ours had popped out all over the cars!!
The junk pile!
 Rudi had the great idea to rent the same hotel rooms that we had the first night, so that we could take showers (the first for most of us that week!), get our stuff cleaned up, as well as get a little sleep before we caught our midnight train back to Oruro. It was a brilliant idea! Never has a shower felt SO good! We also were able to stroll around the quaint town of Uyuni, eat delicious pizza for dinner, and buy some souvenirs! We were all sound asleep by 8:30 and got three solid hours of sleep before dashing across the street to catch the train.
Clara, Ruth, and Paula
Waiting for the Midnight Train! (sounds like a song title!)

Lydia "The Backpack Girl"
 This time I slept much better in the train and the hours went by much faster. When the sun came up we realized that our car was right next to the dining car. We all ordered some breakfast and were able to just finish it before arriving in Oruro!
Breakfast on the Train!
 The other thing we were surprised to see was thousands of flamingos on either side of the train, as we went through a very large (miles large) lagoon just outside of Oruro! You can barely make them out in the picture below, but it was incredible to see flocks of them flying around and feeding in the lagoon! Who would have ever thought of flamingos and Bolivia going together!
Oruro Lagoon

Rudi and the kids enjoying breakfast on the train!
It was a good thing that we had eaten, because we had just enough time to catch a taxi to the bus depot and grab a bus that was leaving for Cochabamba. Our bus was practically driving out as we were getting on!
We arrived home by noon and Tia Techy had a great lunch waiting for us. It was good to see the babies again after being gone for almost five whole days. Our kids especially had missed being with the babies!
It had been an unforgettable journey. We are so thankful that the Lord kept us safe throughout and that we were able to experience more of His AMAZING creation here in Bolivia!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Adventures in Uyuni (Part 2)

Our second day out found us heading south into the land of endless miles of volcanic mountains, plains, and amazing rock formations.

Look closely at this picture and you should see the steam coming out of this volcano (to the left of the big mountain in back).

                                                                        We paused for awhile to enjoy climbing in and on the various gigantic rocks!
Paula posing for the camera!

On top of the world!

Elyssa, Lydia, and Paula
Lauren modeling the interesting rock for us!

If you look closely you can see the volcano again behind Lauren's head. This rock that Lauren is standing behind is covered with what seems like moss. It is actually something that the people who live in this area (of which there are few) use to burn as fuel for their cooking and heating fires. We thought it was super interesting!

Then it was on the road again. The picture below is what most of the roads were like. If you liked the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland, this trip is for you! Bumpiness for 600 miles!!


Another part of the trip that I found incredibly interesting was all of the natural mineral resources that we saw. This "mine" is where they "harvest" Lime. There are train tracks close by where they take it to the city to sell. I believe it goes to both Chili and Bolivia from this location.

We also saw some of the wildlife that lives out in this barren place. Can you spot the Zorro (Fox) in the picture below? Our car saw only this one, but the car behind saw three! It blended in so well with its environment.
Desert Fox
Our next stop was the first lagoon of the four we were to see that day. The white at the far side of the picture is Borax. The boys walked out on it to bring some home with them. The lagoon is about a foot deep at the deepest part. The flamingos were so beautiful and graceful  to watch. It amazed me that they live in water that is FULL of minerals. Whether it be salt, borax, sulfur, etc they thrive in these very odd waters were you would think nothing could survive. 
Flamingos at the Borax Lagoon (My own name for this lagoon!)

Prettier than the Flamingos
Victoria, Lauren, Emily, Lydia, and Elyssa
Another lagoon
The next lagoon we just drove by and took pictures, so that we could get on to our lunch spot before the afternoon winds kicked in. Our drivers knew exactly how to time things so that we arrived in the right place at the right time!

 At this lagoon we enjoyed taking pictures and eating lunch! The girls also had fun collecting the beautiful grasses that grew along the edge of this lagoon and the boys got yet another mineral, Sulfur, for their collection.

The Rudi Boohers 

And our Adorable Children!

Emily and Lauren in front of the Flamingos 

WiFi in "Nowhereville"!
 Emily our resident computer expert was happy to see WiFi in the middle of "Nowhereville"! This particular place was very up to date also with "composting" toilets. While I did not use them, I heard from those that did, that you even had a tour guide to explain how to use them!!
While we took in the lagoon and the beautiful flamingos, our drivers put together a delicious lunch for us of Milenesa de Pollo (Fried Chicken), pasta, cooked carrots and green beans, raw tomatoes and cucumbers, and apples! Super yummy food prepared that morning at the Salt Hotel for them to bring with us.
Drivers a la Chefs
 Once again dining on "real stuff". They had these really neat food carriers that kept the food warm and safe while we traveled.

Check out the view from our lunch spot. It is hard to capture the breathtaking beauty with a camera!
Lunchtime in Style

Beautiful Flamingos
And then it was on the road again this time our destination was to the "Rock Tree".
All roads lead to the same place!
On the way there we stopped to take a picture of this chain of volcanoes that were just spectacular. Once again my camera did not do it justice. The lava that comes out of these volcanoes is very different then the volcanoes back home. The "rivers" you see flowing down from these mountains is of lava that is quite silt like.
Myles with miles of volcanoes behind him!

The Rock Tree 
 This area where the Rock Tree is, is like a Giant's playground. The rock formations were incredible and some looked like a giant chainsaw had cut pieces off. Some parts looked like Medieval Castle ruins. It was beautiful! The Master Builder did a incredible job sculpting this area! The dirt in this area seemed more like sand then dirt.
Not just rocks... Works of Art!

Perfectly cut piece of rock

The part that was "cut" out

Emily, Victoria, Elyssa, and Lauren
Wave Hello

Emily and Myles

Paula, Ruth, Clara, and Clancy
 Clancy brought home a piece of the rock as a souvenir. I think he wants to paint a picture on it! You can see from the picture below that our car got a little dirty. The wind was blowing like crazy at this point, as we headed to our final destination for the day The Colorada Lagoon.

The Colorada Lagoon was for me the most spectacular sight of the day. It is a red lagoon that is gigantic, with three different species of flamingos. It is fed on one side by hot springs. The wind and the micro-organisms in the lagoon create this red color. On the edge of this lagoon is where the flamingos nest and lay their eggs. They lay only once a year. The white surrounding this lake is also Borax and it is in the Borax that the flamingos nest! 
First sight of the Red Lagoon

Clancy and Myles
"Cool Mom"
Our Family in front of the Colorada Lagoon 
This lagoon is located at 14,000+ ft. and the wind was blowing furiously, but Rudi and most of the kids went out to hike around the lagoon and explore a little before dinner. They hiked to where the hot springs enter the lagoon. It was the first place where they actually enforced staying away from the lagoon, so we did not get any pictures of the many flamingos that were there.

At the Hot Springs

Braving the cold and wind!

Our nights lodgings at a distance

Our nights lodgings were primitive, but we did have bathrooms, electricity and running water. I read that some of the lodgings on this tour did not have those things, so I was pleasantly surprised to find things a step above what I was expecting! Not a five star hotel, but adequate for sure! 

Lodging up close!

Clara with her Alpaca friend
 There was a most adorable Alpaca mommy that we had fun visiting. She was very friendly! She had her baby with her and her baby was even more adorable!
Super Cute Alpaca Baby!

The Elegant Alpaca!

All bundled up for dinner!
 I did mention that it was very cold at the hostel where we were to spend the night, and of course, there was no heat! We all bundled up in our coats for dinner and for sleeping. We had come prepared with winter clothes because we knew it was going to be cold, so we were actually quite comfortable! Throughout the journey everyone had great attitudes about everything. It was a great group to be doing this adventure with for sure!!
Lauren all ready for bed!
 I loved this picture of Lauren all bundled up for sleeping! It was a bit difficult sleeping at 14,000+ ft. and we all had to wake up at different points during the night and remind ourselves to breath! All twelve of us had our own beds this night. They were varying degrees of quality... Some we affectionately named "The Canoe", and others "The Plank".

Paula all ready for bed too!
We all turned in early because we were supposed to be up and out by 5:30 in the morning to see the geysers at sunrise!