Short Stories, south america

Salt Flats, Lagoons And A Much Needed Hot Spring

salt flats

A part of this particular article is fairly embarrassing, however embarrassment for me is usually entertainment for you so I’m prepared to share the following.

It was back to Bolivia for the third time. My previous visit in this amazing country was spent volunteering at a party hostel in La Paz, however on this occasion I was determined to focus on something other than women and alcohol which was seemingly the general theme of roughly 1.5 years of my travels around South America. So with my beautiful Polish girlfriend in one hand and a Bolivia Wikipedia page in the other, I set my sights on some of Bolivia’s most impressive tourist attractions.

“Let’s book a tour. It’s the best and cheapest way to see the Salt flats, lagoons and the hot springs.”

A tour? I hated tours. The very thought of having to pay to be lead around like brain dead cattle had me scouring the internet for ways around involving myself in such a dreadful activity. I hadn’t participated in a tour since my early Europe days of 2009 and liked to think of myself as a fairly seasoned traveler who could avoid even the most necessary chauffeur style sight-seeing. Did I have a little bit of a traveler ego? Maybe, but I enjoyed avoiding tours and I wasn’t going to let a little work get in the way of keeping a seven year tour avoidance run going.

“Okay so this package excludes everything we want to see for 680 Bolivianos ($100USD)”

“Yes, but for how many days?”

“Three!” My girlfriend replied. Her eyes darting from one corner of my face to the other in hope of picking up on a subtle sign that I was remotely interested.

I knew that finding transport and accommodation for anything less than $33 USD per day was going to be a stretch. Even the thought of organising the entire three days for the sake of saving a few dollars seemed to be anything but a pointless excercise. I was doomed.

“We’d both like to purchase the three day tour, please.”

It was happening. My seven year run as anti-tour boy had finally come to an end.

The fees? Paid.

The bags? Packed.

Forced enthusiasm? Yep.

To be completely honest I really had no reason to be unhappy about anything. I was in a sweet foreign country, on my way to quite a few natural wonders of the world, costing me close to nothing and I was in a terrible mood because it was in some way planned? I was acting like a spoiled little five year old who for once in their life didn’t get their way.

As I jumped into the back seat of our provided four wheel drive I reminded myself that I should be grateful for the places I am able to explore with or without a tour guide.


“In five minutes we’ll be at the salt flats”.

The road was beginning to turn white and ….salty. As I fastened my sunglasses tight against my face in preparation for the harsh reflective light I watched as the other five people in the car loaded their cameras with memory cards and quickly applied sunscreen. As we turned the corner onto the salt flats I can remember thinking that it looked exactly like the billions of photos splashed almost daily across my facebook wall. White, bright and flat.


Everywhere you turned tourists were peppered across the salt flats taking the usual depth perception trickery photographs that have become synonymous with one of the flattest places on earth.

Day two was the day of the lagoon. After an amazing breakfast we set sail (in a motorised four wheel drive) for the majestic lagoons of Bolivia.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking…


Day three was a day to remember in both good and bad ways. The previous night accommodation had taken its toll on my already weathered back. My bed had consisted of a piece concrete with what can only be described as the world’s thinnest mattress thrown on top in an attempt to soften the rock hard base. My stomach had also been weakened by the previous night’s meal, but surprisingly I was yet to face any gestational problems.

“Today will be more lagoons and at the end of the day we’ll be visiting one of the national park’s natural hot springs.”

Awesome. I had genuinely enjoyed every place we had visited and although we had already seen many lagoons each one had had its own distinct colour, shape and back drop.

It was on the very last lagoon that something went horribly wrong. I had been having stomach cramps and on-again-off-again bouts of fever throughout the day. The Lagoons were unbelievable, but I had problems taking in the incredible surroundings because deep down I knew what was coming.

It was in a moment of lost concentration that it happened. I had fixed my gaze on Bolovia’s Laguna Azul – an amazingly blue lake that gets its colour from the areas high velocity winds – when I did nothing more than try to pass a seemingly harmless amount of gas. This was a horrendous mistake. My guard had been down for the slightest of seconds which gave an apparent green (or brown) light for a sizable amount of diarrhea to vacate my rectum and flood my underpants. At 29 years of age I had managed to soil myself.

“Magda can you please come here for a second.”

“Not now Jarrod, I’m taking photos.” My girlfriend didn’t seem to hear the panic in my voice.

“No, Magda, NOW! I have literally shit my pants and I need some toilet paper! Do you have some toilet paper?!”

Her face dropped.

“Are you being serious?”

“Yes, I’m being serious. Would you please get some toilet paper out of your bag?!”
I was still whispering, but it was the kind of loud whispering that everyone could hear.

Feeling similar to an un-toilet trained 2-year-old, I snatched the toilet paper from my girlfriend’s hands and begun a waddle-like run towards a nearby boulder. I had finally found a hiding place suitable for… well…trying to figure out what do do with myself. As I quickly pulled down my pants I couldn’t help but to pause and marvel at the breathtaking snow-capped mountains overlooking a lagoon that was the most intense shade of blue I had ever seen.

As I said goodbye to my underwear I couldn’t help but to laugh at the entire situation, but as you can imagine, having limited toilet paper means having limited cleanliness so the next thing I heard almost brought joy-filled tears to my eyes…

“Next stop is the hot springs!”

Some type of bath couldn’t have possibly come at a better time. Knowing that other people were kind of bathing with me didn’t bother me in the slightest besides, I hear that a small percentage of swimming pool water is urine anyway…right?

– Jarrod


  1. Stephen O Regan

    Best blog in years! Laughed my way all through it.

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