I didn’t know Sarah Marquis before I went off to hike the deserts of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina (here and here) - shame on me, I should have come across her book “Deserts d’Altitude” and the other amazing desert hikes she already did during my research and preparation for the trip. Most probably this was caused by the fact that the book is only available in French and honestly my French is a little bit rusty. Sidetracked has a great interview with her in English here.
Below I want to tell you the story about the present I received in the desert - the book “Deserts d’Altitude” - given to me by a stranger I met on a dirt road close to the border of Bolivia / Chile. Since I don’t get presents quite often while walking in the desert, I thought this is worth a posting.
It was around midday on a sunny day in July 2016 when I was roughly a day hike away from the Chilean border on the Altiplano in South Bolivia - I had crossed this high altitude desert throughout the weeks before on foot starting in the town of Uyuni, close to the famous “Salar de Uyuni”. I was heading South on that day on the pretty well established dirt road leading from “Termas de Polques” towards the two Lagunas, Verde and Blanca. Right in the middle of the famous, but in my opinion pretty overhyped “Salvador Dali Desert”, a 4x4 vehicle stopped beside me. A French lady in her 40s stepped out and approached me talking in English to me - she told me that they have crossed the desert area of the “Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve of Andean Fauna” by 4x4 throughout the last days and saw me several times while I was crossing through that area as well.
The lady was amazed to see someone hiking in this area and started to interview myself with her family in the back taking photos out of the car. After a couple of minutes, she handed me Sarah’s book over as a gift and told me to read it. I was stunned. There was simply no reason to give me a present like this in the middle of nowhere. This is what the long-distance hiking folks in the US call “Trail Magic” - I would rather call it “Desert Magic”.