Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

From San Pedro de Atacama we were ready to head into Bolivia. In order to make it to the closest town in Bolivia, Uyuni, we needed to cross desert, geysers, hot springs, lakes, and salt flats. So, we made a 3 day 4x4 Land Cruiser tour out of it- a definite highlight of the trip! There were 11 people in our group so we needed two vehicles. We lucked out and had a really fun group made up of us, 2 Swiss girls, 2 (hilarious) Israli guys, 2 Portugese girls, an English girl, a Brazilian girl, and an American girl. Our guides were proficient in cooking, site info where we stopped, and automobile repair! Again, we had so many pictures to choose from. Here are the highlights from the tour:


We ate breakfast at the Chili-Bolivia border sheltered(sort of) from the cool winds of the altiplano. This was the the closest we got to the Licancabur Volcano(5930 m). The border crossing consisted of one building in the middle of no-where with no real roads leading to or from it. There was one border guard there that could be bribed if you did not have the necessary documentation. Below is the Bolivian border building along with a glimpse of the Toyota Land Cruiser that was our transprt for the journey to Uyuni.

Laguna Verde was our first stop after crossing the border into Bolivia. This high-elevation lagoon is suurounded by volcanoes- most of which are inactive.

Our second stop was to the geysers that sit at approximately 4950 m. These ones were different from the ones we saw outside San Pedro de Atacama. They smelled of sulphur and the liguid was grey but just boiled, instead of shooted up like the other ones did. These ones were also quite big, like craters in the earth.

Day 2

After spending the night huddled in our long-johns under several layers of blankets we loaded up the 4x4´s and headed out for another exciting day. Below is our ¨refugio¨(hostal) and the guides backing our stuff on the roof racks.

First stop on day 2 was to the nearby Laguna Colarado where the flamigoes live. We didn´t expect to see this bird here in the windy altiplano, but there are three types who live in the area.

During the trip we saw lots of llamas and alpacas strolling along. They are pretty tame so we could get close. These ones have pink ribbons tied to their ears to identify them.

We also stopped at the near-by Termas de Polques hot springs for a quick and relaxing dip at 4200 m.
Our last stop of the day before heading the next hostal was to the Arbolde de Piedra, or rock tree. We were just cruising (OK, bumping) along the desert roads (OK, tracks) when we came across a collection of rocks jutting out in the middle of nowhere. This one is famous because it looks like a tree (kinda).

Day 3
On our 3rd and final day crossing into Bolivia we arrived at the Salar de Uyuni - disputedly the world´s largest salt flat covering approximately 12,000 sq. kms at approximatly 3653 m elevation. The salt from the flats is harvested and processed into table salt, but more importantly the landscape lends itself to taking fun photographs.

Sitting in the middle of the Salt Lake is the peculiar and amazing Isla de los Pescadores or Incahuasi (meaning Fish Island for its shape or Inca´s House). The island has an amazing stand of giant and ancient cactus, some of which have been aged at more than 1200yrs. Archeologists also discovered signs that the inca once used this mysterious island.

The only mishaps we had on the trip were a couple of flat tires, running out of gas, and the other trucks wheel and tire came off at about 80 km an hour off-roading. We were assured by our guides that this trip was smooth compared to most. Our 4x4 adventure ended in the small town of Uyuni but our adventures in Bolivia have only just begun.

Bolivia fun fact: Bolivia is the hemisphere´s highest, most isolated and rugged nation. In guidebooks, the country is described as one of the Earth´s coldest, warmest, windiest and steamiest places. It boasts among the driest, saltiest and swampiest natural landscapes in the world.

1 comment:

  1. This posting brings back such great memories. Chris and I did this trip about 4 years ago and had an amazing time. Enjoy Bolivia...are you going to bike downhill on the death road to Corroico? :-) Allegra