Sunday, October 20, 2013

Salar de Uyuni!!!

Incase you haven't heard of this place, it deserves a hell of an introduction...

The BIGGEST salt flat in the world, "Salar de Uyuni," lies in the south-west of Bolivia.  It was once a giant inland sea, and its elevation (just under 4000 meters), would have made it the highest sea as well.  Nowadays, it's a very popular spot for touring the dry salt desert, and seeing all that surrounds it, which is nothing less than spectacular.

The Salar de Uyuni has a ton of tour operators selling their tour, usually in the form of 1 or 2 or 3 days, and sometimes up to 5.  We were interested in 3 days, 2 nights, and found the perfect guide and group.

Every tour guide drives a mid 90's Toyota Landcruiser, which seats 7 besides the driver.  I've never seen such a perfect Toyota commercial unfold before my eyes, and am surprised I've never seen an actual ad on television coming from Bolivia...



Our guide was Miguel, with "World White Tours," and not only was he a great driver, but was full of information on the surrounding area, and served us some delicious food along our journey.

The passengers were Erika and Johanna, the Swedish girls, Sinia from Germany, Niels from Denmark, Juan from Colombia, and Danica and I.

We started at the train cemetery, which is a literal graveyard of old rusty locomotives out in the middle of the desert.  After spending a little while there, we heading south, into the endless salt.  Roads that never end.  We stopped at several spots to take photos and really take it all in.  As you can imagine, the white salt reflects the sun like crazy, so it's impossible to not wear glasses.






We spent about an hour at "Isla de Incahuasi," which at one point actually was an island in the sea, but now it's an island in the desert.  Rocks jet up, and out of them jet up giant cactus.  There were Llamas running around, and it was quite a sight to see...



 We headed on through the endless salt, and eventually stopped in the middle of nowhere, literally, to have lunch.  Miguel had pork chops, quinoa, fresh cucumber and tomato, and some sodas for us.


We wandered around a bit, took some photos, and then continued on, through the desert to our 'hotel' for the night, which was completely made of salt.




We got to the hotel about an hour before sundown, and we hiked up the hill behind it to try to get a better view of the desert.  That night was a full moon, and seeing it rise up and over the desert was spectacular...





The next morning, we headed away from the salt, and into the endless, mountainous desert that is southern Bolivia.  Miguel slowed down at one point, and sure enough we had a flat tire...He got out, put on his 'mechanic suit' and quickly changed it, out in the middle of nowhere...We were off in no time, to check out the view of the volcano...



Volcan Ollague in the distance
 

We passed several beautiful lagoons along the way, all of which were home to several types of flamingos.




We drove out into the desert sun, might I add, with Miguel playing a pretty epic (and random) soundtrack, and started seeing several large rock formations.  We finally parked at a place called Árbol de Piedra, or tree rock, which was a massive rock playground made of ancient lava formations.




Árbol de Piedra
 


We pulled into the Laguna Colorada right about 4 PM, as this is the best time of day to see it, with all its color.



 Last stop for the day, now it was to the next 'hotel' for the night.  Right near the lagoon, we could still see it in the foreground.  A large room with 7 beds was to be our shelter for the night.  Spaghetti dinner with some wine.


 

The next morning, we woke up early and put everything in the Landcruiser.  It was the third and final day of the trip, and we had some things to see before being dropped off at the Chilean border...

The geyser field
steaming earth



bubbling cauldron of mud...
Ice field

Mars-like landscape...
The trip was coming to an end, and we had to make the Chilean border on time in order to catch our continuing ride to San Pedro de Atacama...There was one more stop, at the hot springs, to have a dip.


And the final lagoon right before the border...Laguna Verde, got its greenish hue from the Copper and Arsenic in the water...Hence no wildlife here.



An unbelievable tour, in an incredible place.  I can't stress how much we highly recommend doing this!  Miguel was a great tour guide, our group was great and fun, and might I add it was dirt cheap!!!  It was 700 Bolivianos for the whole trip, that's about $100, with all food included, and the hotel rooms.  Only thing we had to pay extra for, was the entrance to the national park in the far south...150/each.  The price also included our bus to Chile, which was very nice.