From the border near San Pedro, we entered the national park and started our 3 day trip to Uyuni.
From the outset the sights were amazing! Dormant volcanoes surrounded us and the landscape could be used for some lunar landing reconstruction!
First up we mad our way to Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde (white lake and green lake). The colours here were spectacular and it was amazing to see all this water in the middle of the desert. We also got our first glimpse of flamingos, but there were many more to come! Again the surrounding scenery was spectacular – more volcanic peaks and rusty sand as far as the eye could see.
From there we drove through the Salvador Dali desert, apparently named after the likeness of the scenery to his paintings. Again, the landscape was superb. We visited some geysers and again this sight was something new to me and really interesting. While posing for a photo the wind direction changed and I got a huge plume of sulphuric smoke in my face – not the most pleasant of smells! Then we headed towards the Laguna Colorada. This lake is full of netural elements and changes colour regularly. We stayed at a refugio (refuge-type place) near the lake. Were given great food, but unfortunately the nights sleep was not great as the beds were a bit worn and I broke a spring when I sat down! 🙂 At this lake there were more flamingos and even some llamas grazing near the water’s edge.
That was day 1. Day 2 was to have even more exciting sightseeing. We headed to the Siloli desert and approached the Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree). This is a really impressive formation and looks like a tree. First my translation led me to believe it was a petrified forest, but then it turned out to be a spectacular tree-shaped rock. In the distance there was the seven-coloured mountain. Heading towards the Lagunas del Altiplano, we passed a rock formation with the stangest desert rabbits. And, a desert fox waiting in the distance. At the Lagunas del Altiplano, there was flamingos galore. A really impressive sight, but hard to believe that these birds make their home on a salt lake in the middle of the desert! The next exciting installment was a trip to Bolivia’s only acitve volcano (which is atucally owned by Chile). Hoping we would see some spewing lava, it was slightly disappointing to see only a small plume of smoke wafting out the top. But, nontheless, the volcano was so huge and colourful it was still impressive.
We then headed to the Salar, the highlight of our trip. The sun was moving west as we arrived arrived at the Hotel de Sal. A hotel made completely of Salt. Here we had the most comfortable rooms and a great dinner laid on for us. Had a really funny show of local Bolivian music by some local kids. It was a good laugh! It was early to bed after a great shower that was charged extra. And, there is only electricity from 7pm to 9pm, so bed was the only option.
That was day 2. Day 3 was hectic. We were up at 4am to make our way to the Isla Lomo Pescado to watch the sun rise over the salar! How spectacular. After almost collapsing after running the hill at this crazy altitude (close on 4000m), I made it to the top in time for the sunrise. This was our first decent view of the salar and again, words cannot describe the enormity of it! It’s 12000 square kilometres and to cross it is 200km from one side to the other! We got some great photos and the trickey of vast whiteness makes great photos! We had a great breakfast here prepared by Dialysis and then made our way across the salar driving seemingly towards nothing till we reached another old salt hotel over an hour later. Had a look around, got some refreshments and then made our way to the edge of the salar to where they cooperatively mine the salt. Saw an old Bolivian woman in action and she told us that if she’s not tired, on a good day, she can refine and pack 4000 bags of salt! That’s amazing!
From there we made our way to the Train Cemetery (old abandoned trains) just outside Uyuni, had another good lunch out the back of the truck and made our way into town to find a place to stay. We said goodbye to Dialysis and checked into a hostel-type place. Had a great pizza for dinner and then got a good nights sleep. However somewhow the altitude and me don’t agree and I woke up feeling horrendous, but after an ice-cold shower (water only comes on in the morning), I was feeling better. The others have left to go to Sucre, and I’ve changed my plans and am heading back towards Salta by train tomorrow night. I was going to go to Potossi to see some silver mines, but after reading the Lonely Planet, I realised that with the mine-shafts being really narrow, and an altitude of over 4000m, and me being not the smallest guy around, it would be best not to get stuck and have to be blasted out! So, another night in this strange place, Uyuni, and then hopefully back to civilisation.
Oh, just some tips for the trip, if anyone’s consiferind doing it. Make sure your toiur operator includes water – you need it. If not, buy some in San Pedro. Take toilet paper and some sort of dry soap if you can. You might also need some immodium, or even charcoal tablets (they seem to work quite well). Oh, and sun-tan lotion and lip-ice as well should do the trick, and if you’re a Saffa, you may need some cash to cross the border!
More to come about Salta, that needs much more time!