from Tupiza to Uyuni
28.02.2008 - 03.03.2008 20 °C
We left Tupiza at a respectable 9.30am on our four day trip to the salt flats of Uyuni. We shared a 4x4 with a young couple from England called Amy and Ben and our driver and guide Fernando. After packing the jeep with supplies and backpacks we were off in convoy with a few others. Everyone seemed excited as this is a huge highlight to bolivian travel.
The first few hours were driving through beautiful canyons and then over high passes. Again it was a wonder that the jeep could stay on the road and indeed a miracle that there was a road there at all. You certainly wouldn't want to meet anything coming the other way and thankfully we didn't!
We had a lovely picnic lunch with the other group surrounded by grazing llama before continuing our climb to San Antonio de Limpez at 4200m. This tiny village of mud houses high on the altoplano was our base for the night.Richard,Amy Ben and I had a tiny room with four of the most uncomfortable beds and a tiny room next door with a table and four chairs. As soon as sun set here it was bloody freezing and it was the first time any of us had felt the cold in a while. We stayed huddled up in our room to keep cosy though and it was fine.
After an interesting supper of vegetable soup with chips in it (yes its not just the harpins who put chips in there soup!) and llama and mash we had a few games of cards then off to bed. After such a crap sleep in our terrible beds wew were glad to be up at 5am and on the road by 6.
Our day began driving past a ghostly desserted village under the shadow of Volcano Uturunco which stands at 6008m. We drove through desert and scrubland for hours before beginning to see the beautiful lagoons and salt lakes we had come to see.
Seeing as none of us were brave enough or insane enough to take an ice cold shower that morning we were all very glad to stop off at the thermal pools for a wallow and some lunch. It was amazing to lay in the hot mineral waters and gaze at the dessert and distant snow capped mountains.
From here we drove through the surreal Desert of Dali which was exactly like being in a salvador Dali painting. All twisted trees and gnarly rock formations, beautiful red and pink colours and the sky was an electric blue that was almost blinding.
We passed thousands more llama as well as Vicuna and then lagoons full of pink flamingos. Our final stop before our next lodging were some hot mud and steam geysiers. All very interesting but by now we were so high up and it was freezing and blowing a gale so we had a quick look and then were on our way.
Our next night was spent at a hostel in the middle of nowhere at 4007m. It did however sell alcohol though so we had a bit of a night of it with the other group. Five nice guys including Yoritk from Amsterdam and Jose from Madrid.
We all had a good night and it was fun trading stories. I had my first bottle of Bolivian wine and I don't know if it was that of the altitude but I spent most of my night in the bathroom! At least the toilet was indoors here so it wasn't too bad. Everyone else got a better sleep though and even a lay in till 7.
The next day poor Richard had a huge lump on his head were he had smacked it off a beam the night before. Bolivia isn't designed for tall people and he must have hit his head dozens of times by now. Even I have started stooping an I'm a short arse. Anyway Julia our cook made pancakes for breakfast and that took some of his pain away.
Day three began at the most stunning Laguna Colorada. This is a huge blood red lake reflecting the mountains all around and a haven for thousands of Chilean flamingos. When we arrived they were all beginning to wake up and they put on quite a show for us. It would have been fantastic to sit there all day watching them but we had a busy schedule ahead.
The next few hours were spend speeding through the atacama desert,the highest and driest inthe world. It certainly felt like we were on top of the world. Dispite being so barren we passed by another 5 lagoons and three snowy volcanoes. All three were active but only steaming. Still no molton lava for Richard. Then the Valley of Rocks wich speaks for its self and loads more photos. Our last nights accomodation was the best and we had our own room and the first hot shower. It was great to feel clean again and the group smelled a lot better!
Our last day began with a 4am start so we could get to the salt flats for sunrise. This didn't seem like such a good idea after another night spent mainly in the bathroom and 2 hours sleep.
Fernando did his best but after driving for over 2 hours in the dark the sun had already began to rise as we sped onto the salt flats. When we did get to the edge of the salar de Uyuni it was worth every minute of tiredness though. The flats were covered in a couple inches of water and just looked like mirror as far as we could see. The sunrise and the pinks and blues of the clouds reflected in this eternal mirror and we all just stood in silence looking.
We then drove for about half an hour through this shallow lake blinded by the salt and seeing a few workers gathering up the strange salt pyramids that were all around. The Salar de Uyuni is the biggest in the world at 10500km2 and is the biggest reserve of natural minerals in the world such as lithium, pottasium and nitrogen. We had breakfast in a hotel made of salt before driving into the middle of nowhere to take lots more photos. Again it would have been amazing to stay here for hours and hours looking in wonder but our trip was almost over. We passed a local town at the edge of the flats to see the salt being cleaned and packed before driving into Uyuni.
We had a visit to the train cemetery here,a reminder of the towns past as a railway centre and we had our lunch here amongst the rusting engines and carraiges. We all said our goodbyes to new friends before heading to hostels or ongoing buses.It was a fantastic trip with so many memories to remember and another reminder of how vastly diverse south America can be.