After all of La Paz´s noise and hustle, we moved on to new, quieter territory. A busride and then an overnight train (first time on a train for this trip!) were all we needed to get from La Paz to Tupiza, where we´d have a basecamp for our next adventure: Salar de Uyuni. It´s a four-day tour that starts in Tupiza and ends in the town of Uyuni. And, instead of hiking the whole way like our Machu Picchu trek, it was mostly gazing through a bumpy SUV´s window. Here´s a quick day-by-day breakdown, and be sure to check out more pictures in the gallery!
Day 1 - Tupiza and the Wild Wild West
We kicked off the first day by exploring dry, rugged landscape surrounding Tupiza. Legend has it that the ¨real¨Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (or, rather, the real-life people these characters were based on) met their end here. Nothing like a little fusion of history, folklore, and entertainment while you take in all of the beautiful scenery.
As our SUV meandered slowly up, up, up, the arid desert quickly changed to a snowier, more hostile environment. Still, our trusted guide Edwin was skilled at the wheel. It was our first glimpse at snow in quite some time!
It´s got nothin´on ´cuse or VT, but still, a nice sight...
Just as quickly as we ascended, we descended back to sunnier, warmer country. Just as we reached endless fields of golden tufts (still not sure exactly what the plant was) the sun came out and lit up the land for a brief but wonderful golden hour - quite literally!
And just like that, after about twelve hours in the car, we had reached our hostel. It was clear that the first day was more about getting closer than actual site-seeing. Still, if this was the worst day for site-seeing, we had a lot to look forward to!
Day 2 - Lagunas, Volcanoes, Geysers, and other things hot and volcanic
Now in the thick of the Bolivian altiplano and desert, we were ready for some serious sights (and sounds, and smells). Our first stop was the Laguna Verde, which we were lucky enough to see, our guide said, while it was changing color for the day. From which color to which, you may ask? Well, from green to a different green. Still, it was vibrant, and with the Volcano Quetena in the background, it made for quite a visual. So much so that we were inspired to take some sportswear modeling photos.
Laguna Verde (workin it)
Our next stop was easily the highlight of the day. It also scared the crap out of the both of us. The geysers: a huge series of boiling and bubbling, rotten-egg-smelling, steam spewing geysers. It made us nervous enough to approach these giant steaming holes from the safe SUV. But when Edwin got out of the car to tell us we were going for a walk, ignoring the fairly large sign that said ¨Peligro: No se acerca¨(Danger: Do Not Approach), we were pretty well terrified of every step. Still, in what other country or setting could you possibly get THIS close to a geyser and stare it right in the face as it gurgled and simmered? You have to silence that little voice in your head that reminds you your standing on top of something hot enough to make mud boil.
I love the smell of sulfer in the morning
Our day ended with a much more relaxing volcanic experience - some natural hot springs to unwind. Such stress!!!
Day 3 - More Lagunas and the Salt Hotel
Today was the day of the Lagunas. First, we visited arguably the most famous of them all - Laguna Colorada. Due to the minerals in the sediment at its bottom, the Laguna Colorada reflects back a rusty and in some places blood-red color that is beautiful and a bit eerie. From there, we continued on to see the various other lagunas, each with there own special characteristics. The one thing they all had, though, was flamingos! Here are some photo highlights.
Our shorter day concluded in a hotel made of salt, quite literally. More of a novelty than anything. We went to sleep to the sound of hail beating upon the tin roof and the salt walls, anxiously awaiting the 4am wakeup to see the sunrise over the salt flats. Almost to the grand finale!
Day 4 - Salar de Uyuni
OK, so our wakeup was a bit delayed (5am), but from the car we were still able to see the sun rising. It had hailed and rained throughout the evening, which leaves a layer of water on the flats about 6-10 inches deep. As you can imagine, when the sun comes up, the reflection of the water creates a still, mirror-like image that evokes endless ¨Ooooohs¨and ¨Ahhhhhhhhs¨as we furiously snap away with our digital cameras.
Where does the land stop and the sky start?
As Edwin drove slowly through the water, careful not to splash the engine with too much salt water, us passengers were left with a strange feeling somewhere between flying and riding in a boat. It was alltogether one of the most surreal experiences. By the time we had filled up our memory sticks, we had reached an island - Incahuari Island. Strange, to think, that you reach an island while still on land, but there is truly no other way to describe it. After hours of watching the mountains disappear behind us, there was this small island up ahead, which provided us with some more scenery for some more heady pictures (that´s the theme of the day, I´d say).
Note again that the reflective surface is in fact land with a little bit of water, not a body of water!
And then, of course came the dry section, which is probably the most famous part of them all - where everyone again pulls out there cameras, for endless amounts of pictures, from the goofy to the jaw-dropping. There are pictures a-plenty in the gallery, so go check em out!!! Here are just a few samples. And to sum up, while Machu Picchu represented an amazing historical and mystical experience, the Salar de Uyuni matched Machu Picchu but for its visual and surreal qualities. What an experience!!!
Hope you enjoyed! Salta, Iguazu Falls, and Buenos Aires are up next so stay tuned!!!