The Incredible Journey!

Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
Trip End Apr 18, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Obviously, we decided to take the exciting route into Chile, and for the first part of our fantastic journey, we had to somehow reach Uyuni (the starting point of the salt plains tour that would take us over the border). Most people opt to take the overnight bus which directly connects La Paz to Uyuni, but not wanting to be stuck on another uncomfortable Andean bus for a long space of time we decided to stop off at a place called Oruro. The guide described it as the biggest town on our route from La Paz, and it had a railway service connecting  it to Uyuni, therefore it seemed like an ideal alternative to the overnight bus. However, on our arrival the last thing we wanted to do was disembark our transportation. Myself and Iwan looked out at the scenery in horror both thinking the same thing, "this can't be it". The place literally looked like a rubbish dump, which attracted stray dogs, and dust from the roads covered the small, poor houses. Our hostel, recommended by the guide, was reminiscent of a prison cell, the only shower being the other side of the courtyard in a little outhouse, but on the plus side it was just a few paces from the train station!

We had read that there was a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef in the area, so with nothing left to lose we decided to dine there. After ordering, it became apparent that the chef had long left the restaurant - it seems that no one stays long in Oruro! Iwan ordered lamb, and that is indeed what he got... the whole carcass! However horrific eating around eye sockets and earholes was, he still managed to eat the whole thing!

The morning couldn't have come any quicker. We decided to travel in style (since it was only 10 pounds!) and boarded the first executive train out of Oruro and to Uyuni.

Not wanting to waste any time, we woke early the next day in Uyuni in order to book our transportation though the salt planes and into Chile for the next day. We had heared a lot of horror stories about unreliable travel agencies in the area and, when the shops finally decided to open at 4pm, we began the search. After visiting a countless number of agencies, all offering the same basic 3 day itinerary, we decided to go with the first company we visited simply because the kind man showed Iwan the way to the laundry!

The following morning, feeling slightly apprehensive about the journey ahead, we set off in our jeep towards the first stop - a train cemetary. This was basically a scrapyard on the outskirts of the salt desert where old trains were retired to rust... this prompted numerous "jokes" from Iwan, including the immortal "RIP: Rust in Pieces"! Shortly after, we entered the salt plains. The whiteness of the desert was blinding and the rising heat made the surrounding mountains look as if they were floating in the distance. The scenery was unforgettable and the unique flatness of the land allowed for some interesting photography (see our pictures!). We learned that the salt plains were formed as a result of a giant prehistoric lake drying out and leaving behind the salt desert. Therefore every now and again, we came across remnants of the lake in the form of cactus islands and coral caves. Eventually, after a day of travelling, we arrived at our accomodation for the night: the salt hotel! As the name suggests, the whole place was made entirely of salt: the bed, the table, the chairs, even the walls! Although interesting, the novelty soon wore off after reality hit us that we would have to spend the night there, however, due to the quietness and the suprising warmth of the salt building, we all slept like logs.

The next day we left the salt desert and travelled South through Bolivian sand desert in order to visit the lagoons. Each lagoon (4 in total) were coloured differently due to the minerals in the water, and the mountinous backdrops along with the hundreds of flamingos and numerous vicunas (deer-like creatures) that flock to the lakes, made for spectacular scenery. During the drive, we also passed some interesting rock formations (including one that vaguely resembled a tree... the "tree rock"!) which housed chinchillas, and an active volcano which resided on the Chilean side of the border. 

Our accomodation for the second night was dismal to say the least. The temperature had dropped significantly due to us being at an elevation of about 4400m (almost half way up Mount Everest!), the matress was made out of straw and the less said about the bathroom the better! However, taking just a glimps outside the window made the experience worthwhile at the millions of stars lighting up the dry, expansive desert. It was just like being in Star Wars!

We awoke early the next day in order to see the gaysers at sunrise. Our jeep was frozen inside and out and all our water had turned to ice overnight, as Mamgu would say "it was bitterly cold"! We arrived at the site just as the Sun was rising and watched as the steam errupted from the vents in the ground. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to stand in the clouds of warm steam, but when it was time to leave not only were we cold but we were wet too, and my hair slowly began to freeze! At our next stop, the hot springs, the last thing we wanted to do was get changed from our cosy thermals, dipping our toes in was quite enough!

After breakfast, we quickly made our way to the last stop, Lake Verde, a bright green lagoon, where we took farewell photos with our group. Soon after, we reached the Chilean boarder where, thankfully, our bus was waiting to take us to the nearest town, San Pedro de Atacama, surrounded by the driest desert in the world!Luckily, our water began to thaw... just in the nick of time!

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mamabruno on

Lluniau anfarwol uwith eto! Diolch. Mam XXXXXXXXXXXX

naintaid on

Santa a Mrs Clos
Balch iawn o dderbyn y ddau lot o luniau ardderchog eto,lluniau gwych a chlyfar iawn,rydym wrth edrych ar y lluniau yn teimlo ein bod yna hefo chi trwy'r cyfrifiadur,'rydych yn edrych yn ardderchog eich dau.
Buom allan i ginio hefo dy fam heddiw yn y Faenol Arms a cawsom amser da ond gwell fuasai gennym pe tae ni yn cael paned yn'Te Nain Maggie'hefo chi.
Falch o'r e-bost y ddydd o'r blaen.
Newydd ddod oddiar y ffon ar ol siarad efo chdi neis clywed dy lais a deall eich bod yn OK eich dau,newydd roi y ffon i lawr a daeth nain i ty ac 'roedd o'i cho ei bod wedi dy golli. Gobeithio eich bod wedi cael taith iawn i Sandiago a dim wedi gor flino.
Hwyl fawr a NADOLIG LLAWEN IAWN i chi eich dau,mwynhewch. Nain a Taid XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

sabdl1 on

Out of this World !
What an adventure! Although somewhat basic accomodation etc, it is a very exciting and unusual place for a trip !
Your photographs are amazing. I suppose salt does not fly around, and so you get such a clear atmosphere and very blue sky. But then, why red sunsets?
Catrin and Iwan: Mwynhewch gyfleusterau y Wladfa dros y Nadolig.
David and Margaret

janice60 on

Nadolig Llawen yn Chile!!
Llunie ffantastig unwaith eto! Chi wedi gweld rhyfeddodau yn y tri mis dwetha'gyda llawer mwy i ddod! Ces i'r anrheg Nadolig gore ddoe yn cael siarad a'ch gweld chi'n fyw am awr a hanner! Roeddem i gyd wrth ein bodde i weld y ddau ohonoch yn edrych mor iach ac hapus ac yn amlwg yn cael amser bendigedig! Teimlwn lawer gwell nawr ar ddydd nadolig ar ol ein sgwrs hir!
Ma'r blog am y Salt Planes yn ddiddorol iawn Cats - diolch am gymryd amser mas i rannu'r cyfan a ni. O ti siwr o fod wrth dy fodd yna - odd rhannau'n atgoffa fi o ffilmiau Indiana Jones!!
Byddwn yn meddwl amdanoch yn cael bbq ar y traeth ar Ddydd Nadolig, truenu na allen ni fod yno gyda chi!!
Diolch hefyd am yr e card Nadolig - o le gesoch chi'r hetie Sion Corn yng nghanol y desert!!?Na glefar i chi!!!
Cariad mawr wrth bawb,Love youxxxxxxxxx
Mam, Dad, Rhods, Dadcu, mamgu a Pixie XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

janice60 on

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Wrth edrych nol dros 2008, mae wedi bod yn flwyddyn arbennig a bythgofiadwy i chi'ch dau! Byddwn yn meddwl amdanoch yn dathlu'r flwyddyn newydd yng nghanol miri Buenos Aires ac yn dymuno'r gorau oll i chi, Catrin ac Iwan, yn 2009.
Heb anghofio dymuno Penblwydd Hapus iawn i ti Iwan ar y 3ydd o Ionawr? Cofiwch eich bod yn treto'ch hunain!
Joiwch eich wythnos olaf yn Ne America!!!
Cariad mawr a dymuniadau gorau pawb yma - Mamgu, Dadcu, Rhods, Mam a Dad xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ac i bawb sydd yn y ty
Codwch yn fore, a cynnwch y tan
Ac ewch i'r ffynnon i ol dwr glan!!!

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