4 Days of stunning scenery to the Salt Flats
Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
86Trip End Apr 01, 2012
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Just to warn you that there are hundreds of photos from this part of trip as the scenery was stunning and otherworldly, hard to believe such varying landscapes exist in this one part of Bolivia.
Our first stop is Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley – and yes it looks like it could be the moon), which is large canyon with large rock shards caused by water erosion
We stop for lunch at what can be described as a small farm holding, two small huts with some goats and other animals running around. We’re told to walk around for 15 minutes and then lunch will be ready. When we’re called for lunch, we go into one of the huts and are immediately surprised by the standard of food available – we have salad, fruit, pasta and chicken, all pretty tasty. We then have a look around the small room that is the bedroom for this family and we realise that there are in fact llama carcases hanging from the ceiling to dry. Despite looking a bit odd, they don’t smell and this is how they store their meat
It’s getting dark and we’re still driving, plus our driver is looking concerned at the water level when we drive through the many rivers that we need to cross. We even have to stop to pump up the tyres of a rival tour company – they all seem to look out for each other here. At about 8pm we reach the entrance to the national park called Parque Nacional Eduardo Avaroa and are immediately struck by the clarity of the stars and the milky way, this might beat the view of the sky at Cabo Polonio. Finally we get to our accommodation in a small town called Quetena Chica, a small gold mining settlement of about 720 people whose language is quechua rather than spanish. Our driver Felix explains that we’ve driven a whole lot further that we were meant to as he was concerned about the water levels (they are usually higher in the mornings) and so we have diverted off schedule and are onto day 2
Breakfast of scrambled eggs and bread and more coca tea and we’re good to go. We drive through the Salar de Chalviri, another lake that naturally produces a detergent product, and the Desierto de Dali (which has rock formations of petrified lava). We’re all taken back by the constantly changing scenery from the flatness of the salt flat (a welcome flatness after a lot of hours of driving over very bumping tracks), the strange rock formations and the desert plains at this altitude. Next stop is Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) which is a stunningly beautiful turquoise but at the same time pretty dangerous as the colour comes from the natural chemicals found in the lake, one of which is arsenic
Next day, pancakes for breakfast – it keeps getting better! First stop is the viewpoint of the Laguna Colorada which isn’t quite as impressive in the morning as the sun hasn’t hit it yet. Felix made sure he took us last night to see the colour despite it not being on our schedule – he is really enthusiastic about the landscape even though he has been doing the same tour for eight years and this just one of the examples how he puts our experience first. Next is Desierto de Siloli where we see the Arbol de Piedra
(Stone tree), strange to drive through a desert to come across rock formations caused by the strong desert wind. We then visit a few lakes each with beautiful settings but the one that stands out is the one that smells. Again sulphur is to blame for this. Our lunch stop is another space like rock formation overlooking Volcan Ollague, a semi active volcano where we can see the smoke coming from it. We then start to drive over the salt flat to stay in the Hotel de Sal (Salt hotel) – the salt flat seems to last forever. In the salt hotel, everything is made from salt, the walls, chairs, tables, bed bases and it looks pretty quirky. Most importantly, it has a hot shower! So we all get showers and have our final dinner, where a bottle of Bolivian wine is provided and we even get custard pudding
Very early start the next morning (5am) as Felix is keen to get to the salt flats for sunrise, 'Spectaculare’ he exclaims! He takes us to the island in the middle of the salt flat where we are totally by ourselves despite several jeeps leaving the town at the same time. We climb the island (slowly) and watch as sunrise changes the colour of the sky behind the mountains and the great expanse of the salt flats – a truly magnificent view. We spend the morning taking photos and exploring the island and come down to breakfast on the salt flat where Flora has somehow managed to bake us a cake in the shape of a love heart! Next onto the Ojos de Sal (Eyes of salt), which are holes in the salt flat which show the water beneath (a little worrying) and the crystallised salt (all in perfect squares). We’re then left to play around with several props and our cameras as you will see
Next up is a brief stop in Uyuni as we were told it was a bit of a dump – might be a bit harsh as we managed to find a good hostel (Piedra Blanca) with hot showers, a very good pizza place (Minuteman pizza, randomly run by an American who has moved to Bolivia) where we tried llama pizza – a bit like lamb and tasty and most importantly we were very relieved to be back down to under 3km altitude. Jonny managed to get pesto with his llama (something he has missed for the past 2 ½ months), a slightly strange combination with llama but all worked well!
Next day we take a six hour bus to Potosi and then a 3 hour bus to Sucre where we’re going to chill out for a bit and finally do some Spanish lessons!
We have had a truly amazing time in Bolivia so far – it is an intriguing country that we have only just begun to explore. It is a country of contrasts, but with stunning scenery waiting to be explored. As we move onto our next stop, we look to further explore this country and perhaps even start to understand the people.