Tupiza to Uyuni tour

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, September 9, 2010

We took a four day jeep tour from Tupiza to a town called Uyuni. A French couple, Arnaud and Aurore, were on our tour too and, thankfully, turned out to be good company. Arnaud very kindly translated much of what our guide said. The first part of the journey involved hours within the landcruiser, battling against some very difficult terrain and climbing high into the mountains. This made Eleanor feel travelsick and she was given some coca leaves to chew to help. The views were incredible and we were able to glance back at the precarious route we had just taken. The route included tremendous views of endless mountain ranges with a myriad of colours, and then eating lunch 4500 metres above sea level in a field of Llamas. The music in the car sounded good for the first 4 minutes until we realised the Bolivian song was on repeat. After about the 30th repeat of the same song I asked Arnaud to teach me how to say, "Excuse me, could you please change the music" in Spanish. The music was changed and our cook, Julia, kindly gave me some headache pills.

The tour continued, swallowing up many mountain roads and encountering some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever witnessed. There were lakes with emerald waters set against volcano backdrops, rich with flamingo populations. There was one lagoon, called Laguna Colorada, which was actually pink around sunset. As the journey continued, the landscape and scenery kept on improving making us wonder when the climax of the tour would be. We were fortunate to be one of very few tours making the route from Tupiza to Uyuni so most of the experiences consisted of peaceful, isolated and uninterrupted beauty. Other experiences on the trip included sleeping in -20c conditions, viewing active and dormant volcanoes that divide Bolivia and Chile, seeing spluttering geysers and bubbling hot mud amidst a landscape that resembled something from out of space.

Each evening, the journeys ended at basic hostel accommodation, some without showers and limited generator-driven electricity. On one occasion, the four of us played games with a group of young local children. This really was one of the highlights because even though there was a language barrier, we all had great fun playing games, including musical chairs to the beat of a llama-skinned drum. On the last night, we stayed in a hotel made from salt. The walls, furniture, tables, chandeliers, and pretty much everything else were made from blocks of salt. This hostel was unsurprisingly on the edge of the huge salt flat, Salar de Uyuni. We rose very early on our last day to catch the sun rise over the Salar. We saw millions of repeating hexagonal blocks of white salt on the world's largest salt flat at 4,086 sq mi. Our shadows seemed to travel forever as the sun was rising, giving a stunning white and blue scheme of colour. Here we were able to make some interesting photos by playing with perspectives. We have pictures of Eleanor sitting on the palm of my hand and of me drinking from a massive cup of coffee. I had the opportunity of driving the 4x4 on the flats and we also dug for salt crystals just beneath the salty surface. We also visited an island in the middle of the salt desert that was covered with ancient cactuses- the oldest being 1200 years old. The salt flat surrounded the island like an ocean of white. The Salar is a truly remarkably beautiful place with an endless horizon.  
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