Well, San Pedro de Atacama was off limits. The border in the Andes was closed because of heavy snowfall. So we decided to take the bus to La Quiaca, which is at the border of Argentina and Bolivia. We crossed the border by foot to a small Bolivian village called Villazón where we took a minibus to Tupiza. This was a small village with not much to do, so we got on to the next bus to Uyuni. Point of interest; almost all the roads in Bolivia are sandy, so traveling is quite an adventure.
Salar de Uyuni
We arrived in Uyuni in the evening, because our crappy bus took a while to ride on these sandy and rocky roads. We went to a tour operator to do the same tour every traveler in Bolivia wants to do; visit the biggest salt flat of the world Salar de Uyuni. Our three days tour started the next morning so we went for some food, got to our hostel and went to bed, because the waking hours at our tour were very early.
The next morning we got in our jeep with our Spanish speaking guide, 3 Canadians and a girl from Brazil. The first stop was at a train cemetery. This was an amazing site with a lot of old and rusty trains, but not much more than that. After a 20 minutes stop (it became a 45 minutes stop, because our Canadian friends thought our guide said 40 minutes) we drove to our first stop at the salt flat. All we could see there was salt, it was so incredibly big. But it wasn’t even 10 percent of the whole flat we had crossed. Next was lunch a few miles further to the center of the salt flat. We had this lunch in a hotel made entirely of salt! After that, we got back into the jeep and drove even more towards the center of the salt flat where we found a small island with a lot of cactuses on it. This was the only thing on the whole flat that wasn’t made of salt.
We drove towards the other end of the salt flat, where we witnessed an amazing sunset. We almost spend a whole day on this salt flat, so you’ll know it is incredibly big. After the sun went down and it became dark immediately we got off the flat to a small house where we would spend the cold night. The salt flat is located at 3500 meters above sea-level so the temperature at night was below zero.
Cold night and beautiful sights
After a terrible cold night we had to get up at 5:30 am to have breakfast while watching the sunrise. We got back in the jeep and drove to the first lake of the day; Laguna Honda. Here we saw our first few flamingo’s. After a short stop we drove further to see even more flamingo’s. This time at a beautiful sight of snowy mountains, where we also had lunch.
We drove for many hours through the mountains and reached an altitude higher than 5000 meters. Chris got a really bad headache because of this height. We stopped at a sight with many big stones. One looked like a three made of stone. We climbed a bit and enjoyed sights before we drove further.
In the afternoon we arrived at our second house at Lake Colorado. It was really budget, we didn’t have power and a shower. We walked up a mountain where we saw many lama’s. We took some pictures and walked to a viewing point of the lake. The lake had a beautiful red/pink color and was the living area for many flamingo’s at 4600 meters above sea-level.
When the sun went down, it became freezing cold. We had for dinner a warm cup of soup which tasted bad but we ate it anyway because it was warm. When we went to bed, we were wearing two pants, two shirts, two sweaters and a jacket. We also had three blankets and a sleeping bag, but we were still cold.
An even colder night
After an even more terrible night we had to get up even earlier than the morning before, because breakfast was served at 4.30 am. :’( At 5 am we drove to an altitude of 5000 meters again to witness a sunrise at the geysers of a volcano. We went out for some pictures but got back in the jeep very fast, because of the sulfur smell and the freezing temperature. After that, we drove for an hour and got to a natural thermal bath. This water was a lovely 40 degrees so we couldn’t wait to jump in to it! We forgot that our toes were almost frozen off, so the water felt even warmer. After bathing for an hour and a half we had to get out and put our clothes back on. The sun was shining at this moment, so it wasn’t that cold anymore, but still unpleasant if you’re only wearing a swimsuit.
From here it was time to go back towards Uyuni. We made one last stop where we had a small hike and saw a little wildlife and had lunch. After that we drove back to Uyuni with a few small stops on the way. We arrived back at Uyuni at 5 pm where we found ourselves a hostel with a hot shower and a lovely bed to recover from this amazing, but exhausting, trip.
We had to have a good night sleep, because right now we are on the night bus to our next destination La Paz. But you’ll read all about our adventures in North Bolivia in our next blog!