Salar De Uyuni and Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Boliva

Salar de Uyuni Travel Blog

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Train Graveyard.
So i didn´t do a little dance for joy but i was quite happy to leave La Paz, Bolivia. Partly due to general apathy over the city as described earlier, and partly due to the high dosage of antibiotics i had been taking i spent two nights in a row at the cinema instead of being out drinking like all grown gringos. Iron Man 2 was generally entertaining, and Robin Hood (which Liam wanted to see) was generally terrible. Either way i was done with La Paz and bound for Uyuni Bolivia, home for treks setting out for the Salt Flats and the National Reserve in the south west corner of Bolivia.

No horrible bus stories here, just another night of restless half sleep.
The Salt Flats.
I was scooped off the bus at 6am by a tour guide eager to sell me a package tour for the Salt Flats. Taking one look around me in the frigid morning air i decided that the town of Uyuni had nothing to offer and booked a tour departing at 1030 in the morning. Couple of hour spent bumming around trying to find some gifts for the family back home and off i went.

Most of these Salar tours are conducted in old Landcruisers loaded with gringos. I got lucky and got tossed in with a group of really nice people. Seven of us in total, three Frenchies, and three bubbly chicks from Israel, fresh off of their mandatory two year military service.

Our first stop was the Train Graveyard just outside of town. Some cool visuals involving run down rust buckets, but the place was packed with tourists and i wasn´t able to spend much time there looking around in silence.
View from atop the Isla.
Still, it was an impressive sight to see the retired locomotives rusting away in the dessert.

Next up was the main attraction of the day, the Salar de Uyuni. Imagine a sea chilling in the mountains a million years ago. A volcano erupts filling the sky with ash and the sea dries up. All that´s left is a thick crust of white salt that looks a bit like snow. That´s the Salar, stretching 150 kilometers north to south and a 100 to east and west. It is a amazing sight, bright blue skies blending into white salt, leaving you with a feeling of total isolation. Well, except for the Landcruiser you are in, and the people sitting in the back seats. Aside from that...alone, with endless white in all directions.

We traveled over this terrain for a few hours, stopping occasionally to take pictures.
Sun setting over the Salar.
After awhile we reached the Isla Inchuassi, an island of petrified coral right smack in the middle of the Salar. What makes this island even more improbable are the thousands of cacti that inhabit it. They come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, and some grow over 12 meters tall.  Now,  (and pardon me for over using ¨what makes this¨)what makes this fact mind boggling is that they grow at an average of 1 CENTImeter a year. Do the math and you come up with some really old (and tall) cacti. Every man on the Isla was pretty jealous of the phallus shaped plants. I know i was. I climbed 100 meters or so to the top of the Isla and was met with stunning views of the Salar stretching until the base of snow capped mountains and volcanos in every direction.
Posing the second day.
I would have liked to spend the day up there but the wind was howling like a lunatic, and we were forced to move on.

Sundown was magnificent, and the Salar revealed itself to be as varied in color as the Colca Canyon. The skies blazed in orange, yellow, purple, and blue, the green cacti, the white salt, every color of the rainbow. Spectacular and impossible to really describe.

We spent the night in a quaint Salt Hostel at the edge of the Salar, eating hot soup to try and recover form the bitter wind, and getting to know one another. The electricity went out at 9 sharp, but i was already alseep by then. I am happy to report that i FINALLY was able to get a decent night´s rest, and i wasn´t all that upset when we were woken up at 6am to continue our journey.
Wow.


Our second day took us to ridiculous altitudes to view desert and volcano, with our destination being La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avora (REA). We stopped often to walk around and take pictures like proper tourists, but the wind was vicious and biting, and mixed with the natural cold of the altitude we found ourselves being chased back to the Landcruiser more often and much faster than anyone would have liked.

The kilometers eased by and the desert changed from every color brown and tan that you can think of. The volcanic mountains that surrounded us were caked with a red dust, and the whole day had a very Martian feel to it. We arrived at La Reserva around three, and observed flamingo and llama playing by the edges of a lake.
More wow.
The flamingo were sadly the ugliest ive seen, but that fact did not appear to bother them any. By this point we were all frozen and as windswept as the desert and we noted with amusement that there was snow on the ground in various places along the way. Our guide promised us temperatures of MINUS 50 below Celsius the next morning. Great joy ensued at hearing the news. In fact we were so joyful that Jerome (one of the Frenchies) and I went on a hunt for whiskey and drank ourselves into a state of semi warmth. After an evening of card playing we retired to our dorm room, huddling in sleeping bags covered in 5 pounds of blankets, and we were still cold.

We were woken at 5 in the morning. The temperature never quite reached negative 50, but stood at a balmy neg 35.
First stop in La Reserva.
I´m not sure how we made it out to the Landcruiser, but no one in our small group of seven was particularly pleasant for the next hour. We started driving and passed some geysers but i couldnt be arsed to get out of the car. Nothing special about steam rising from the ground at 4,800 meters i thought to myself, i see the same in New York every winter as orange and white cylinders pump steam out of the subway system on to Manhattan streets. Yes, i was grumpy.

By 8 the sun was coming up and we were at a series of thermal springs. Deciding to be daring i stripped in the frigid air and eased myself into the hot spring. Such a pleasure. My feet defrosted and i sighed in relief. The joy was short lived, however, as we were tempted with breakfast and a soon to be leaving Landcruiser.
Llamas at La Reserva.
With or without you, i think our guide said. Fair enough but how the fuck do you get out of a hot spring and change in sub zero temperature?

I found out. You do it FAST.

The final destination of my trip was the Verde Lake, at the base of the Licancabur volcano, some 6,000 meters tall. On the other side...Chile.

I was bused from there to the Chile/Bolivia border, where i caught a collectivo to my next stop, San Pedro de Atacama Chile.
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Train Graveyard.
Train Graveyard.
The Salt Flats.
The Salt Flats.
View from atop the Isla.
View from atop the Isla.
Sun setting over the Salar.
Sun setting over the Salar.
Posing the second day.
Posing the second day.
Wow.
Wow.
More wow.
More wow.
First stop in La Reserva.
First stop in La Reserva.
Llamas at La Reserva.
Llamas at La Reserva.
Steam rising with the sun at the t…
Steam rising with the sun at the …
Salvadore Dali Desert, third day.
Salvadore Dali Desert, third day.
Verde Lake, drying up a little bit…
Verde Lake, drying up a little bi…
The Stone Tree.
The Stone Tree.
Yes, im impressed by the view.
Yes, im impressed by the view.
Huddling for warmth.
Huddling for warmth.
Isla Incahuassi. Yes, it was windy.
Isla Incahuassi. Yes, it was windy.
Salar de Uyuni
photo by: Morle