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Published: December 9th 2012
The Bolivian Altiplano
stretches out hundreds of kilometres from Uyuni across to the Chilean and Argentinean borders. It’s the real wilderness, no roads, just dirt tracks and a specialist guide required to navigate our way across in our off road truck.
Setting out in the morning it’s not long before we leave the town behind and are on the dirt tracks that lead across the altiplano. The two day journey was pretty cool – amazingly spectacular scenery, bumpy and hot driving during the day and chilly with a massive thunder storm at night. Wild and remote, the landscape is a barren semi desert, totally impressive though as the open plains are dotted by streams and lakes of vivid colours (due to the high mineral content of the water), the volcanic peaks of the Bolivian Andes are ever present, rising above the plains a constant dark shadow in the background. As we drive we pass herds of llamas, flocks of flamingos, remote villages and farms.
During the first day’s drive we stop at points to stretch our legs and explore on foot, lunching at the side of a lake sharing the space with 3 inquisitive llamas, spending the afternoon at a
rock formation, calling out the rock shapes – duck and lion, eagle and a Simpson to name a few – all the whilst being chased across the altiplano by a huge storm. We could see the rain, hear the rolling thunder and crack of lightening, it hadn’t reached us by late afternoon but we were pretty sure Mother Nature would catch us sooner or later. And she did, just as we pulled into our home for the evening the heavens opened and we were deluged by a heavy sheet of rain. Accommodation for the night was hostel, pretty much in the middle of nowhere; unsurprisingly we were the only guests, concrete squares for a room, beds, a bare light bulb and a single Christmas decoration the only furniture - just goes to show that this trip isn’t all beach side hotels! – despite the basicness of the surroundings it was all we needed for the night, it was dry, clean-ish and we’d brought food, wine and a pack of cards, what else do you need for a night in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a storm?
Thankfully the storm had passed by morning and
it was back out at first light to continue on our way, passing lakes filled with flamingos was one of the day’s highlights, 100s of the pink birds feeding meters away from where we stood. After crossing the top of the altiplano (at 5020 meters above sea level it was the highest I’d been so far) we started to head down towards the Bolivia / Chile border stopping along the way at some sulphuric – proper stinky! – Thermal mud pools. Smelt bad and looked boiling! And the slightly nicer thermal springs for a late lunch and a quick dip.
With the sun out the landscape took on a whole new feeling, multiple colours rippled across the mountains and rocks, the lakes as we passed.
Crossing the border into Chile was slightly more hassle than border crossings of previous - bags x-rayed and truck searched for fresh fruit and veg – but soon enough we were through and it was goodbye Bolivia and hello Chile.
It was quite a whistle stop tour of Bolivia, just under two weeks in the country, yet it’s definitely been my favourite country so far, the people the places, all
just fit and felt lovely the whole time, I’ll be back one day that’s for sure! But for now it’s on to Chile and Argentina, as I travel further south towards Ushuaia I’ll crossing over the boarder a few times between the two countries, from here on there’s lots more camping, some trekking, a stay on a gaucho ranch and a few visits to some wineries.
Our first stop in Chile was a little town not far from the boarder called San Pedro De Atacama, a cute little town lively and full of tourists - quite a shock to the system after the wilderness of the altiplano.
Whilst in San Pedro De Atacama we were hoping to do some star gazing, the views of the stars are supposed to be amazing in this part of the world, unfortunately the cloud cover had other ideas and the trip was called off due to bad visibility. We did however get to experience a pretty magnificent sunset at the Moon Valley
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