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Published: November 24th 2015
The bus crosses lake Titicaca like this. The people get a separate boat.
‘Salt plane, Salt plane. Yay, we’re going on a salt plane!’ Nathan was even more excited than I was about going to Uyuni to see the salt flats, and that is saying something. It had something to do with a misunderstanding though. He thought the salt plane was our means of transport and not the destination. We was wrong about that. I think the mode of transport must have been a spaceship, because where we landed seemed like another planet.
The space ships, which looked like buses, took us from sunny Copacobana on the shore of Lake Titicaca to La Paz first. We have seen Quito and Lima already and from what I’d heard, La Paz would be even less appealing to us. So we were fortunate enough to get on an overnight bus that departed only 2 hours after we arrived. The approach to La Paz is attractive, as it sits in a valley and is surrounded by forested hills in most directions, but I bet that on the ground it would have been just as grimy as other large cities that we have visited. Our second bus, must have done the interstellar travel whilst we were sleeping. When
Cemetario del trens
After losing a war with Chile, Bolivia lost its coast line and had no need for its train set anymore. They were left to rust at Uyuni.
we arrived at 5.30 AM in Uyuni, we were met by half a dozen tour operators, trying to get us on their salt plane tours. We weren’t interested in them, because we had a short list of reputable operators. But we were interested in the lady who had a cafeteria selling breakfast and coffee. We followed her and sat down until the rest of the shops opened and were glad to go with Quechua Connections, departing late that morning. No time wasted with those travel connections!!! It is amazing how well things fit together on the regularly traversed tourist paths we often take.
What we saw on this trip was amazing. I think it is best described by the pictures I have included. But in brief, we spent most of our first day at the Salar de Uyuni (largest salt flat in the world) at an altitude close to 4000 metres, including stops at a salt mine of sorts, a hotel made of salt, an ‘island’, Incahuasi, covered in cacti in the middle of the salar, caves at the edge of the lake then finally watching the sun set over the nearby volcanos and an impromptu game of soccer
on the salt flats. The second day we went off the salt flats and saw very little vegetation. This was the part that really made me think I was on Mars. The volcanos come in different colours depending on the minerals that they have in their rocks. The shallow lakes, or lagoons are also different colours for the same reason and flamingos get their colour from the food (algae) they eat in each lake. On the third morning we rose at 4 AM to see sunrise just before we made it to the geysers, then thermal springs. Our last stop was Laguna Verde with the giant volcano Licancabur in the background before we were dropped off at the Chilean border.
At night it freezes at these altitudes, but in the middle of the day it can be 15 degrees. However the wind is sooooooo cold and it was quite strong most of the time so we had just short stops at each location before we got back in the 4WD.
Nathan has been complaining about all the South Americans who call him ‘bebe’. Our guide, Nadia, taught him to say, ‘No mi llamis bebe. Soy un niño grande.’
Piles are left to try out for a few weeks. The first stage of salt extraction.
‘Don’t call me bebe. I am a big boy.’ That might be a little beyond his level of spanish at the moment, but he now says baño instead of toilet, gracias instead of thank you, hola instead of hello, and lots more that I can’t remember right now.
From the Bolivia-Chile border it is a simple 40 minute bus ride to San Pedro de Atacama. Chile: A very civilised country. It has good wine and food, better roads than Peru and Bolivia, superior Pisco Sour (no egg white), more playgrounds (Nathan approves) and they even have toilet paper in the toilets. I suspect they refrigerate meat here too! So our extended stay in San Pedro, whilst more expensive, is very welcome. We bought Nathan a ball to use whilst we stay put for a while. He is honing his soccer skill even more!
San Pedro offers heaps of different types of tour, but most are second rate versions of the stuff we already did on the bolivian high plains tour. So Leanne and I only did one each; Leanne went to a nighttime stargazing tour and I did the valle del luna tour one afternoon. Both were good,
but not highlights after the previous activities. We also hired bikes and rode off into the desert one day which was an interesting excursion. Today is our last day in San Pedro and we plan to find a pol to use as it is very hot in the afternoon.
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