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Published: July 14th 2006
Bolivia is a country of unsurpassed beauty, and such a visual feast for scenery buffs. This place has so much going for it from the jungle, pampas, lush cloud-forest, beautiful lakes, huge salt pans, snow-capped peaks, and red rock canyons.
It was really easy to organise a tour from Uyuni to Tupiza on the morning of departure. Being 4 of us everyone wanted our business so they could fill their jeeps. Much of a muchness in terms of price and itinerary, so picked an agency (Empreza) that seemed to have a half-decent ranking according to the tourism info feedback. There were 8 of us in total including a Belgian dad & daughter, the guide/driver & cook.
Major highlight was the Salar de Uyuni which are huge working salt pans of more than 12,000 square kms; supposedly it was a huge inland sea. Totally awesome with a never-ending horizon. Visited the Hotel Playa Blanca which is made entirely of salt, but you can´t stay there anymore due to environmental concerns. And smack in the middle of nowhere was an island (Isla de Los Pescadores, or "Fish Island") with cacti and pumice-type rock that looked like petrified coral. Couldn´t think of
Hotel Playa Blanca
Tables & chairs also made of salt
a nicer setting for a lunch-stop.
The rest of the days encompassed viewing a lot of beautiful lakes (some with pink flamingoes), some natural geysers at around 5000m (Sol de Manana), and covering a lot of boring miles sitting in the jeep. Thank goodness the diverse and awe-inspiring scenery more than made up for it. One of our brekky stops was at some thermal springs, which were a bit skanky as it was full of backpackers who hadn´t showered for the past 3 days.
Overnight accomm was basic, just like being at school camp. But the nights have been the coldest I´ve experienced so far, at least 15-20 degrees below.
Stopped at the San Antonio Ruins, which has essentially been a ghost town since colonial times. I think I totally lost it in the translation, but the gist was the town was extremely prosperous due to mining of gold and silver. Total decadence all around with fiestas and marriages going on all the time (the town had 5 churches alone). Supposedly the riches dried up so they went further up the mountains and into the other valleys. Most likely they struck lead and mercury instead, as people
Isla de los Pescadores
The tiny blip is a jeep
started to go crazy, and grow extra bits. It was thought the town became possessed by the Devil so the townfolk tried everything to turn around their fortunes, including sacrificing llamas and then moved onto killing the crazies. Then a volcanic eruption knocked off the rest, or so the legend goes.
Final stop was Tupiza, which is Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid territory. They were killed in San Vicente, which is 4 hours out of town. Pretended we were in the old Wild West (yee-hah!) by taking a horse ride into the Valley of the Males, so named due to the huge phallic rock formations. Scenery was fabbo with sheer red-rock canyons shaped like shark fins.
I can´t rave enough about Bolivia - it is definitely a must-see, and kinder on the wallet too.
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