"A Fabulous trip to the Salar de Uyuni" Uyuni by stripeykelly

Uyuni Travel Guide: 4 reviews and 47 photos

Day 1

We left Tupiza around about 10am on the 30/10/05, eight of us altogether; out guide Panchito and his wife (our cook) Filomena, Juliette and Valerie from Argentina, Rob from England and John from Ireland. All lovely. We were all crammed into a jeep (not good for people with long legs) with our luggage and food for the next four days attached precariously to the roof of the vehicle. It was all very exciting.

Our first stop was just outside Tupiza, a collection of amazing conical rock formations in a gorge, which we had to all peer over in a nervuos fashion. Luckly the wind, which was pretty strong, was blowing up from the gorge, and not into it, else we might have ended up with a bit of an impaled mess - yuk! The landscape around was stunning, at 4000m one could see waves and waves of jagged mountains tunbling into the distance - I really felt I was in the Andes. For lunch we stopped beside a herd of llamas, is it just me, or do they have to most snobby expressions available for animals? They are very odd creatures, but pretty in their own way - and they taste good! The village of Carigillos, about halfway through our journey for the day, was the scene of a massive snowfall 3 years ago. The entire village was buried and 2 helicopters from Peru were sent out to try and recover the villagers. Panchito was part of the rescue operation. Amazingly only one person was badly effected by it, a small girl had to have her leg removed due to frostbite. Looking around the village today, at the start of summer and in such a dry and barren landscape it seems unfeesable that such an incident could have taken place.

Our next stop before our bed for the night was at a small rural village called San Pablo di Lipez, here we played football with some kids (it did feel a bit manufactured, but was good fun anyway), which just about killed us in the altitude. You really don?t understand how it effects you until you try to do anything physical! Although at the end of the day, the children were more interested in the sweets that Panchito gave them than us! Our nght stop was at San Antonio de Lipez, in the bottom of a slightly fertile valley. By the time the sun started to set the temperature plummeted, it was bloody cold, probably below zero. Bolivians in mountain regions also seem to forgoe any heating in rooms, thus was our first cold and near sleepless night. It didn?t help that we were informed that we had to be ready for 5am - still equally cold then.

Day 2 - Halloween!

Up at 4.30am - horrid, horrid. For the first hour in the jeep my toes were blocks of ice, and no one was in particularly good fettle. Our first stop of the morning was a mountain near Pueblo Fantasma, an abandoned 19th century Spanish town. The mountain associated with the town was the focus of some of the most brutal treatment of the native population during the colonial period. 1000s of people were forced to slave in the mountain?s mines for 12hours a day with little food, water or air, those that refused to work were decapitated. The perpetrators of this outrage lived in the village beside the mountain. I don?t know how anyone can live happily beside a place that causes so much misery at ones own behest. How very Christian!! The miners were eventually emancipated by Bolivar in the mid-1800s, the place was then abandoned. Panchito tried to get us to crawl down into the mines - no danger! We were not about to crawl 120m down into the bowls of the earth, especially when it was that cold!

We visited several lagunas next, each unique and stunning. Some had flamingoes, others bright green or blue, others very salty. My favourite had to be Laguna Verde with Volcan Licancabur, a perfect snowcapped cone right beside a beautiful green lake. This was then encircled by jagged snowcapped peaks, scenery (and alititude) to take your breath way. We then went to the thermal baths nearby, Sarah and I were brave enough to put our feet in (it was very nice), only the boys got naked!

Our final stop of the day were the geyers near Salar de Chalvivi, our highest point at 5000m - and you can tell, the air is so thin, and it is bloody cold! The geysers and mud pools are pretty amazing, a bizzare marsian landscape, and the noise! There are huge jets of stinky sulpher air being blasted out that sound like jet engines, you could easily go deaf. It is such a stark landscape compaired to the nearby snowcapped peaks and calm lochs, thinking back on it now, it still seems so unreal. Anyone going to Bolivia has to do this trip, it is fantastic.

We stayed the night at Huallajana, where we all bonded over ***head, the great International card game! The place was slightly warmer than the previous night, probably because we were all bungged in the same room. The lights were turned off at 9.45pm, a bit of a surprise, but some kiddies in the place were being torch bearer for the loos etc. My torch bearer was about 6 and proceeded to tell me off about my awful Spanish, and if I was going to La Paz then I would be stuck as no one speaks English. It was rather humiliating, but I had to agree with him!

Days 3 and 4

Although I started day 3 in a fowl mood, it was soon removed by the beautiful sight of Laguna Colorado; a red laguna, populated by flamingoes and with perfect reflections of the surrounding mountains - lovely. We then visited 3 succsessive lagunas, all with flamingoes, was all turned into David Attenborough at that point, crawiling along trying to get as close as possible (I think we should leave it to the experts!).

The volcanoe of Ollag?e was pretty cool, especially as it is still active and smoking, and the Salar de Chiguana was very impressive. It is amazing to think that it was once part of the Pacific Ocean, now trapped over 4500m up in the Andes, it is hard to get one?s head around! Even scarier is the thought that it is only a thick layer of salt was between our jeep and the remainder of the sea below - mad!

We then visited an important indigeneous site near San Juan, a cave were mummies were buried (removed and hidden at the time of the Spanish Conquest - sensible) and a cave with unusual rock formations, dedicated to Pachamama. The actual area itself was dotted in fossilised cacti, rather stange features, looking more like petrified sea cucumbers. Although this was quite a nice little stop, it wasn?t all that impressive, especially when were had to pay more.

We stopped for the night at an actual hotel made from salt, and it was, because I licked the wall - not very pleasent. It is a cool building, and worth the extra fiver we paid for it. Like an igloo is seems to retain heat, definitely the warmest place in the whole trip. The entire place is made from salt, including the furniture, now I can boast that I slept in a bed of salt - ha! We even had a few beers to celebrate, which with the altitude did not exactly make me feel great the following day.

Note: Altitude Sickness can effect people in different ways, I suffered from horrible bloatedness and terrible wind, just to add embarressment to the discomfort. I thought that it was something I had eaten, but discovered that John and Rob were suffering equally. Don?t let the wind get you down!!

Day 4:
On the final day of the trip we rose at 4.30am to watch the sunrise over the Salar. It was a spectacular sight, the red, orange and gold rays shooting across the pure white of the salt, combined with the dark hulking mountains around the horizon. It was amazing, unfortunately I don?t think I caught it on camera, it was too beautiful. We then stopped at the Isla de Pesca for breakfast. Made from coral and covered in cacti thia is quite a surreal place, right in the Salar, but lovely too. Standing on top of the island you can see the total vastness of the Salar de Uyuni, with the Volcan Tunupa, snowcapped and pink in the early morning sun, towering over the plain.

After breakfast we drove into the Salar properly, and spent a good hour or so taking photos, the monotonous white of the Salar allows all sorts of manipulations of perspective. So to be honest we spent a good while pissing about and having a great time. One thing though, please don?t forget your sunglasses in the salt hotel - yes yours truly with her huage brain- as the sun it very bright and it can hurt alot, I had to bail out after a while. The remainder of the trip was driving across the Salar, with Panchito pretending that he was a racing driver, slightly unnerving. We stopped briefly at the salt hotel actually on the Salar, it wasn?t as nice as the one we stayed at, and we had to pay 5bolivianos to use the smelly unhygenic loo, defnitiely a bad tourist trap!

We arrived in Uyuni in the early afternoon, after stopping at a train graveyard for lunch. It was sad to say by to everyone, but all good things come to an end!

Uyuni is not the most pleasant of places, it you do stop there make it brief and get out, there is nothing much to offer apart from mediocre pizza places.

  • Last visit to Uyuni: Oct 2005
  • Intro Updated Dec 15, 2005
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Comments (2)

  • barryg23's Profile Photo
    Sep 18, 2006 at 12:44 AM

    Great photos and descriptions. I'd love to visit the Salar. Can you go there independently or do you have to go in a tour group?

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Nov 11, 2005 at 11:35 AM

    This sounds like quite an adventure ! And I realized that I was freezing while reading :-) Must be hell of interesting there with all that geologic history ! 5000 m - wow !!

stripeykelly

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes - Proust”

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