Sunday, February 12, 2012

Southwest Circuit tour with Solar de Uyuni. Tupiza to Uyuni.

We decided to do our tour of the salt flats and beyond from Tupiza to Uyuni. It seems more people just go to Uyuni and do a three day 4x4 tour and end back in Uyuni but we did a four day 4x4 tour starting in Tupiza and ending in Uyuni. We chose this because we heard Tupiza was a nicer town (I needed to acclimatize to the altitude before doing anything, took me about two days to not feel headachy but I was always out of breath. Figured it would be nicer to hang around Tupiza) and we heard the tour companies were more reputable out of here. After reading online about drivers drinking during the tour and jeeps flipping we thought we'd spend the extra money with a better company. We chose Tupiza Tours and were very happy with our decision. Our driver, Abner picked us up at our hotel and we loaded up the Toyota Land Cruiser with all our stuff plus food, water and fuel for our four day trip. A cook named Nasaria also came along to make us delicious meals, as well as Lauren and Tim. So four of us plus the driver and cook hangin out for four days in the Bolivian wilds.
Day one we drove on a very high up dirt road very close to a drop down into a valley with some wonderful sites. Saw alloooottt of llamas and most had these colorful tassels on their ears which made them look like they were wearing pretty earrings. During all that driving around we were (thankfully) able to plug in Lauren's Ipod and listen to that, or else it was Abners cumbia music which can really only be listened to for an hour max before wanting to jump out the car door. That night we stayed at a refugio in a small village. It was a building with a bigger room for tables and eating and bedrooms, the bathroom was accessible from the outside. We had a snack of tea and hot chocolate, cookies, crackers and jam and went into our room which had four beds with five blankets on each bed. An hour later dinner was ready and it was really good and very filling. We had to wake up at four the next morning which was not nice but we had 9 hours of driving to do to get to the next refugio.
The second day was hard for me, I hadn't slept well that night and had been up since two am so all I wanted to do was sleep in the car. This day we visited lagoons that were all supposed to be spectacular colors like blue and pink and yellow..but since it was overcast they all just kinda looked grey :( The first place we stopped at was a 'ghost town', the ruins of a town that was once very prosperous and now is just crumbling rock buildings. It was eerie since we got there at 5am and it was still dark but with a hint of light. Apparently the people there became so rich they went crazy, or so says Abner. Around the lagoons of many colors that were all grey we saw many flamingos which is funny because you think of them in tropical places not in cold lagoons in Bolivia. It's sad though, they come here to nest and with all the tourists always about they're having more trouble nesting but they prob need the tourists to keep the area protected. At these lagoons is also where they extract borax which is used in cleaning stuff and other things. We had to pay to get into the national park and they also were charging 3 Bolivianos to go to the bathroom, which nick ignored and he got scolded. course we had been having to pee outside for most of the trip in the bano natural so we weren't used to having to pay! We also went to some hot springs today which we got to go into for 20 mins before lunch. They were very. very. nice. At the end of this day we went to see the famous red lagoon but since the sun wasn't out it wasn't so nice so we didnt' get out.
Next day was a 7am start and we were off to see some cool rock formations made from volcanic rock. There are a bunch of volcanoes in the area which had erupted at some point and formed rocks of all shapes and sizes. One is called the Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree) which everyone photographs. We drove through the Dali Desert (named after the painter because of the colors) and another desert which was covered in snow, where we took many pics. Early afternoon we arrived in Uyuni where we would be staying the night. We visited a train cemetery which had been turned into a park almost, there were swings and a see-saw... something that would never happen in the states! This was also a great place to take pictures. That night before dinner we watched No Reservations Peru to get ourselves ready for even though we won't be there for a bit yet.
Next day was up at 4am to get onto the salt flats for sunrise. The solar de Uyuni is the biggest salt flat in the world. It used to be a big ancient lake that then evaporated leaving the salt, filled up again with another ancient lake and evaporated again leaving us with what it is now, a huge area of white that looks like you could be on a frozen lake but it's really salt. It's, of course, used for salt harvesting and there are hotels made of salt for tourists. One of which is on the salt flat itself which apparently is bad because of the sewage. We made it there for sunrise along with many other vehicles full of tourists coming to see it. Everything was fine and tranquil until 2 jeeps pulled up, one with Israeli girls and one with Israeli boys, who proceeded to scream and shout and yell and jump around like little kids in a bounce house. So our tranquil sunrise turned into everyone else trying to enjoy it and the Israeli group jumping around like they were the only ones there. Really nice of them. Anyway, we had breakfast inside the salt hotel. Our table was made of salt, chairs, the floor. Breakfast was really good with pancakes and hot chocolate, then we made our way out more into the flat to take cool pictures using the flats unique no horizon look to make the funny pics.  After two hours of that we went back to the hostel, had lunch and said goodbye to Abner and Nasaria. Met up with Marianna (another returned pcv) and stayed the night in a very economical with a great shower hotel and took a bus to Potosi the next morning. The trip in total was great, I only wish I hadn't been so tired the 2nd day.

ghost town

the path

llama faces

snowy desert

bear rock

train graveyard

Watch out! Tim Giant!

driving out of salt flats

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