02/11/16 edit: New pictures added at the end!
This blog post is all about pictures really, but I’ll put them all at the end. After five weeks of volunteering in Jupapina, it was time to be a tourist so I headed off on an overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni to see the infamous Bolivian Salt Flats.
As with all such trips, it’s usually the people you’re with that determine how good it is, so I’ll start there. My tour group for the three days was Felice from Germany and four friends from France: Matthieu, Marion (brother and sister), Romain and Fabian. And of course I can’t forget Adrian, our driver, guide, photographer and cook!
In three days, we covered nearly 1,000km across some incredible terrain. On the first day, we stopped several times for pictures, including at a train cemetery (which showcases the remnants of the old salt trade), but it was really all about the iconic Salt Flats themselves, the headline attraction. They are spectacular in their lack of features; the sheer scale of the pure white landscape in all directions is amazing, and it was offset by a brilliantly clear blue sky.
Everyone in my group had a fancy camera except for me (Marion is actually a professional photographer), so most of the group pictures/videos we took are on other people’s cameras (I’m waiting for them all to upload and share them with me).
02/11/16 edit: Marion has sent me her photos, check some of them out at the end of this post
The scenery on the second day was perhaps less unique in the grand scheme of things, but it was no less spectacular. We stopped at a number of lagunas, rock formations and viewpoints of mountains/volcanoes. The variety of colours in the terrain was striking, particularly the many shades of red/orange, but also yellows, greens, browns and more white. We also saw llamas outside the hotel, flamingos in the lagunas, and then alpacas, vicuñas, viscachas and more.
The evenings were spent in the freezing cold, in hotels that pretty much just provided a bed (no hot water or electricity). Unfortunately, this meant that my phone battery died before the third day, so I’m waiting on the others to get those pictures too.
The final day started at 4am in arctic-like conditions; I’ve no idea how Adrian knew where he was going, but we set off at full speed regardless.
As the sky started to brighten, we stopped at a geyser that was shooting hot air about 50 feet in the air. We moved on to see some bubbling pools of lava and then another short drive took us to the agua thermales. Only Felice and I swam in the crystal clear 40°c water, but it was the perfect way to warm up our frost bitten extremities. Even though the sun had risen by then, it hadn’t warmed the air yet and Felice’s hair froze when she got out!
For all intents and purposes, that was the end of the tour; we said goodbye to Felice at the Chilean border and headed back to Uyuni.
There was time for one more stop though and Adrian picked the most beautiful setting for our lunch. The rolling green hills, the bubbling stream shedding its nighttime icecap, and the quiet. We could have been anywhere (not literally) and it was bliss.
Overall, it was a really special trip and I’m thankful for finding such a nice group, even if it was Frencher than I was expecting (the strain of being tri-lingual took its toll in the evenings and they often reverted to their mother tongue – quite understandable!)
Matthieu was particularly adventurous in trying to get the best pictures, e.g. by getting closest to the wildlife or highest on the rocks – but he paid the price on day three when he got scalded by the geyser.
02/11/16 edit: Marion very kindly sent me her photos, which weree clearly taken by someone with a good camera who knows what they’re doing. You can check out some of her other work here: https://fr-fr.facebook.com/Marion.Darde.Photography/