Salar de Uyuni – The Southwest circuit


After hanging around for a couple of days in San Pedro, the morning had finally arrived when we were going to embark on a 3 day adventure tour into Bolivia.

The tour would see us cover over 600km of the most visually astonishing and diverse landscape of The Southern Altiplano, zig zagging through the National Park of Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa before driving through the vast salt flats of the Salar De Uyuni to arrive at our first Bolivian city Uyuni.

I could spend hours trying to find the words to even attempt to describe this mineral rich part of the world that is jammed packed full of towering Volcanoes, steaming geyser basins, and the most bizarre lakes and lagoons, not to mention the unique wildlife.

The majority of the trip was spent in a 4×4 jeep with 3 other travellers and our driver come tour guide Raul. We forged some good friendships with a lovely Dutch couple (Stephanie and Mathijas) and a hardcore 90s raver from Liverpool (Mike) who had us in stitches with his endless inappropriate stories of drug fuelled experiences in England and Cambodia where has spent the last 8 years on and off.

Thankfully the jeep had an iPod cable to play our own music which was great until we let the northerner put his on….what followed was hours of mind numbing dub step which just sounded like noise and eventually pissed off the driver so much that he didn’t offer control of the stereo from that point. As a result we had two days of Bolivian music which is a weird mix of samba and fairground music with the sporadic fog horn noise and the constant plugging of the bands own name throughout every song on his 300 song mega mix. Ironically in spite of all the options he insisted on playing the same one song over and over…I will forever have the words “Luz Azul” imbedded into my brain!

Given the sheer amount we have seen within the short space of time I am going to save you all with endless streams of text in favour of a picture board instead.

To start we first had to climb up to over 4500 feet to cross the tri border between Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Given the fairly hostile relations between Chile and Bolivia (due to the war that saw Bolivia lose access to the pacific over 100 years ago), Argentina, to this day acts as a middle man between the two feuding countries to trade the various minerals and precious metals that this unique landscape has to offer.

Throughout the tour we saw various lagoons/lakes that varied in colour depending on the minerals present in the surrounding land.

1. Laguna Blanca – which is milky looking due to the high levels of sulphur

2. Laguna Verde – which has an incredible green colour due to the high concentrations of lead, sulphur, arsenic and calcium. This insanely high mineral content means that even when temperatures reach as low as -20 (which i can tell you at that altitude it does!) the water will not freeze.

3. Laguna Colorada- this was the highlight of them all. It was by far the largest and had an intense fiery red colour due to the algae and plankton that thrive in the mineral rich water. It was also home to the biggest colony of flamingos.

The edges of the Laguna were equally bizarre with white deposits which at first resembled Bolivia´s most famous export! It was in fact sodium, magnesium, borax (used to make glass) and gypsum…..I wish I paid more attention in Chemistry, maybe these would mean something to me!

We stayed in some great places which were quite literally in the middle of no where. By far the highlight was the hostel made entirely of Salt!

The main attraction of tour was the Salar De Uyuni which is the largest deposit of Salt in the world! Around 40,000 years ago it was a huge lake which eventually evaporated leaving the salt deposits.

There is a small island and whats left of a coral reef in the middle of the salta called Isla de los Pescadores which is now completely covered by cacti.

Apart from experiencing the sheer vastness of the place which is positively eerie, it also allows you to create some really cool pics (which were a lot harder to do that we expected)

Apart from the hundreds of Flamingos, we also saw loads of LLama and Guanaco which ended up being served up for dinner!

Another interesting little fella was a Vizccha or what we liked to call the Chinese rabbit.

Thankfully we were able to also spend some time relaxing in the amazing hot springs found in the surrounding area.

Whilst I took every opportunity I could to relax from all the activities, Andre, as only he would, attempted to do a work out at every opportunity! even at that altitude.

The one place were you most certainly counldn´t relax was around the Geysers which apart from producing the most horrid smell caused by the sulphur(think eggie farts done in the bath X100…you know you have all done it!) are generally quite dangerous places to be walking around.

At any given time the earth beneath you could cave in and erupt from the boiling temperatures of the toxins found beneath the surface.Ofcourse Andre felt that this was a good place to be jumping around blindly!

Finally we arrived in the town of Uyuni which was our first real encounter of the Bolivian culture were women wear traditional dress and spend their day looking after their children and selling things in the markets.

To be honest I am even getting quite bored writing this particular post and I doubt anyone has had the will power to read to this part anyway, so I am not going to go into it now, but suffice to say we have had some ups and downs with the locals; I am still formulating my opinion on whether I actually like the culture or not and will do a separate post on it once I have spent some more time here.

Sunset at Uyuni

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