Day 17: Uyuni salt flats

Early in the morning we headed to the office of our tour operator. After a short walk we met our tour guide for the the trip, Bismath. Bismath took us to the first stop; a train cemetery, with lot of former gold mine trains from the 1930s. Bismath explained about the rich minerals Bolivia had in its grounds and how the rail was created for the rich to go to Sucre, the capital if Bolivia. The tracks go through the desert but in June/July it is -35 degrees the track froze with a lot of accidents with trains. The graveyard was great for some shoots.

After that we stopped at a small refinery, since the area has more enough salt for 5,000 years. He explained how salt is refined step by step. After that it was a tourist stop for souvenirs in the little town.

We drove to the salt flats after that, getting in is unreal. Like you are entering an alien planet, too cool. We had lunch at the salt flats and after that put the Bangladesh flag on the flag spot of the salt flats.

The salt flats are 12,400 square KM, so a vast area to find a nice quiet spot. We first went to the salt flats without water, seeing white everywhere you can comprehend, making very cool unreal photo’s with props to make you look like fighting a dinosaur, jumping on beer bottles and kissing each other as giant and dwarf. Quite fun!

After that we went to see the mirror effect. Really amazing to see, but we believe that we missed out on an ever prettier spot. Nevertheless, it was very nice. But, too short. We got misinformed by Salty deserts agency and thought we had more time on the salt flats, that was a big bummer.

After that we drove to nearby the Chile border, stopped on the road for some nice sunset views. We arrived in a hotel made out of salt, with basic things. The room is just a bed with a salt table and salt crystals on the floor.

After dinner we went out to look at the stars, tomorrow we are going to other salt flats and see volcanoes. Lets see how that goes!

Day 18: Salar de Chiguana, lagoons & volcanic park

Woke up for a 7:00 am breakfast, just like the salt flats the food tasted: salty.

First stop of today: Salar de Chiguana, another salt flat near the border with Chile. Passing a desert with three big volcanoes, one still active. In 2005 there was a last earthquake, eruption more than 3,000 years ago. The whole road had a white sand like cover, which was all lithium. Salar de Chiguana is famous being rich with Lithium. In this area there are 35 volcanoes with 9 still active. They also act as a natural border between Bolivia and Chile. There are also a lot of copper and silver mines, the famous copper accident was also here.

45 minutes later we stopped at formations made by volcanic ashes and erosion, near the Ollagūe volcano with some amazing views over the volcano smoking in the back and snowy mountains surrounding it.

There are a lot of flamingos in the lagoons we crossed after that, thanks to the rainy season there can be hundreds, just 45 cm deep. We stopped at the first one we saw with some amazing landscape and a few birds. After that we drove another 30 minutes to enjoy more wildlife. Here, there were more than 50 flamingos very nearby!

We had lunch right next to another lagoon, getting fresh cooked food from the back of our jeeps.

We stopped at a spot with literally thousands of flamingos, two types the bigger pink ones and small ones with black tip wings.

Next stop rock formations formed thanks to volcano activity, inspiring lot of artists called reserva nacional de fauna andina eduardo avarpa potosi park, or Salvadore park. There was rain short and sun straight after, giving an unique rainbow just on top of the hill. Sweet!

Next stop Laguna Colorada, 150 Bolivian entrance per head to enter this national park. Here, we straight away saw the famous red lagoon. It is the biggest lagoon in the area, with lot of hot springs in the area making the water warm. It is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. 12 degrees the water is on the side, in the middle around 8 degrees. An orange pigment microbe makes the lagoon red. The wind makes the color disperse over the entire lagoon. The flamingos, 14,000 , that live here are pinker than usual. The view was absolute the bomb.

One more hour drive to the highest point of the park, where a huge Geyser (Geyser Maniata) was located on 5,000 meters altitude. Super awesome! Big toxic fumes coming out of the ground and nice warm mud between 70 to 80 degrees popping into the sky from craters.

After that we stopped at our accommodation for the night, better than the night before! We got lucky and got a private room with three single beds and an own toilet, at first they said it was only a basic dorm for which you had to rent a sleeping bag, none of that was true! Very comfy beds without a salt ground were waiting for us. Electricity was scarce though, only 3 hours charging time but hey, that is what power banks are for. After dinner we went to see the skyline with stars once more, but with something special. The place we stayed had a hot spring with continuously 38 to 40 degrees water for just 6 Bolivians entrance. No unnatural light, so we were literally in a natural hot tub looking at the milky way and shooting stars, perfect way to end the night.