Llamas, salt flats and other natural wonders

Continuing north up the valley from Tilcara, I took a bus to the Bolivian border. I had thought to either take the overnight bus from there to my next world heritage site, the city of Potosi, or perhaps break the long bus journey with an overnight stop in the town of Tupiza, in ‘Butch & Sundance’ country. On the bus were some other travellers I’d met a few days earlier and from them I found that there was an appealing side journey I could take from Tupiza, so I decided to change my plans and take a few days detour round the mountainous and mostly empty south-west corner of Bolivia.

Wind sculpted rocks

Wind sculpted rocks

Tupiza was heaving with other travellers about to embark or returning from one of these jeep tours, which could be booked through a bewildering number of agencies. I decided to go with the agency based in my popular hotel but had to wait a day for a space, so spent that time going on a horse riding trip into the local canyons.

Red lagoon

Red lagoon

The trip was four days and three nights and our group comprised two Toyota Landcruisers, eight travellers, two drivers and a cook. We’d been advised to bring snacks, but we were fed often and abundantly and, to my surprise, with a decent amount of fresh fruit and veg. The toilet paper we’d also been told to bring was, however, vital.

Digging our jeep out of the bog

Digging our jeep out of the bog

We spent the whole journey above 4000m and at times were in snow. The accommodation was basic (no showers!) and despite the four or so blankets we got on our beds, I was keeping warm at night by wearing my thermals, socks, nightshirt, fleece jumper, hat and gloves whilst adding my silk sleeping bag liner to the bed.  I started getting severe altitude headaches which I staved off by chewing coca leaves that my Argentinian companions kindly shared with me until I was able to buy my own supply.

Lunch 'n' llamas

Lunch 'n' llamas

Our jeep managed to get a flat on the first morning and get stuck in a snowy bog on the second but we still covered well over 1000km and saw coloured lagoons, flamingos, gravel deserts, wind-sculpted rocks, boiling mud and a train cemetery over the first three days. Lunch stops were in a variety of attractive places with adorable llamas to stalk while we waited for the food to be cooked.

Uyuni - train cemetery

Uyuni - train cemetery

The last day was a predawn start to visit the salt flats of Uyuni: a vast expanse of white with a shallow layer of water over much of it. Once we’d watched sunrise and had breakfast in a building made of salt blocks, we spent a few hours taking trick perspective and reflective photographs before stopping on the way back at the obligatory ‘artisan’ market where the boys in the jeep bought silly knitted hats.

Uyuni - salt flats

Uyuni - salt flats

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5 Responses to Llamas, salt flats and other natural wonders

  1. drsnyc says:

    wow! This is like seeing photographs from a scififantasy novel set on a different planet – I don’t have the personality trait required to do this kind of “travelling” but am immensely grateful you are doing it and sharing it Jackie. Amazing (the photos, the journey and you!)

  2. Pingback: WANT TO BE THERE: BOLIVIA UYUNI SALT FLATS

  3. Alex Teng says:

    Hello there! Awesome photos you have there!! Do you mind to tell me which agency you chose? I am planning to go there and I need some recommendation =)

    Regards, Alex

    • Jax says:

      Thanks, glad you liked the pictues! I stayed in the Hotel Mitru (along with pretty much everyone else it seemed) in Tupiza and booked my trip through the agency they have in the hotel.

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