4WD Tour of Salar de Uyuni

June 1, 2008 - Uyuni, Bolivia

From San Pedro de Attacama we headed north west towards the Bolivian border where we joined up with a jeep for a 4WD tour of Salar de Uyuni and a national park which contained some amazing colourful lakes, Flamingos, Mountains of the andes mountain range, Volcanoes, thermal geysers, mud pools, lava fields, strange rock formations left by glaciers and rolling hills of red sand/gravel as well as many other types of terrain.

The Salar de Uyuni is a large salt plain which was created around 40,000 years ago when a large prehistoric lake called lake Minchin dried up. The Salar de Uyuni is roughly 25 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the United States. It is the largest Salt flats in the world.

We started the tour at a small bolivian border outpost in the middle of the andes between San Pedro de Attacama and Uyuni - it was a fairly relaxed border to say the least! We got our driver assigned to us and myself and the three lads and three german tourists where in our jeep for the tour. Firstly we went to see some lakes called Laguna Blanco (white Lake) then onto an impressive lake called Laguna Verde (green lake) with short breaks for pictures etc. then piling back into the jeep to get out of the cold wind (very touristy altogether i know) next we headed onto this thermal geysers/mud pools area and then on tearing over the andes rocky tracks taking in the scenery to a large bright red coloured lake called Laguna Colorado which had flamingos. Here there was a hostel kind of building where we stayed for the night (it was at an altitude of 4,378 metres above sea level) and some of the other people in some of the other jeeps that where along with us suffered a bit from the altitude sickness but i'm glad to say i had no bother with it - which is just as well since most of my time spent in bolivia over the next few weeks will be at high altitude (myself and ger and niall had a sprint race for a about 20 metres just to see how hard it would be at altitude and it fairly wrecked us have to say!) That nite we stayed in accomodation with no heating and the temperature outside had dropped to -11 degrees C by 8.40pm and is reputed to drop to about -20 around june and july at night time - i had a thermometer that i picked up for cheap along the way in southern chile so i was able to tell the temperature in the room that nite and it dropped to 1 degree and stayed at that and bed was too small so i didn't sleep a wink

The next day of the tour we got up bright and early as we had to cover 300 kms over the mountains on dirt tracks and make it to the salt hotel that night before sun down firstly we headed to some crazy rock formations left by galciers one of them was a rock tree and few other mad ones that you'd find hard to believe where left by a glacier where a large boulder would be balancing on top of another rock. After stopping for a few photos etc we then headed over rolling hills and valleys of red sand/gravel fairly amazing terrain - but alas as the driver had no english and our spanish wouldn't have been up to asking questions about what type of rock the reddish gravel was or what caused it i can't give any more info on it. We stopped at a few more lagunas and then at a mirador (look out point) for an active volcano where we bumped into these english lads we've met on numerous occasions since torres del paine which was funny - miles from anywhere in the middle of the andes. Later that day we drove over a very large lava field that was left there a couple of thousand years ago which was really amazing scenery. Then we headed on towards the salt plains and stopped at a salt hotel just off the edge of the salt plains in which all the walls where made of salt and the floors had coarse salt down as ground cover - it was a pretty cool place now I have to say - that night as the sun went down it got cold straight away again but not as cold as the salt plains are at a lower altitude (still at 3,600 metres above sea level though which is bit over three times the height of Carrauntoohil - just to give you an idea).

Our last day of the tour we headed out onto the salar de uyuni (salt plains) and onto isla pescado where we got too walk around taking a few photos etc. then we headed out to the middle of the salt plains where everyone got to take random pictures mainly messing around with perspectives (which every single group of people seem to do so its not very original but you can get some cool photos so it was good for a laugh). The salt plains are an amazing place and when you are in the middle the salt flat stretches as far as each of the horizons apart from maybe the tops of distant mountains.

We finished up in Uyuni which is a small town on the edge of the salt plains - theres not much to do in this town and it is basically a tourism base for the salt plains - but have to say i had the nicest pizza i've had in south america here and they where playing a U2 dvd the whole time we where there (even though i wouldn't always listen to U2 at home that much still was good to hear and would make you a little home sick ha)

Uyuni was our first real experience of bolivia and it wasn't a very impressive town its mainly made up of dusty streets with only the very centre streets paved and the outskirts of it are littered with alot of rubbish and plastic bottles and bags etc not very nice - but it definitely feels more like the authentic south america - there is alot of indigenous people in bolivia (i think over 60% of the population) and the locals all speak Quechua and spanish, also you see alot of old women dressed in traditional garb with llama wool shawls and bowler style hats (i know bowler hats bit strange i thought) - we also had bit of argument with the hostel owners who tried to rip us off but we where having none of it - but it left a bad taste in the mouth for the town of uyuni

But the 4wd tour from san pedro to bolivia was an amazing experience and it wasn't very expensive - all in all it was the best way to travel from chile to bolivia in my mind.

Next we headed onto Potosi (the highest city in the world, formerly one of the wealthiest cities in the world and home of famous silver mines)


1 Comment

Megs:
June 5, 2008
Thats the second time someone has asked me what that equation on the train is about.

Its Einsteins theory of General Relativity. I had to look it up though so don't be too impressed. My brief explanation is that it describes how gravitational forces effect space and time.

I know, I'm a nerd.
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