A Travellerspoint blog

Bolivia

Uyuni to Chile via Salar de Uyuni, 26-28 Nov 08

The journey from Uyuni (in Bolivia) to the Chilean border near San Pedro de Atacama, over three days by Toyota Freewheeler, is a fantastic trip through extraordinary countryside. 6 persons share a 4WD. Its practically all on tracks. Food (cook travelled with us - wife of chauffeur!) and accommodation is provided.

Day 1 Highlights: Much of the day spent crossing the blindingly white Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Lunchtime we arrived at the Isla del Pescado. It would be better called Cactus Island as it is filled with cacti up to 10 metres high! Extraordinary sight. Lunch. Travelled further across to other side of salt lake (width around 160k) until late afternoon. Stayed night in 'hotel' created mostly from salt blocks and cactus 'wood'. Great spot and worth paying the minimal extra for own room with en suite. Found out that we could buy wine there ... and that the other two (Dutch) couples in our 4WD liked wine ! (equals 3 bottles between us). Before bed, went out to check out the night time sky. It does not come brighter and clearer than here (altitude + dryness) ! Fantastic.

Day 2 Highlights: Long day, leaving after breakfast, at 07h00. Heading south skirting the Chilean border through fantastic scenery, flanked by volcanic mountains, the odd one or two still active. The track gets very rough and we have to walk for 500 metres. We pass 4 lagunas - each set in beautiful locations. They have beautiful flamingos - which we can get incredibly close to without disturbing: Lunch at one of the lagunas. Then we pass through the extraordinary Desert de Silioli - difficult to describe - a wide 'dirt' plain between the mountains. Then we arrive at the extraordinary Laguna Colorado (swirling colours of red (from creatures living in the water), white (salt) and dark blue). Not far is the lodging for the night set in the middle of nowhere - rather less salubrious! - dormitory! Never mind - wine available again from a little 'shop'!

Day 3 Highlights: Up at 04h00 to leave to head up to the Geysers. Freezing cold as its not far off 5000 metres altitude. Then down to Agua Caliente (warm thermal springs) - however, don´t expect to see us in the pictures - not in the freezing cold at 07h00! Breakfast inside and off to Laguna Verde (not too green at this time of down but beautiful reflection of volcano in lake. Then head off for Chile border at around 09h00. Bye bye to 2 of out fellow passengers and driver who were heading back to Uyuni. Transfer to Chilian van who took us down to San Pedro.

Incidentally, the total cost of all this, including travel in 4WD, transfer in Chile, accommodation, all meals, entry fees, tips, wine ... worked out at less than 100 Euros per person!

Anyway, absolutely suberb.

Route

Route


Toyoto Freewheeler on Salar de Uyuni

Toyoto Freewheeler on Salar de Uyuni


Isla del Pescado 6

Isla del Pescado 6


Isla del Pescado 2

Isla del Pescado 2


Isla del Pescado 1

Isla del Pescado 1


Isla del Pescado 2

Isla del Pescado 2


Isla del Pescado 3

Isla del Pescado 3


Isla del Pescado 4

Isla del Pescado 4


lunch - the cook!

lunch - the cook!


lunch

lunch


Salt hotel 1

Salt hotel 1


Salt hotel 2

Salt hotel 2


Salt hotel 3

Salt hotel 3


Salt hotel 4

Salt hotel 4


Trip Track

Trip Track


Active Volcano

Active Volcano


Lagunas 1

Lagunas 1


Lagunas   Mountain

Lagunas + Mountain


Lagunas   Flamingos 1

Lagunas + Flamingos 1


Lagunas   Flamingos 2

Lagunas + Flamingos 2


Lagunas   Flamingos 3

Lagunas + Flamingos 3


Lagunas   Flamingos 4

Lagunas + Flamingos 4


Lagunas   Vicuñas

Lagunas + Vicuñas


Siloli Desert 1

Siloli Desert 1


Siloli Desert 2

Siloli Desert 2


Laguna del Colorado 1

Laguna del Colorado 1


Laguna de Colorado 2

Laguna de Colorado 2


Laguna de Colorado 3

Laguna de Colorado 3


Dormatory!

Dormatory!


Geyser 1

Geyser 1


Geyser 2

Geyser 2


Agua Caliente 2

Agua Caliente 2


Agua Caliente 1

Agua Caliente 1


Laguna Verde

Laguna Verde


ToyotaFreewheeler   Occupants

ToyotaFreewheeler + Occupants

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Uyuni, 24 - 25 Nov, 2008

... still in Potosi ... as early as reasonable, we went down to the Radio Station (Radio Collasoyo). Were eventually called upstairs after providing identification, copy of police report. We got the important documents back, other papers and a South America guide. The rest had gone, but 'tant pis'. We had been incredibly lucky. Then the guy pointed the microphone at Lindsey and interviewed her for broadcasting. What a star!

We managed to get the last seats on the first (10.00) bus out of Potosi to Uyuni. We were on the back seats - so we got the full discomfort of the seemingly interminable (6.5 hours) journey on non paved roads the whole way to Uyuni. Really impressive, mainly arid, scenery with just 4 or 5 settlements of any size passed through. The only regular company we had were cacti and llamas. Shuddering and even bouncing with the vibrations, bus full and stuffy because windows shut (mainly to avoid dust), very dusty anyway ... That was the hardest journey we can remember for a very long time. We were very happy to get to a hotel quickly and collapse.

... Feeling a lot better the next day! Have arranged a three day trip to the Salars (Salt Lakes) etc - eventually arriving in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Uyuni is not particularly exciting but pleasant enough to hang out for a day.

Internet too slow here to load even a couple of photos, I think - anyway they don't have usb connection! May have to wait for Santiago (after San Pedro).

uyuni2

uyuni2


uyuni1

uyuni1


uyuni3

uyuni3


uyuni - trainspotting - I always preferred steam!

uyuni - trainspotting - I always preferred steam!

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Potosi, 21-23 Nov 2008

Just two and a half hours in a 'shared taxi' from Sucre to Potosi. Not a great selection of hotels so, after checking a couple of grotty looking options, opted for an 'upmarket' one (over twice the price of the Sucre hotel, but still under 40 Euros!). It's comfortable and central heating, and I am very glad we were in a good hotel here ...

Potosi is the highest city (around 4100 metres) of its size (c110k) in the world and is set in desolate surroundings. It got fabulously rich in colonial times due to silver deposits in the mountains above, and so is adorned with colonial architecture which merits UNESCO heritage status. It should be quite a pleasant place, with narrow streets in the centre and attractive houses (many with wooden window areas sticking out above the street), etc., however, we have not really had the best of times here. Although we have been at altitude for a few weeks now, the extreme height here seems to make a difference - difficult, even painful, to get full breaths, headaches, ... plus we both had doses of short term flu symptomes (which I had already had a dose of one day in Sucre). So, quite a lot of the time has been spent in our nice hotel room watching cable TV or simply collapsing on the bed. And that was not the end of our troubles ...

Anyway, on our second day we were feeling fit enough to do a tour up to the working silver mines - although we definitely did not want to do the underground bit. The state mining operation closed some years ago, but there still remain around 385 cooperatives operating in atrocious (noxious) conditions, with around 9000 persons working currently. So, after getting into appropriate gear supplied for the visit, the first stop is the 'Miner's Market' where miners buy their provisions. You are encouraged to purchase gift(s) for the miners; here's what they like to get:

- large bag of coca leaves (they chew large quantities of coca - 'benefits' include capacity to work extremely long hours + removes desire to eat) .. Cost 0.5 Euros - 1 litre 96% alcohol (they like to drink this!) .. Cost 1.0 Euros - Explosive kit (1 stick of dynamite, 1 pack of Ammonium Nitrate crystals, 1 fuse) .. Cost 1.5 Euros

(we bought coca leaves + explosives kit - spooky carrying it around for the next hour!)

For us, the rest of the tour included trundling up the mountain in the van, stopping off for our guide to request a willing victim to help him prepare a charge (including moulding the stick of dynamite into a ball etc!) which he then set off - quite a bang! (Check out the photos). Then we went down to the entrance of the mine which the other four on the trip spent the next hour or more visiting. The wimps went back to town.

Were waiting to catch the bus this morning to Uyuni for the salt flats trip through to Chile when one of our bags got snatched with one of our passports in! Its unlikely to turn up so we will no doubt have to return to La Paz and revise the remaining itinerary depending on how long we get held up for a replacement ...

We have travelled extensively and this is the first time we have been robbed. In this case we made two errors, and paid for it: - putting small/medium bags on the ground thinking that we were not in a vulnerable place (obviously mistaken, the thief managed to pick up the bag and disappear without our even noticing it!) - putting a passport in a bag (even exceptionally) rather than keep it in a pouch on the body (a passport is the one thing you cannot do without and is very disruptive to replace on our sort of trip)

We had resigned to catching an overnight bus back to La Paz the next day, but thought we should at least wait 24 hours in case something got handed in. During the evening, we got a call in our room from the lady receptionist at our hotel and she said she had heard on the local radio lost and found that someone had handed in a British passport! She gave us the directions and we turned up at the radio station offices. They were pretty well closed (being a Sunday evening) but someone finally answered. They said we should come back tomorrow morning. However, we gave them a copy of the passport and they said it was the correct one. (So nice of the receptionist to check the local radio ...)

Potosi 1

Potosi 1


Potosi 2

Potosi 2


Potosi 3

Potosi 3


Potosi 4

Potosi 4


Potosi 5

Potosi 5


Potosi 6

Potosi 6


Potosi 7

Potosi 7


Mine Trip - Helmets on!

Mine Trip - Helmets on!


Mine Trip - Purchases for Miners

Mine Trip - Purchases for Miners


Mine Trip - Purchases for Miners - Explosives Kit!

Mine Trip - Purchases for Miners - Explosives Kit!


Mine Trip - Miners Accommodation

Mine Trip - Miners Accommodation


Mine Trip - Guide   Potosi

Mine Trip - Guide + Potosi


Mine Trip - Willing Volunteer - Moulding dynamite

Mine Trip - Willing Volunteer - Moulding dynamite


Now add Ammonium Nitrate Cystals and Fuse

Now add Ammonium Nitrate Cystals and Fuse


The fuse is alight

The fuse is alight


Guide going to lay the charge

Guide going to lay the charge


Bang!

Bang!


Mine Trip - Collective Mine

Mine Trip - Collective Mine


Mine trip - Heading for entrance to mine

Mine trip - Heading for entrance to mine


Mine trip - Mine entrance

Mine trip - Mine entrance


Mine trip - Workers finishiung shift

Mine trip - Workers finishiung shift

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Sucre, 19-20 Nov 2008

We were hoping to travel by day but the only way to get directly to Sucre from La Paz by bus is overnight. Its 12 hours and the "semi cama" travel is certainly less pleasant than in Brazil or Peru. What is obvious straightaway is that there is much less security. Anyone can get on the bus before it leaves, and also when it stops at El Alto in chaotic conditions! (In those other countries you could not get on the bus without showing your ticket and identity). If you are taking a bus out of La Paz, Watch it at El Alto! When we stopped people getting on the bus included: genuine passengers, ambient sellers, people seeing their friends off, and a thief pretending to be looking for his seat but actually their to try to steal something! One tried on our bus (to take the bag under the seat of Canadian ladies behind us) but fortunately she spotted it and held on to her stuff ... Later the bus stopped in the middle of knowing and there was some loading/unloading of stuff so we were a bit worried about our luggage. The bus also very hot and stuffy most of the time. Still, we got there, rucksacks intact.

After La Paz, which was teeming with humanity, Sucre is a much quieter and relaxed place, with a large student population, and an easy-going atmosphere. Its the second (judicial) capital of Bolivia, alough only a small town compared with La Paz. There's nice places to eat and drink), and our hotel was quite good with a pretty central courtyard. The town has UNESCO listed (white) colonial architecture, which is quite pleasant without being brilliant. There might be a few interesting churches to look at but its practically impossible to get access. Otherwise, we visited a local market (Campesino Market) for a bit of variety.

After a pretty hectic schedule, we enjoyed some relaxation here.

Sucre - Grand Hotel

Sucre - Grand Hotel


Sucre - Centre - 1

Sucre - Centre - 1


Sucre - Centre - 2

Sucre - Centre - 2


Sucre - Centre - 3

Sucre - Centre - 3


Sucre - Cathedral - 1

Sucre - Cathedral - 1


Sucre - Cathedral - 2

Sucre - Cathedral - 2


Sucre - Centre - Its Christmas already!

Sucre - Centre - Its Christmas already!


Campesino Marlet - 1

Campesino Marlet - 1


Campesino Market - 2

Campesino Market - 2


Campesino Market - Loads of pasta!

Campesino Market - Loads of pasta!

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

La Paz, 16 - 18 Nov 2008

Great trip on local bus to La Paz (3.5 hours). Lots of views of Lake Titicaca both sides. Amazing arrival in La Paz:sprawling El Alto area on the plain, then descent into the large canyon taken up by La Paz city. The bus dropped us off before the cemetery area (particularly known for tourist rip offs) and we got a taxi straight away and found a very nice and well situated hotel . No problems.

La Paz is a fascinating and excitinb city of many contrasts: the teeming Negro market area (loads of women in traditional gear with bowler hats etc), the tourist/travellers area (restos, travel agents, souvenirs stalls, and the "Witches Market" selling all sorts of weird items), the governmental area around Plaza Murillo (grand buildings and police presence) and modern downtown (wide boulevard (Prado) and sky scrapers).

Copacabana to La Paz

Copacabana to La Paz


Copacabana to La Paz - Don't foget your hat!

Copacabana to La Paz - Don't foget your hat!


Copacabana to La Paz - Bus across straights

Copacabana to La Paz - Bus across straights


La Paz - Hotel room!

La Paz - Hotel room!


Hotel - Rooftop View 1

Hotel - Rooftop View 1


Hotel - Rooftop view 2

Hotel - Rooftop view 2


La Paz - Heading up to Negro Market

La Paz - Heading up to Negro Market


La Paz - Negro Market 1

La Paz - Negro Market 1


La Paz - Negro market area traffic

La Paz - Negro market area traffic


La Paz - Negro Market 2

La Paz - Negro Market 2


La Paz - Negro Market 3

La Paz - Negro Market 3


La Paz - Negro Market 4

La Paz - Negro Market 4


La Paz - Negro Market - Bowler hats for sale

La Paz - Negro Market - Bowler hats for sale


La Paz - Negro Market 5

La Paz - Negro Market 5


La Paz - Negro Market 6

La Paz - Negro Market 6


La Paz - San Francisco Plaza area

La Paz - San Francisco Plaza area


La Paz - CAthedral San Francisco area

La Paz - CAthedral San Francisco area


La Paz - Witches Market stall

La Paz - Witches Market stall


La Paz - Witches Market stall - don't ask!

La Paz - Witches Market stall - don't ask!


Witches Market - Don't ask 2!

Witches Market - Don't ask 2!


La Paz - Small remaiming 'colonial' street

La Paz - Small remaiming 'colonial' street


La Paz - Plaza Murillo 1

La Paz - Plaza Murillo 1


La Paz - Plaza Murillo 2

La Paz - Plaza Murillo 2


La Paz - Downtown sky skrapers

La Paz - Downtown sky skrapers


La Paz - Downtown 2

La Paz - Downtown 2


La Paz - Downtown 1

La Paz - Downtown 1

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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