After a fabulous and fascinating day on the Salar de Uyuni (the Uyuni salt flat), my friend Ellen and I and our guide Valerio continued our tour of the Bolivian Altiplano region. We left the salar, drove through the town of Uyuni, and the scenery started to change.
We stopped in the town of San Cristobal.
We visited “el valle de las rocas” (the valley of the rocks) and saw condor rock, which looks like a giant condor with spread wings. The interesting shaped rocks are volcanic, shaped by the wind over time.
We visited several lagunas, interesting for the different color of water in each one. Laguna Verde, or green lagoon, gets its color from copper and arsenic in the water which means there are no birds or fish in this lagoon.
At Laguna Hedionda, we ate lunch and watched the flamingos as it started to rain.
For lunch, we had pasta, roasted potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, and chicken breast strangely stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and hotdogs. We washed it down with red wine!
It was neat to watch the storm move across the laguna.
When the rain started really pouring down, Ellen and I finished our wine in the car.
We continued our tour of lagunas, seeing many beautiful views. Though it was overcast or rainy most of the day, there were a few periods of blue sky.
We played with the Godzilla toy a bit too!
We spent the night at the Hotel Tayka del Desierto. With an elevation of 4,600 meters (just over 15,000 feet), we were up pretty high and the hotel even offered oxygen if needed. The hotel claims to have the highest elevation of any hotel in the world and a quick google search confirms this!
The hotel is the middle of a red desert and is just a few kilometers from the Chilean border. The hotel’s dining room windows have a beautiful view of mountains just across the border. Hotel staff taught us about the significance of the colors in the Bolivian flag. Red is for the blood shed in wars, yellow is for the rich minerals found within the soil, and green is for the land.
Dinner began with quinoa soup. The entree was meatloaf stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and hotdogs. Perhaps stuffing meat with hotdogs and boiled eggs is a Bolivian culinary tradition? Dessert was canned peaches surrounded by cream, made to look like a fried egg.
After dinner, Ellen and I wandered ouside to check out the stars. We were in the middle of nowhere with nothing around us and it was really dark giving us a great view of the stars. We were happy to see a few shooting stars. When I was packing for this trip, Patrick had generously offered to let me bring his flashlight. As I was walking out the door to the airport, with his flashlight packed in my bag, he had a sudden and forceful change of heart and wanted the flashlight back. Since it was too late for me to try and find a different flashlight to take on my trip, I took his with me anyway, so Ellen was sure to take a picture of me using the flashlight so Patrick could see how useful it was on the trip.
The next morning we saw that overnight rains at our hotel had led to snowcapped mountains in Chile. We hit the road with Valerio for the last day of our tour.
Our first stop was this interesting volcanic rock called arbol de piedra or “tree rock”.
As our elevation grew, we saw less llamas and more vicuñas.
We visited Laguna Colorada, a beautiful red lagoon with many flamingos. The reddish color of the water is from red algae. With the weather changes, the color of the lagoon changes as well. The laguna is reddest in the afternoons, though the water still looked pretty red when we visited in the morning.
We also saw Laguna Blanca which had small piles of rocks in front of it and an extinct volcano behind it.
We drove through Dali’s Desert, so named because the landscape is reminiscent of Dali’s surrealist paintings.
The geysers we saw were really impressive. The landscape looks like that of another planet and the smell of sulfur is strong. The geysers, at 4,905 meters or 16,093 feet marked the highest elevation of the whole trip. For reference, the base camp at Mount Everest is 5,380 meters or 17,650 feet and the summit of Mount Everest is 8,848 or 29,029 feet.
We arrived back in Uyuni in the mid afternoon and were grateful for hot showers and naps before we ventured out on the town to find dinner.
Ellen and I had a nice dinner at a restaurant in town (not from a buffet and not from a fixed menu, as we had had for the previous three nights) and then had fun sampling some local beers and playing games at a bar.
The next morning, on our flight from Uyuni to Santa Cruz, we flew over the salt flat.
After checking-in to our hotel in Santa Cruz, we ditched our bags and walked around the city.
Our hotel in Santa Cruz was a gorgeous property. We enjoyed piña coladas from the pool’s swim up bar!
The hotel had several peacocks roaming the grounds.
For our last night in town, we went to a fancy-looking sushi restaurant at the hotel.
Forgetting one of the dining rules I try to follow in Paraguay (don’t eat seafood in a landlocked Third World country), Ellen and I (still in a landlocked Third World country, just not Paraguay) ate lots of delicious sushi, and then paid the price for it over the next couple days. To be fair though, it’s possible it was something else that made us sick, who knows.
The next day, we headed back to Paraguay after a great time in Bolivia. I was home for just enough time to unpack, do some laundry, repack, and then head to a conference in Buenos Aires the next day.
After the extreme scenery and mostly rustic conditions in Bolivia, it was great to spend a few days enjoying an amazing hotel and a wonderful cosmopolitan city in Argentina, but I was certainly missing Brian and the kids after back to back trips!