Early mornings are never fun, atleast with this tour you awake at dark thirty to a glorious breakfast prepared for you. We were on the road by 7:30, one of my favorite things about our driver Miguel, he was increditably time efficient. We were always the first group to arrive a many of the stopping points along the way. Our early arrival at the hostels also made the evening times more relaxed. On our way out of town we hit up the convenient store, where we grabbed a few Conronas, because what’s vacation in the middle of nowhere without breakfast beers?
Our first stop of the day, would be hidden gem in the middle of the desert, hundreds of boulders stacked on each other in the middle if the desert. The scenery was breathtaking and we were able to take more unforgettable pictures…noticing a pattern with this tour?
Pulling up to our first laguna of the day, we noticed serval black specs sprinkled though out the water. As we neared the shore, we realized these were real live pink flamingos. The real thing, not the tacky plastic decorations that Floridians like to use as lawn décor. Miguel let us off on the far shore to enjoy the birds while he prepared lunch. Getting close to these creatures was tricky, they are quite chill animals and there is a parameter set around the lake to keep visitors from getting to close. Our lunch was set up next to a hotel and restaurant on little tables covered with thatched straw roofs. The adjacent hotel promised wifi for a small fee, however it was in-operative. In actuality I was happy to stay in my little bubble off the grid.
As we set off, our surroundings became a red rock desert. There was no road, only rows of tire tracks in the san. Miguel knew the way, he has driven the route hundreds of times; probably able to trace the path in his sleep. Based on GPS,we realized just on the other side of the mountains, skimming by our right side window was Chile . This is where we get diabolical. Miguel knows Julie grew up in Chile, having immediately peppered her with questions upon learning this gringa spoke perfect Spanish. We hopefully ask, can we go to the border? After a moment of consideration he mentally made a couple small adjustments to the itinerary and determined it was possible. He also made the recommendation that for the equivalent of 5 dollars more we could stay in a better hotel that evening, which would also make more efficient use of our time. We immediately agreed.
Today we got as high as 15,650 feet elevation! We had kind of became obsessed with checking our elevation. Snapchat and Compass iPhone app both show accurate elevation, even when the phone is in airplane mode. At one point Miguel stopped the car to hand over a bag of coca leaves, we all took a few even though we felt fine, determing do as the natives. This was the highest point of land elevation any of us had ever achieved, outside of an airplane.
Here on the tour is where we entered the national park ,which costs an additional 150BOB. Upon entering the office, everyone should have your passport and money ready. Be careful this sneaky official attempted to keep 50BOB in change he owed me, when I handed over my 2 00BOBs. Once again thankful for Julie’s Spanish, I walked back out with my cash, it was my beer money for the evening.
Just past the park office is the Laguna Colorada, an amazing red colored lake home to more flamingos. We learned the lake receives its color from mineral deposits which generate a red hue. This is also how the pink flamingos are so uniquely colored, their primary food source also contains these red minerals. Sitting on the rocks over looking the laguna, perpetuates how beautiful the world can be.
Our last stop for the day was the geysers, first stopping at the smaller of the two. A small plume of white smoke jetted out from the tiny hole in the earth’s surface. You are actually able to touch the vapors evacuating from this small geyser and we all took turns jumping thought the warm vapors. Two minutes further down the road, a larger geyser gushed siring hot steam from the vent in the rocks. We were careful to steer clear of the mist as it was hot enough to cause serious burns.
Finally we arrived at our accommodations for the evening, being the first group to arrive we played cards as we waited for our afternoon tea and those amazing cookies. Dinner was served with a complimentary bottle of wine and the food was equally delicious as the night before. It was all clean, wonderful and locally grown. This is where we made our mistake, planning for the hot springs after dinner; we all developed food comas, coupled with the long day and the freezing temperatures outside, could not muster putting on a bathing suit. Instead we quietly returned to our room and snuggled under our warm blankets.
Our final morning started with pancakes, what better way to start a morning then pancakes–Anna’s philosophy on life. Our first stop was the laguna verde, to be quite honest it was nice to have a break from the bumping in the jeep down the dirt road however this lake was not too exciting. I have seen pictures online with much more intense colorization, perhaps we arrived during the wrong season. We started debating the difference between lagoons and Lakes. Anna knew lakes have to have a fresh water source No google to look things up though! Finally on to Chile…
I have never been to Chile…based on a group consensus we determined if you make a memory in that country you can claim it. Can you determine a better way than to grab hands and illegally run across a border, likely no! I also did a cartwheel, just in case. So in my mind it counts and I guess that all that really matters, country number 60!
The rest of the day was mostly spent in the car, we made a few stops including the desert of Dali, which was named after a Salvador Dali painting. Our final stop before Uyuni was Saint Crisobal. Hisorically this town laid further to the west, however when an Australian mine company wanted drill the land; the town was re-located to its current location. The cavet was the beautiful church must be moved stone by stone and precisely re-erected. Saint Crisobal also has an amazing market, of course we found a stall with a working refrigerator and grabbed a couple of beers for our ride back to Uyuni.
We rode into Uyuni on a dust cloud and Miguel dropped us off at the bus station to drop our bags before we head out for a dinner of pizza and beer before heading back to La Paz. Yes, we are so predictable. Coming back into “civialization” and having cell phone signal was not even all that grand. I called my mom, assured her of proof of life checked up on some friends and resigned to not really caring about the fact I could be accessed at any point.
The best incredible trip. Absolutely a once in a lifetime kind of experience and I can’t believe we only paid $180 for this trip. Still, we are rather roughing it. Electricity and running water and flushing toilets are luxuries. We are toured across the country in a Nissan Prado, completely covered in dirt, and the 4-wheel drive is critical as most of the time we are seriously off roading in places you can barely make out a trail. We’ve been through salt flats, shallow lakes, heavy mud, creeks, prairie, roads of solid boulders, mountain tops and desolate dry desert