Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category

Salar de Uyuni (Feb 19-21)   4 comments

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

We began our three-day tour at the border of Chile and Bolivia where we gave our passports to a man in a small shack in the middle of no where. He put our passports in a brown paper bag, handed it to our driver, and told us we would get them back at Uyuni (our final destination). After a nice breakfast we boarded our 4×4 vehicle with a German, two Swiss and an American from California and headed into the wilderness. The first day was full of natural beauty. The first area we came to was Laguna Blanca:

The algae in the various lakes at this altitude give each lagune a very distinct color. Continuing on we came to another lagune. This time the water was a dark blueish-green giving it the name Laguna Verde:

We continued onward into Bolivia and higher in altitude. By this point we were all feeling the effect of high altitude. The American from California had some altitude pills that he shared with us to help with altitude sickness. Even though we had been in Tilcara and San Pedro, both above 2400 meters, we were still not prepared for the next stop. As we continued to follow seemingly random tire tracks crisscrossing through the barren countryside we felt our ears popping and heads beginning to swell. We climbed higher and higher until we reached a geyser field at 5000 meters.

The guide told us the water and mud was around 280 degrees celsius. We  saw holes of steaming water and pits of percolating mud. After walking around for a few minutes we were told it was time to go so we would not get sick. It had begun to sleet by this point. Back in the Jeeps we headed for our hostel for the night. This hostel was still around 4500 meters and everyone was feeling fatigued.  Just going to the bathroom took your breath away. Even though we had plenty of water, altitude sickness pills and a mouth full of coca leaves, we still had headaches and were ready to go to sleep. Before we were able to go to sleep, however, we went to visit another colorful lagune, Laguna de Colorada. This lagune was a deep red color and full of flamingos.

That night we slept, but only barely because of the freezing temperatures and high altitude. Over the course of the night it began to snow, so when we awoke the ground was covered with white fluffy snow. As we set out there were no tire tracks to follow, so our guide had to find his way through rolling hills covered in snow that all looked the exact same. However, since he had been doing this for 8 years, it was no trouble for him to guide us to our next stop, the stone tree.

This area was a flat landscape with rocks jutting out of the ground and littered around creating a unique feeling. Even though there was nothing special about the stone tree itself, the entire landscape was quite amazing. After a few snowball fights and writing a few names in the snow we boarded our jeeps and continued, this time for a long ride, towards Uyuni.

During the trip our driver kept jerking at the wheel, dodging pot holes and driving up over the edges of the road…. We found out later that our driver was nodding off. The person sitting in the passenger seat told us he had to keep nudging him to keep him awake. Good times. It turns out that this week is Carnival in Bolivia and he and the other drivers were up until 4am (we were up at 530 to leave) drinking and partying. So as we drove along, looking at other lagunes and various other vistas, we had to continuously keep the driver awake so he wouldn´t drive off the side of a mountain and kill us all. All the more excitement. More bang for your buck.

We saw the signs for Uyuni, 51km… 31km… then nothing. The jeep rolled to a stop by the side of the road and the driver hopped out to look under the hood. Since we were close to town and near the end of the day there were multiple tour groups driving past. A couple of them stopped to see what was wrong, but our guide waved them on. He doesn´t need any help. After sitting there for an hour he finally accepts the help of a couple of other drivers. A few minutes later the truck starts and smoke fills the cabin before it cuts off again. In the distance the rain and rolling thunder are coming ever closer, and around 2hrs into the ordeal he calls another driver to come and pick us up. This night was spent in the town of Uyuni and in the morning we headed out to the Salt Flats.

Our hotel for the night was nice because it was for two people, but still, there was no hot water, a very low temperature at night, and loud partying all night in the streets. It didn´t matter, because the next morning we headed out to the surreal landscape of Salar de Uyuni. This is the biggest salt flat in the world, and because we were here during the wet season, the entire thing is covered with 1-3 inches of water. This gives it the strange look of a giant mirror. We headed out before sunrise and as the sun came up it began to take on it´s reflective properties.

At first light it was not very impressive, although it was very pretty. As the sun rose it became much more interesting.

The higher the sun got, the better the views got. This unique landscape afforded us great opportunities for unique pictures, enjoy:

No Horizon

Reflective Ground

Damn Dinosaurs

Silhouette Mags

Silhouette Brenden: Ninja Training

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (Feb 16-19)   Leave a comment

The Road to San Pedro de Atacama

The road from Salta starts up a winding mountain valley. We are flanked by large green mountains as we climb in altitude. Continuing on we come to the colorful mountains of Purmamarca, remembering the previous day´s hike. Along this stretch of road many of the large mountains, which are made of clay, show large vertical crevasses eroded by years of wind and rain.

Higher we climb and the mountains change to gigantic rolling hills of green grass. Llamas stand grazing at each turn. The large cacti that covered the low desert change to small shrubs as the altitude climbs and temperatures drop. The mountains have now become more jagged and rocky, taking on a dark brown color. Farther down the road splits the middle of a large, shallow reflective lake stretching for miles in each direction. It is impossible to tell where the earth ends and sky begins.

As we approach the Chilean-Argentine border we are met with a tall peak with snow that looks like sifted powdered sugar. Continuing into Chile we climb into
the high desert where the only plant life is small patches of grass. The dark red sand surrounds us. One peak we drive over is covered with snow showing the diversity of the region´s beauty. Onward to San Pedro de Atacama.


Valley de la Luna

San Pedro de Atacama Chile


This afternoon we rented bikes in San Pedro de Atacama and headed out for Valley de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). It is so named because it resembles the surface of the Moon. I doubt the Moon looks anything like this valley, but it is certainly other worldly.  After a 15km ride we see mountains jutting up in every direction and tall sand dunes climbing up to meet sharp cliffs. The entire region is a dark reddish-orange with dark grey dunes all covered with a white salt giving you the impression of a snowy winter.

A few kilometers into the valley we come to a point where we are able to lock up our bikes and head out on foot. The trail leads us up a winding path to the
top of a small mountain range giving us a view of the surrounding area. Walking along we see one of the regions largest dunes surrounded by a large cliff on one side and multiple smaller jagged peaks everywhere else.

Continuing on we find a giant cliff and a few tourists taking photographs. Even farther we come to Las tres Marias. This small formation of three(?) stone pillars is one of the tourist draws of the valley. It should not be. After taking a picture (after all, we came all that way) we headed back towards San Pedro. The 8km out of the park and 15km back to town were enough to do me and Magan in. As we were leaving we looked back
to see rain falling in the distance. This is supposed to be the driest desert in the world, but apparently not this region, as it seems to rain every evening.

Tomorrow we head out on a 3 day excursion across Bolivia to Salar de Uyuni where we will see colorful lagunas, geysers, flamingos (comer?) and of course the large Bolivian salt flat.