Tupiza to Uyuni October 14th – 17th 2014
After a long transfer from Iguazu Falls (basically two overnight buses and a brief stay in Salta where there was no accommodation), we took a bus through the Humahuaca valley in northern Argentina. There were beautiful rock formations in spectacular colours, and some interesting-looking old towns. Fortunately, we had reserved the front seats at the top of the bus and had fantastic views, but we didn't stop over anywhere as we had a through bus to the border with Bolivia.
What we hadn't taken into account was that it was Election Day in Bolivia so we had an enforced stopover as immigration only opened at 6pm. Our night in Villazon was far from our least comfortable, and we only had a short collectivo ride to Tupiza, so things were looking up. The great thing about our extended border stay was that we got chatting to Aaron and Rob, two Brits travelling S America for 9 months. Really nice guys. They decided to join us on the tour of the Salar and area.
The tour company we chose was Alexandra Tours in Tupiza. Although I can't find a website for them or TripAdvisor recommendation or reviews they were really excellent. The four of us chose them as they offered an alternative route to the “normal” tourist route plus they focussed on walking and wildlife.
Highlights from Day 1
- Being away from cities (my smile said it all!)
- Early morning light on the valley
- Seeing the beautiful Andean Goose up close
- The constant smile on Jesus's (our guide) face
- Breakfast on the road with a long view
- Seeing a giant hummingbird
- Stopping off at San Antonio de Nuevo Mundo which is an abandoned colonial Spanish mining town 1500's)
- Having fun in the car practising Spanish with Jesus
- Seeing vizcacha, vicuña, llamas, and many flowering cacti
- Experiencing the spontaneous, out of the blue, wind storm
- Arriving at Quetena Chico to find out that our promised basic accommodation was not basic at all.
Highlights from Day 2
- Gorgeous morning light on the mountains and yellow tufts of grass
- Seeing people mine for borax and a chemical used in shampoo production
- Singing to cheesy music in car. Introduced the young boys to Paradise by the Dashboard light by Meat Loaf.
- Drove to a small Salar which was barren and gravelly
- Small Llama nibbling on John's bum
- After Laguna Verde (green because of arsenic and copper) we stopped at the hot springs for a wonderful soak. Very clean and wonderfully warm. Definitely take a dip.
- After lunch we headed to see the fumaroles. Really interesting watching the mud bubble and the steam “steam”. It was incredibly windy so the steam was blowing sideways instead of vertically. Quite a pong, though!
- Went for a walk along the beautiful Laguna Colorado where the water is red and the flamingoes are beautifully coloured from the shrimp. Apparently there are three different types of flamingoes (Andean, Chilean, and James). We think these were James.
- More Andean geese at Villa Mar
- Had blue cocktails and very young wine with dinner
Highlights from Day 3
- Morning walk in the rock formations – Copa del Mundo (a rock shaped like the World Cup), a lost Italian city, plus a new discovery by us, the head of a puma (or lioness).
- Drove to Laguna Negra which was a definite trip highlight. John and I were so happy to be bird watching again. Saw two types of coots – giant and ? (we don't have a bird book so are a bit lost. We tried to buy one but it was $100USD). Plus saw teals, black capped night heron, Andean geese, ducks, llamas and many small birds. The scent of the area was honey from the local bush. Also saw more Vizcachas. Gorgeous.
- Watching 6 condors soaring
- Driving through the valley of the llamas
- Seeing where quinoa grows (thankfully no destruction of the landscape)
Highlights Day 4
- Stayed in one of the hotels made out of salt. It was great fun and it had hot showers
- Rose early in order to get to the Inca Huasi Island for sunrise
- Beautiful light on the cactuses and rocks
- Flowering cactus with hummingbird and grosbeaks feeding
- Tranquility and vastness of the Salar
- After breakfast played around in the Salar taking funny pictures. Jesus let us get in with it but when he saw that we really had no idea 'how to do it' he stepped in. Lots of laughter
We are now in Uyuni and are hoping to take a van/transfer to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The operators are very vague but we have been told that there is one leaving today around 4. Who knows. We have been sitting in a corner of a local restaurant updating the pictures and blog. Next time you hear from us we will be in Chile.