Friday, October 24, 2008

October 16-22: Southwest Bolivia

We´ve spent the past four days exploring Southwestern Bolivia by jeep with a great Irish couple, Sean and Michelle. This is an otherworldly place more reminiscent of an imaginary Martian landscape than anywhere else we´ve seen on Earth. Ranging from 3500-5200 meters (11000- 17000 ft) it is almost completely above the treeline and the temperatures ranged from subfreezing at night to warm during the days. This is also the highest either of us has ever been.

This is a land of deep red, bright green and brilliant white lakes, surreal desertscapes with pink and purple mountainsides and Dali-esque rock formations jutting out of nowhere. This is a land filled with herds of pecuñus (the llama´s fairer cousin), thousands of bright pink flamingos, and the occaisional Andean fox. We drove by many 20,000 ft volcanoes, some still active, geysers shooting up steam around splurting mud, and a well needed hot spring where we soaked our too-long-in-the-jeep aching bodies.
And finally, the highlight was the majestic Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. A blistering sea of white for as far as the eye could see. The salt was broken into geometric hexagonal shapes as if by design. The salt flat is dotted with a few coral islands habitated by giant cacti and long-tailed rabbits. We walked out a ways on to the salt and were met by absolute nothingness. Even the silence was complete.

I´m not sure words can really capture this truly unique part of the world, hopefully the pictures will do a better job.

For those considering visiting this part of the country we´d highly recommend starting your trip from Tupiza, instead of the more common Uyuni. Tupiza is actually a nice little town to spend some time in, it´s fairly warm and the countryside around it is spectactular. We spent a half day exploring it on horseback.
Also it is remote country that you are entering, ie no roads and very basic accomodation so the most important thing to get for the tour is a driver that is a good mechanic (we got 3 flat tires in 4 days).
A quick postscript on Bolivia. The media portrays the country as one in perpetual political turmoil and one with a hatred towards Americans. Well the former point is true. Bolivia is in a constant state of redefining itself. Almost everyone is involved in politics to some degree, every town has political propoganda, etc. The biggest issue now is that the state of Santa Cruz with a largely non-indigenous population wants to secede from the country as the current president Evo Morales is granting a lot of indiginous power. It was exciting to see a little bit of this in process. However, nowhere in this country did we feel at all endangered, and we encountered nothing but respect and generosity from Bolivians. Bolivians joke about Bush, but we felt nothing negative in their attitudes towards Americans. It´s a shame that the media portrays this differently, as we didn´t meet any other Americans in Bolivia and they´re really missing out on this amazing country.


  1. Wow - incredible photos! I'd never heard of the Solar de Uyuni or any of this landscape until my friend went there years ago. Given how stunning, unique, and natural this is, I'm amazed there are so few visitors. Best of luck in your next country (Argentina?).

  2. hey guys! the photos you took are amazing of salt flats, etc. I'm glad you liked Bolivia so much, as one of its number one fans. I cannot wait to hear about adventures in Argentina...

  3. those pictures are crazy. thanks for staying vigilant on the blog, it's a treat to escape every so often.

  4. I am blown away by those pictures! You guys are hardcore adventurers!! Thanks for sharing- I love it.