The Salar Desert
11.03.2011 - 17.03.2011 14 °C
I greet you this time, for the last time, from Argentina. I finaly left Salta, after two weeks. Swarly came on Thursday afternoon, on the 10th, and we both took a bus the next morning to a small, out of the way town, called Tilcara. This town looks alot like a town from a Robert Rodriguez movie. The town is in the north of Argentina, three and half hours away from the Bolivian border. Most of the people there are more Bolivian than Argentinian. We found a shithole of a hostel (pardon my french), and started to scour the town for things to do. We found out that this weekend, was the last weekend of the carnaval, so we asked around to know where it takes place. People told us that we couldn't miss it, because the town is so small, and the carnaval goes around town and they make alot of noise. Just follow the noise. In the end, they settled just beyond a low wall from our room at the hostel, and indeed, made alot of noise. The thing itself was proportunate to the size of the town. Very small, but very festive (festivus anyone?), plenty of colors, colorful outfits and foam. Much, much foam.
At dinner, we talked it over, and agreed that other than this carnaval, there isn't much esle to do here, and decided that we want to go on to Bolivia.
We took a bus the next morning (it was only an hour late!), to the border town, La Quiqa (pronounced Kaika). There, we dissmounted, and walked to Bolivia. The border was very messy. Very similiar to that border town in Paraguay, only smaller, with a flee market to greet us into the promissed land. We call it the promissed land, because of Bolivia's redicoulusly low prices. Bolivia is a third world country. Very poor and dissorganized. Once we crossed the border we found the bus terminal, and booked a bus ride to Tupiza. Tupiza is in the south-west of the country, close to Chile and Peru.
The bus ride was quite terrifying. Most of the way was unpaved, and due to rain, there were many puddles on the road. More than once I spoke to people that took busses in Bolivia, and said that they got stuck for hours in the mud. We were lucky, and after two hours we arrived at the small city of Tupiza.
Our next objective, once we found a place to sleep, was to find people to go on a jeep trip with us, in the Salar. Upon walking around the city the next morning, we met friends from our hostel in Salta, and asked if they want to come with us, because the more people, the cheaper the activity is. They said that they already booked a trip for the next day with some other people, and hurt, but still hopefull, we kept searching. Israelis are easy enough to find in this small city, and companions we found. We booked a trip with six others, taking two jeeps, for less than 800 bolivian. The currancy here is very cheap: 1 bolivian is close to 0.5 NIS. So, all in all, it was quite cheap. On Monday the 14th, we go.
The next morning we woke up, packed our stuff, and went to meet our companions. At 9 AM we set out by two jeeps for the desert. We drove for hours in breathtaking scenery. We stopped in two villages along the way, with houses that are built of mud. On the way we saw hundreds of Llamas. The Llamas here are used for their wool and meat, and are very comon in Bolivia. We finaly reached a small village, at the ass-end of nowhere, and there we camped for the night.
The next morning we woke up at half past four AM. We quickly packed up our stuff and headed out again. We drove for hours until we reached our first destination, which was a small village, with natural hot springs. There we had our lunch, and after everything was sqeeky clean, we jumped in. Due to our extreme hight, breathing was difficult, and the winds were very strong, and cold, so the high temperature of the spring was a welcome change. We relaxed in the water for a while, caught some well-needed sun, and continued on our way. Tupiza is very high above sea level, and our whole trip through the Bolivian desert is also very high. Today, most of the time we were above 4000 meters high. The scenery mostly stays the same, with brown-yellowy mountains, some of them are capped with snow in the distance. Our driver took us to many beautiful places along the way. Lagoons ritch with minerals that make the water seem green, with strong winds that froze our private parts. At some point, our driver also took us to a place with many holes in the ground that spew steam at very high temeratures, and boiling mud. The smell of brimstone and sulfur was very strong (smells like rotten eggs). We took snapshots of as much as we could endure outside of the jeep, due to strong, cold winds, and went on. At the end of the day, we reached another campsite to make our night there.
The whole day we saw Llamas.many, many Llamas.
On our third day, we woke up early in the morning for a change, and set out. Most of the scenery, again, was brown and yellow mountains. Llamas were walking aimlessly, and we reached our first stop. We came to a small lagoon packed with thousands of flamingo. It was still early morning, and the sun hasn't come over the mountains yet, and the view was incredible. We took plenty of pictures of the early morning, and carried on.
The rest of the day was very similar. Mountains, lagoons, Llamas, flamingo, breakfast, lunch. our final destination for today, was a small city, right at the edge of the Salar, called Uyuni. There we found a place to sleep, bought a ticket for the next day to La Paz, and called it a day, after walking about in the city a bit, seeing the flee market.
The next morning, we woke up before sunrise, in order to get to the Salar just as the sun comes up. The Salar desert is 25 km from Uyuni, and is 12000 square kilometers big. When we got there, it was flooded. There was a fine sheet of water covering the entire thing. Looking to the distance, with the suns´ light, the reflection of everything was perfect. It looked like a giant mirror. We spent a few hours there taking silly pictures, taking advantage of the huge area for proportions. Because everything is so flat, you can take pictures as if your head is sticking out of a Pringle's tube, running away from a toy dinosaur and more. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at the hostel, so I didn't take any pictures there. Take my word though, it was beautiful.
On thursday evening, March 17, we leave for La Paz by bus.
Until next, may the force be with you.