Amazing, beautiful, impressive, gorgeous, unbelievable, imposing, breathtaking, awesome, stunning... all these adjectives could easily be used to describe the natural wonders that we've seen these last days in Bolivia, but none of them would render them any justice, so I'll just describe the places and let the pictures talk by themselves.
UYUNI - A town at 3669m altitude and basecamp for our adventure across Southwestern Bolivia and its other worldly landscapes.
CEMENTERIO DE TRENES - Several decaying steam locomotives that were originally imported to transport ore in the 19th century. They include Bolivia's first steam engine, El Chiripa, which dates from 1890, and other with such names as El Burro, El Torito and Mauricio Hothschild. There is also the ore train that was robbed by legendary bandits Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, including a wooden railcar that bears the bullet holes from the attack.
COLCHANI - In Colchani "campesinos" hack the salt from the "salar" out with picks and shovels and pile it into small conical mounds that characterise the landscape in this area. Several small salt treatment plants iodise the salt and bag it up for distribution to other parts of Bolivia.
OJOS DEL SALAR - In some areas of the "salar", cold underground water rises to the surface and bubbles up through the salt layer creating an unusual looking eruptions on the salt.
SALAR DE UYUNI - The world's largest salt flat (12.106 sq Km) sits at 3653m, a blinding white expanse of the greatest nothing imaginable.
ISLA INCAHUASI - A hilly outpost in the middle of the salar covered in Trichoreus cactus and surrounded by a flat white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. The Trichoreus cactus can be 12m-high. Most of them are very old since they only grow a few centimetres per year. It's a fantasy world we live in!
VOLCAN OLLAGUE (5865m) - An active volcano straddling the Chilean border.
LAGUNA CAÑAPA & LAGUNA HEDIONDA - Mineral-rich lakes filled with Andean, Chilean and James Flamingos and backed by brown hills with white snowy peaks. A gift to the senses!
ARBOL DE PIEDRA (STONE TREE) - After 170Km of rough bumping through marvellous landscapes, the road winds down to Arbol de Piedra in the Desierto Siloli, a lava rock formation eroded to that shape throughout the years.
LAGUNA COLORADA (4278m) - Its fiery red coloration is derived from algae and plankton that thrive in the mineral-rich water and the shoreline is fringed with brilliant white deposits of sodium, magnesium, borax and gypsum. Surrounded by imposing mountains, its read colour grows more intense as the day progresses due to the pigments of microorganisms that also constitute the main food for the thousands of Flamingos that breed here. We slept here and it does get below eight degrees Celsius at night!
SOL DE MAÑANA GEYSER BASIN - A 4850m-high geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and the thick stench of sulfur fumes that can reach a temperature of 120 degrees Celsius.
TERMAS DE POLQUES - A small thirty-degrees thermal spring pool where we had the most beautiful bath ever surrounded by brown mountains and snowy peaks. It was hard to get out to the cold again but we survived!
LAGUNA VERDE (4400m) - A blue-green lake that gets its incredible colour from lead, sulfur, arsenic and calcium carbonate. An icy wind blows almost incessantly whiping the water into a brilliant green and white froth. It can remain liquid at temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Behind the lake, rises the cone of Volcan Licancabur (5960m).
LA CUADRILLA - We shared these wonderful days with five wonderful people. Iban (from Barcelona), Maria (from Vigo), Florence (from Normandy), Sofia and Delphine (both from Taiwan). It wouldn't have been the same without their lovely company.
See you all in Sucre, our next destination.
Idoia & Mikel.