On the move by 7.30am on Day 2 of our Tour from Uyuni, #Bolivia to San Pedro de Atacama in #Chile. We left our salt hotel and the Salar de Uyuni behind and travelled south along the edge of Cordillera Occidental mountain range (the western edge of the Andes), just inside the Bolivia/Chile border. This was no place for long walks, but regular stops to admire the nature & views & wildlife kept us focused on the harsh beauty around us – such as volcano Ollague, Bolivia’s highest ‘active’ volcano.
The landscape here, backed by snowcapped mountains & the odd active volcano, was in general harsh and bleak. Reddish deserts such as the Pampa Siloli were streaked with ancient volcanic ash; petrified lava flows from times before provided a rock hard test for the 4×4; dried up salt lakes and glacially cold high altitude lakes populated by many flamingos emerged as small oasis; and the dried salt residue of pre-Andean times made a regular appearance wherever we went. Very, very few people are brave or resilient enough to live amidst this wind-blasted landscape, present are just those running ‘basic’ hostels for us gringos, and the hardened few managing herds of vicunas. If you wanted to lose yourself easily, this would be one place to come. There would be nobody here to look for you.
Once a part of the Inca trade routes, and before them on the southernmost edge of the much more interesting Tiwanaku culture’s economic & religious reach, these days apart from tourism the other most common economic activity in these parts is smuggling across the border, no doubt in both directions. Our guide told us to behave and be quiet if we were stopped by either country’s border security. As it was we saw neither smugglers nor cops. After seeing no animals, birds nor fish on Day 1 on the Salar de Uyuni, today we saw a variety of birds to go with the flamingos, a rare Andean fox, and in a small canyon amidst the desert a half-dozen viscachas popped up by the dirt road in anticipation of a feed (looking like a cross between squirrels & rabbits).
Our last two stops were the Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree) a wind blasted rock shaped ‘vaguely’ like a tree, amidst a small forest of weathered rocks; and then Laguna Colarado (the red lake, but more brown than red), both inside the Reserva Nacional De Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. Then before dusk fell, and the temperature dropped dramatically as the winds picked up, we reached our Hostal San Marcello for the night, a much more basic affair than the first night’s salt hostal, but given the location one really can’t complain too much! However at some 4300m altitude, sleep, or rather breathing deeply, proved a trial for us all.
Here’s some pics from the day….