3 days in Bolivia

As I sit here, fingers hovering over the keys of my laptop, I’m at a loss. I don’t know that I’ll be able to convey the beauty and grandeur, the awe… the exhaustion!…..of my recent three day journey into Bolivia and the joy of traveling with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
I have sincere doubts that I’ll be able to do it.
But here goes.
Day One (and just a reminder – click on any picture for a better view):

Immigration from Chile into Bolivia. I almost didn’t make it. Even though I’d been in Bolivia at the beginning of my journeys in South America, as a U.S. citizen I needed to re-pay my way in. I barely had enough. I had to use what I had left of my U.S. dollars and Chilean pesos. But, happily, they let me in.

Need to pee before getting on the road? There’s a pile of rocks over there where you can take care of business before leaving. There were a few people seemingly confused by this concept. It was sort of funny – “You mean I really have to pee here?” Yes, really. Get over it.

Gorgeous view #1
I intended to take notes on the names of mountains and lakes – which ones were active volcanoes and which were extinct. I failed miserably. I took exactly one note. I just wanted to be there and absorb what I was seeing and feeling. Who wants to take notes?

When I look at this next photo, I think, “Ah, back in the pre-sunburn days!”
Look at that beautiful turquoise water. Stunning.
Salvador Dali Desert – or Dali Valley. I didn’t take many pictures here – my travel mates and I were trying to figure out which Dali painting was being referred to. We decided it must have been The Persistence of Memory (though none of us could name it at the time). You found yourself looking around for melting clocks.
The following are pictures of geothermal activity. It was one of the highlights of my journey. Super cool – geology in action!
As Stephen (I’ll tell you about him in a bit) said, it’s pretty amazing (and pretty cool) that there aren’t walkways and railings around everything. You can walk right up to a pool of boiling mud – it’s up to you to be responsible for yourself and not fall in. I think it’s great, too. I mean, it’s a great big beautiful and sometimes dangerous world. Keep your eyes and ears open and do your best to be responsible for your own safety, for goodness’ sake!
Roiling, boiling pools of hot bubbling mud madness!

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A hot bubble about to burst.

 

 

 

 

People giving a sense of perspective, though this is only a portion of the whole field.

 

It’s so easy to forget how active this planet is. You go to work in a square building and you see straight lines everywhere and everything is orderly… but our home planet is active and evolving and reforming all the time…. and it’s beautiful.
No discussion about Bolivia would be complete without mentioning the vicuña. Cousins of llamas, they are still wild animals, while the llama is now primarily domesticated.Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon). Pretty easy to remember the name of this lagoon – just look at it.
It was amazing the way the colors were so distinctly separated. The different colors were caused by different minerals in the water. You’d see flamingos only in very specific colors.
Mama Llama and baby llama, Mama.
Beautiful pastels.
This is where the sunburn comes into the picture. It was so windy that I took off my visor (which I’ve since lost) so it wouldn’t blow away and thought that since it was late afternoon, I wouldn’t get burned – maybe tanned, but not burned. Not smart.

When I look at this picture, I think of the beautiful young Bolivian woman I’d seen walking by only moments before – I wish I could have captured her image. I was awed by her natural, graceful beauty.

 

I have a picture of the group I traveled with. We were sitting together for dinner here at our hostel. I’d love to add that picture. But, when I took it, I failed to ask them if I could put it in my blog and I won’t place it here without their permission. I just don’t feel right about doing that. I’m sure most of them would be fine with it, but there are a few people in the group I didn’t get to know very well and they may object. I just don’t know. But, my god, what a great group of people. There were two men in particular – Stephen (from Ireland) and Maurizio (from Italy) – who I really connected with. Funny, great conversationalists, friendly, kind. Two marvelous men. I miss them already.

And that’s the end of Day 1.
Day 2:
The following morning, we stopped at this lake. I don’t know, maybe this was my day to cry. The pastel beauty of this place overwhelmed me. You wake up in the morning, have breakfast, get on the road and stop at a place like this and you’re just floored.
Going through my pictures and trying to remember which place was which, I found myself thinking, “Okay, the name of that beautiful lake was……. No, wait, it was that beautiful lake….wait, which beautiful lake was this one?” Then you turn around and see yet another beautiful mountain. You almost start thinking, “Enough with the beauty – I can’t take anymore!”

The marbled, colorful beauty of this extinct volcano (below) had me crying, too. I just couldn’t stop. I walked away from the group and just bawled – I think I needed to get it out of my system so I wouldn’t be crying all day. I’m such a flippin’ crybaby. But, geeeeeez, everything was so insanely beautiful!
What looks like rocks below are actually petrified wood and they’re huge.

 

 

 

 

People and cars in the picture to give perspective.

Not far (relatively speaking) from the petrified forest, we drove through a canyon.

 

Through much of it was this striking green moss called yareta moss. The yareta grows approximately 1.5 centimetres per year. Some yaretas are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further on into the canyon….….were these great jigsaw puzzles of rocks.

And another beautiful lake.

 

We stopped at, you guessed it, a lake and there was a hostel there with this painting on an outside wall…

….and lots of flamingos.
We’d been on the road quite a bit and, if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll be familiar with my ever so charming tales of motion sickness. The others in the group were kind enough to let me sit in the front seat for the entire trip and still, still I was feeling rather crummy by this time. Plus, this particular lake had a lot of the mineral sulfur in and around it and whew, was it stinky. So, I stayed as far away from it as I reasonably could.
From there, fortunately, we hit a patch of straight road, which helped my stomach.

 

We came to a spot where you are not to pee on the rocks. No, no.

 

 

 

But there was a view of an active volcano from there.

 

See the trail of steam/smoke at the upper left? That’s from a fumarole.

Referring back to motion sickness, and hence traveling in a car, I took a few pics while on the road. It blew my mind that our guide, Edgar, knew his way around so well. He’s been at the job for 14 years, so I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. But he’d be zooming along a vast, empty stretch of middle-of-nowhere-desert and then at some seemingly random point, take a right turn…

….and always got us where we needed to go. Amazing.

I love to photograph diminishing horizons.

Edgar waited in the car while he let us play on the railroad tracks.

He’s a good guy.

 

 

This was the end of day 2. Here’s the room I stayed in (after my roommate and I tossed everything on our beds). The walls are made of salt. Yes. The walls, the little stand between the beds, the bases of the beds and the floor. You work with what you’ve got and they’ve got a heckuva lot of salt here.

Day 3:

I’m a little befuddled by these two photos of the moon – one full, one crescent…. on the same day.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Okay, okay, I’m sure it must’ve been Venus in the picture above. It just looks so huge!

 

And now the Uyuni Salt Flats.It’s the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 sq km / 4,086 sq mi. It’s altitude is at 3,656 m / 11,995 ft.
Two views, not that far apart.
Perspective is really challenged here.

We’d got up at around 3 / 3:30 a.m. so we could watch the sunrise.

While the car was being loaded up with our backpacks, I walked a little distance from the hostel to get away from the lights to look at the stars. The Milky Way was even more beautiful than last time I’d seen it during a stargazing tour. Jaw-dropping.



 

Here’s a photo of the sweet couple in the group. She’s Belgian and he’s Dutch.

 

 

And here’s one of the obligatory pictures everyone takes at Uyuni. But, I have to admit, it was fun.

 

I loved the sight of the sun reflecting on the salt.

 

Apparently, I didn’t get a picture of the island in the middle of this enormous span of salt. It’s called Isla Incahuasi.

But I got some decent pics on and from it.

 

 

Go, Bolivia, go!

 

 

 

 

So nice to have been there in the Spring when the cactus was in bloom.

 

At one point I was at the top of the island alone. The quiet was ……
It’s so rare to ‘hear’ quiet. To ‘hear’ nothing. I don’t have words to describe it.
A couple more goofing around photos.

The crazy Uyuni Salt Flats.
From here Edgar drove us to the town of Uyuni, where he lives and where we were to wait for our ride back to the Bolivian / Chilean border by way of one more overnight stay at a hostel. We stopped at a small market town on the way to Uyuni where I bought a beautiful piece of fabric. But before we said our goodbyes to Edgar, he took us to the train graveyard.
My camera battery had died just after arriving at the salt flats. So disappointing. I’d tried getting it charged the night before at the hostel, but I guess their voltage was low….or something. I’m not sure what happened, but it didn’t charge much. I took these pics with my phone.

Some great art on the back of one of the trains.
A few of the folk in my group had taken some pictures for me at the salt flats and one of me with Edgar. Hopefully they’ll send them to me. I’m sure it’s not high on their list of priorities right now and I don’t blame them. But if they do send them, I’ll do an addendum to this post. Also, my friend, Sarah, suggested I record random sounds. I did record sounds of the bubbling mud, but I can’t figure out how to edit it. If I do, I’ll add that, also.

My title is “3 days in Bolivia.” But there was a fourth day of heading back to Chile. The last half of day 3 was spent traveling from the town of Uyuni about half way back to the Bolivian / Chilean border. We spent that night at a hostel in one of the weirdest towns I’ve ever been in. It was in the middle of nowhere (but what isn’t here?). The weird thing about it was the singing and preaching. There was a church from which you could hear a preacher preaching and singing through a loudspeaker – I mean a loudspeaker – until a little after 9 p.m. Everyone was exhausted and wished he would just shut up. It was honestly kind of creepy and cult-ish.

The tour is called the Uyuni Salt Flats tour, but I have to say, there was so much more to see that the salt flat itself was almost an anti-climactic experience. It was really cool and fun and interesting, don’t get me wrong. But, before the trip started, I never expected to see so many beautiful landscapes and to see such great geologic activity. Also, as a solo traveler, I expected to remain a solo traveler and not to have so much fun with so many great people.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I doubted that I would be able to convey the beauty and peace and fun and enjoyment of this journey. And I was right. I haven’t.
I guess you’ll just have to go yourself.

10 thoughts on “3 days in Bolivia

  1. I’m wordless at the beauty and the variety and the reminder the activity beneath our urban asphalt and lawns etc.

    Salt walled hostel – amazing.

    Love the photos of you jumping. In the one in which I can see you clearly you look like you’re jumping above the clouds.

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  2. How stinkin’ cool. The texture of the yareta moss is a bit freaky, but I think it’s neat how it grows so smoothly and with such… form? Any who, love it. Love it all, and you, too!

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      1. Wow! Amazing pictures. I’ve lost track of your trip a bit, but glad I tuned in for this part. I always thought of South America as poverty, drugs and heat and was not on my bucket list. Now I have to go! My working life ends June 1, 2018, I recently decided (as opposed to driving my car off a bridge, which also occurred to me!) I love those lakes and the wide open spaces.

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      2. Yeah, South America is vibrant and alive and sleepy and peaceful all at the same time. I’m sure there are bad areas, just as in any place, but overall, I’ve only met very kind, friendly people. Travel here is easy (if not always cheap) and a better idea than the whole driving the car off a bridge thing (bad family trait!). Good to hear from you, Rick.

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