Up one level Argentina, Bolivia, Chile » Bolivia

From San Pedro in Chile, we went on a 4 day jeep tour of the Bolivian altiplano organized by Colque tours. The scenery is stunning and quite unique; we would see small herds of Vicuna roaming in an arid high altitude landscape with no humans in sight, and then suddenly arrive at a brightly coloured lake containing thousands of flamingos. Most of the first two days was spent above 14000 feet and we occasionally crossed passes 15000 feet high. The time we spent in Bolivia was the highlight of our trip. The tour was very good value (US $95) and included everything except drinking water. Ray, Serene, and I were fortunate to travel in our jeep with Britta and Daniel, two German students studying in Santiago for the semester, and Doro, our driver.
     Our itinerary was as follows:
     Day 1 - Cross the Bolivian border at Paso Hito Cajones, stopping at Laguna Blanca for breakfast. We changed from a bus to the jeep at Laguna Blanca. From there, we visited the emerald Laguna Verde, the hot springs at Termas de Polques, the Sol de Manana geysers, before stopping at a refugio in the bright red Laguna Colorada. It was quite a sight to see thousands of pink flamingos nesting in the bright red laguna.
     Day 2 - The first stop was to the Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree), then to Laguna Hedionda, through the Valle de Rocas, before stopping at Alota for lunch. After lunch, we went to Laguna Canapa, San Augustin, before stopping for the night at the Colque refugio in Chuvica. At Chuvica, we hiked 800 feet up to an overlook behind the refugio to see Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world (12000 square km).
     Day 3 - We drove through the salar to Isla Pescado (also called Incahuasi) a rock island with giant cacti. In the jeep, the salar felt as smooth as asphalt, which was a welcome change from the dirt roads in the previous days. After Incahuasi, we drove across the salar to Uyuni where we spent a few hours before leaving to spend the night in Alota. We headed back to San Pedro the next day.

crw_3110 Serene and I at the Hito Cajones border crossing between Chile and Bolivia. crw_3119-ray-3813 Taking photographs at the shore of Laguna Blanca. Taken by Ray Woo. crw_3119 Volcano with reflection on Laguna Blanca. crw_3122-4-pano Many volcanoes reflected on Laguna Blanca. crw_3134 Ray, me, Serene in front of our jeep. crw_3140 Circumhorizontal Arc near Laguna Verde. crw_3142 Massive display of rainbow colours over Laguna Verde due to light scattering in the atmosphere. crw_3144-6-pano Bright green Laguna Verde (4400 m / 14435 ft) with Volcan Licancabur (right, 5916 m / 19409 ft) and Volcan Juriques (5740 m / 18832 ft) in the background. crw_3147 Serene and I at Laguna Verde (4400 m / 14435 ft). crw_3160 The Salvador Dali Rocks (resembles a famous Dali painting) on the way to Termas de Polques (hot springs) from Laguna Verde. crw_3169 Ray near the Termas de Polques (hot springs). crw_3172 Sol de Manana geyser field (4724 m / 15000 ft). It wasn't very scenic in the afternoon. crw_3179 Llamas grazing near the red shores of Laguna Colorada (4278 m / 14035 ft). crw_3185 The red waters of Laguna Colorada mixing with the white borax shore. crw_3192 The red waters of Laguna Colorada mixing with the white borax shore. crw_3202-jpg Serene, Ray, and I just outside the basic refugio that we stayed in that night. The winds were quite strong just before sunset. crw_3204 A small portion of the large number of flamingos nesting in Laguna Colorada. crw_3209 A small portion of the large number of flamingos nesting in Laguna Colorada. crw_3211 A small portion of the large number of flamingos nesting in Laguna Colorada. crw_3221 Thistle bushes at sunset. crw_3239 The night shoreline of Laguna Colorada from just outside the refugio. crw_3253 Serene and I at the Arbol de Piedra (stone tree, 4412 m / 14475 ft) in the Siloli Desert. crw_3255 Stone formations near the Arbol de Piedra (4412 m / 14475 ft) in the Siloli Desert. crw_3257 Moss like desert plant in the Siloli Desert. crw_3267 More flamingos in Laguna Hedionda (4368 m / 14308 ft). crw_3270 Laguna Canapa (4307 m / 14130 ft) with Volcan Corina in the background. crw_3274 Daniel, Britta, Ray, and Serene getting ready to leave Laguna Canapa. crw_3280 Vicuna, endangered because its wool is as fine as that of the Chiru (about half the diameter of the best Merino wool). crw_3282 Condor shaped rock in Valle de Rocas. crw_3283 Main thoroughfare in Alota (we had lunch here and stayed here the next night). crw_3289 Our driver, Doro, in the main square of San Augustin. crw_3301 Moon rising over the Salar de Uyuni near sunset. crw_3311 Salar de Uyuni near sunset. crw_3312-ray-3970 Serene and I perched on the tallest boulder at the viewpoint over the Salar de Uyuni. Taken by Ray Woo. crw_3312 Cacti near the overlook behind the refugio in Chuvica. crw_3315-ray-3983 Serene about to head down from the viewpoint while I'm taking a photo of Ray. Taken by Ray Woo. crw_3316-26-pano View of Salar de Uyuni from the 800 foot high overlook behind the Chuvica refugio. crw_3334 Cactus silhouette at sunrise over Salar de Uyuni. crw_3358 Our first stop in the middle of Salar de Uyuni. From left, me, Daniel, Serene, Britta, Doro, Ray. crw_3362 Ray staring at the mirage effect on the distant hills. crw_3375 Giant flowering cactus on Incahuasi island (also known as Isla del Pescado or Fish Island). crw_3378 On Incahuasi, giant cacti framing distant volcano. crw_3392 Overlapping hills on Salar de Uyuni from the top of Incahuasi. crw_3396 Jeep travelling in the vast Salar. crw_3405-ray-4053 Tallest cactus on the island, 12.3 m / 40.35 ft. Taken by Ray Woo. crw_3410 Serene's got me in the palm of her hand. crw_3416 More optical illusions with Serene, Ray, and me. crw_3427 One of the defunct hotels on the Salar de Uyuni. It's built entirely of salt bricks and was closed because the lack of sanitation was contaminating the Salar. crw_3432 Serene sitting on a conical pile of salt (for drying). crw_3438 Two workers creating salt mounds. crw_3450 Sculpture in Uyuni.