The next day we awoke to a cold and pitch black morning around 4 am. Our goal was to leave the town by 4:30 am so we could head out through the mountains on our journey to one of the most amazing National Parks I’ve ever seen: La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Granted, I haven’t traveled that much…but still!
DAY 2: LOS PAISAJES INCREIBLES DE LA RESERVA NACIONAL DE FAUNA ANDINA
At 5 am, the morning was cold and dark but extremely beautiful – it reminded me why it’s so worth it to wake up early in the morning sometimes. As dawn began to break, we started to see rolling green hills, winding creeks – and wild vicunas, grazing in the distance.
As we began our journey up the mountains, we began to see the ground turn from green hillsides to snow capped mountains. We were definitely gaining altitude.
On the top of a mountain sits “La Ciudad de Fantasmas”: a lost city – 4690 meters high in altitude – that was abandoned in the year 1750. As the legend goes, the town was once taken over by colonizing Spainards, who forced the local Bolivian population to work in their gold and silver mines on the mountain. Over time however, the local people actually became very rich – and quite hedonistic. Due to their indulgent and “godless” lifestyles, one day a woman (sent by God) came to one of their rowdy parties..and basically got everyone sick. And then everyone died, which is why the village is allegedly still abandoned today.
We also got a chance to have another vizcacha (Bolivian mountain-bunny) sighting! These ones were perched atop the old abandoned buildings:
As we made our way back down the mountain, the land turned to lush green fields and rivers.
Eventually, we made it to the entrance of the Reserva Nacional and paid for our entrance tickets (Note to travelers: NEVER lose your ticket stubs or receipts, you will often need them later to show proof of payment or to enter/exit an area!). As we drove through, we made a stop and watched a herd of angsty llamas break out of their pen so they could go out and graze in the fields. The owner found out a little late and had to run after them to stop them…
The rest of the day was filled with gorgeous open landscapes – impossible looking rock formations, iridescent white and lavender (borox mineral) lakes, flocks and flocks of flamingos, cold mountain top geysers, and some awesome hot springs! There’s not much to say about it – just know that it was off the hook beautiful and stunning, and that it’s a lot of good, clean fun:
Our final stop on Day 2 was the Laguna Colorada – it was absolutely stunning, even though its signature red color had faded a bit during the summer season. Some of us meditated by the water’s edge while others hike around the perimeter until the wind and cold became unbearable. At night all the jeeps went back to stay at the only hotel/hostel in the park, and settled in for dinner. Since there’s no power lines in the area, the hotel only runs on generator power. That meant no showers, no power outlets – and sometimes no electricity for the lights. While we still had delicious hot meals made by Juan Carlos’ mama, it was still pretty cold at night.
DAY 3: ANOTHER DAY RUNNING WILD IN THE HIGH DESERT ALTIPLANO
The next day we awoke to another day at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina. Incredible rock formations, snow covered mountains and desert landscapes, and colorful/opaque lakes greeted us during the trip. The changes in climate and landscape are amazing!
As we continued to drive, we passed by the four “white lakes” – mineral-filled lakes that reflected a diverse array of colors – teal, blue, purple, brown, green…and of course, white. Hundreds of flamingos dotted the lakes all around, in the distance.
Later in the day, we took a pit stop a recent pop-up town (created by a local mining company to house its workers and their families) where some of the members of the other jeeps began to go to war with the local kids spraying us with water pistols and water balloons. Our jeep however continued on, past quinoa farms and llama herds to the “Cementario de Locomotivos”, just outside of the city of Uyuni:
And with that, we ended day 3. Our new hostel on the edge of the town of Uyuni was kinda shabby – one power outlet per floor, and you had to pay 10 bolivianos if you wanted to use the somewhat warm shower that they provided. The town itself was in a bit of disarray too (due to the flooding caused by heavy rains). Sadly enough, the city seems to not have the resources to develop better channels to handle the rainy season, which meant that blocks of the Uyuni’s dirt roads became enormous puddles. Made crossing the street quite an adventure at the very least:
After trying to find a high functioning internet lab in town (most of them are so slow it takes like 20 minutes to load gmail), we ate dinner, settled in, and got ready for the culmination of our trip: an early morning trip out to the world’s biggest salt flats: the Salar de Uyuni.