From Tupiza to Uyuni Days 2 & 3: La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

Jumping for joy - at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

Jumping for joy – at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

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!

Another view of the Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada

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.

Early morning jeep ride through the valley

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.

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The city of ghosts

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.

Abandoned homes

Abandoned homes

We also got a chance to have another vizcacha (Bolivian mountain-bunny) sighting! These ones were perched atop the old abandoned buildings:

Wild mountain rabbit sighting!

Mystical mountain rabbit sighting

As we made our way back down the mountain, the land turned to lush green fields and rivers.

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Pit stop along the way

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…

Hungry llamas breaking free

Hungry llamas breaking free

When llamas are angry their ears go back

When llamas are angry their ears go back

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:

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Driving down non-existant roads

Driving down wide open landscapes on non-existant roads

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Pink flamingos on white lakes

Soaking in the hot springs, with a lake in the backdrop

Soaking in the hot springs, with a lake in the backdrop

Driving in the middle of nowhere

Driving in the middle of nowhere

Geyser steam

Geyser steam

Blown away by hot geysers and freezing cold mountain air/snow

Blown away by hot geysers and freezing cold mountain air/snow

Laguna Colorada - showing off it's famous red hues

Laguna Colorada – showing off it’s famous red hues

Another view of La Laguna Colorada

Another view of La Laguna Colorada

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.

Our hostel in the middle of La Reserva

Our hostel in the middle of La Reserva

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!

Arbol de Piedra

Arbol de Piedra

Yoga on top of the rocks

Yoga on top of the rocks

Bouldering time!

Bouldering time!

Snow covered mountains on high altiplano deserts

Snow covered mountains on high altiplano deserts

I was a little excited this whole trip...

I was a little excited this whole trip…

Pit stop and snow ball fight! I got hit in the face, of course

Pit stop/cross-jeep snow ball fight! I got hit in the face, of course

...Still pretty excited

…Still pretty excited

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.

White lake #1

White (and teal)  lake #1

White lake #2

White lake #2

White (and lavender and tan and teal) lake #3

White (and lavender and tan and teal) lake #3

Flamingo caucus on a white lake

Flamingo caucus

Valley of the rocks

Valley of the rocks

Nap time like a lizard

Nap time

Lunch time spot

Lunch time spot

La Laguna Negra: dark from volcanic ash

La Laguna Negra: dark from volcanic ash

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:

A swing for the tourists

A swing for the tourists

The train cemetery - where old trains go to rest...

The train cemetery – where old trains go to rest…

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:

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Block-long puddles in the roads

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.

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