At 4,000 meters above sea level, we vulnerable humans are at disadvantage, and so as most living creatures thriving in the lowlands. This makes the road trip across the Bolivian peaks feel like an adventure in another realm.
I can’t remember how many times I played with the thought that this must be how it’s like in the distant past on Mars, or somewhere at present in another habitable planet inside another galaxy far far away.
Before coming to South America, I only knew Bolivia for Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest mirror, the incredibly massive salt dessert on a table top mountain. But this fantastic nation has so much more to offer and I was more than honored to have a glimpse of a tiny bit of its glory.
Our Bolivian Uyuni Adventure started in a bus ride crossing the Peru-Bolivian border, dropping off in Copacabana (not Brazil) and taking a public bus to La Paz. From the passenger’s seat I got a glimpse of the raw beauty of this country that I only knew because of the salt flats. On one side was the view of lake Titicaca, and on the other side was a scenic westworld-ish landscape with a twist– a backdrop of alps covered in snow.
I imagined filming an action movie that’s so much fitting to this scenery. Little did I know that i was only witnessing the Tip of the Tip of the iceberg. The rest of Bolivia we saw aren’t just for action films, they’re ideal settings for drama, romance, fantasy and scifi, my kind of scifi!
We didn’t book anything in Bolivia because there’s this tiny chance that we can get the 3-day instead of one-day tour in Uyuni, provided we will arrive in La Paz on time. I didn’t want to risk booking the tour upfront and yet I wanted to take a shot, hoping the travel gods will pay special attention to us that day…
… and they did! Hallelujah! We arrived at the office of Perla de Bolivia in La Paz at 6pm, 30 minutes before their closing time. We booked a tour that will leave at 10pm and we scored the best travel deal I can imagine at the time– A Dinner with Free Shower courtesy of Loki Hostel, with special efforts of the lovely lady in the tour office.
DAY 1: All Around the Salt Flats
After another more or less 10 hours of night bus, we finally arrived in the village of Uyuni where we’ve met a diverse group of travelers and the guides who will accompany us for the next three days. Aside from me and Rhea, there were two German couples, two Australian ladies, an Indian guy, two drivers and a local guide. A total of 12 people split into two vans.
We started at the train cemetery where deserted rusty trains were being mobbed by tourists who were trying to take the perfect instagram photos. I guess we were one of them. I wasn’t very fond of the crowd on nature trips and luckily, this was the only spot packed with tourists in our itinerary. We also didn’t take long before we hopped to a new spot.
That Time When We Brought a Philippine Flag – Because We Can!
When I was planning our itinerary, I bumped into a photo of international flags somewhere in the salt desert without the Philippine flag, so we brought one ourselves. Yes, Philippines represent! That’s how nationalistic we are, but not competitive enough to work extra on tying it on a lot higher position 😉
Lunch in the Midst of White Salt Void and the Quest for the Best Perspective Shot
So if any of you is as curious as I was regarding the explanation why this salt desert was formed, well wonder no more because I’m gonna spill out my first educated guess that turned out to be the correct answer. Despite the altitude of more than 3,000 meters above sea-level, this vast area of salt deposit used to be the bottom of an ancient ocean. Just like the nature’s in your face reminder that the only permanent thing in this world is change, and what was down must go up and vice versa
We had a healthy lunch and we drove farther to a place where can barely see any sign of life @360 just so we can play around with perspective shots. Whoever came up with this clever idea deserves a monument in the middle of the desert. With this massive flat uniformed surface it’s easy to play around with perspective. Our guide was well-prepared for this. He brought few toys for the shoot and even know which camera works best (iphone).
There was a dinosaur, elephant, group jumpshots, and my neighbor Totoro shot using my coin purse from Japan!
Ancient Coral Graveyard and Giant Cactuses
Just when we thought it can’t get any more surreal, we were brought to Isla Incahuasi (Fish Island) where we hiked on a mountain of dead corals now dominated by giant cactuses. When we reached the peak, the salt desert, the parked cars and their road traces, the afternoon sunshine, the clear sky, the distant volcano, and the silhouette of cactuses; it’s a view from top that I’ve never seen before and probably never will, ever again.
Sunset and Sleeping in a Salt Hotel
Before wrapping up the day, we parked somewhere where we can enjoy the view of the sunset while having a glass of wine and some chips. I was a little bit worried of drinking alcohol because I’ve read that it can mess up your body if you’re not used to the altitude, but one glass didn’t hurt. Now I regret not trying Pisco Sour, a cocktail drink recommended by a local in Peru.