After reading “The desert hiker” by Sarah Marquis, it inspired me to write an article about my 3 months trip in South America.
Throwback to 2014, for my last year of studies I’ve been living in Uruguay (Montevideo) for one year. During 3 months, I had the chance to explore several countries in South America. It was my first backpack trip, from Peru to Brazil. I will present the part I liked the most: the Altiplano in south Bolivia. It was freaking amazing, unique, and it’s definitely worth it!
Whenever I’m out in the desert I feel so tiny compared to the vast open spaces, giant mountains and billions of stars. I love the big spaces, its complete silence, the solitude, and the disconnection that procures the desert. Believe me, it is almost impossible to stay connected to email, social media, and work because you’re too busy adventuring and enjoying the beauty of nature. It’s my favourite way to disconnect so far.
Multicolour lakes, geysers, volcanoes, wildlife, la Pachamama (Earth Mother) is definitely showing herself in all her beauty!
Narrow paths along deep ravines, mud, sand and snow
We were a group of 8 friends travelling together in the south of Bolivia. Big group isn’t really the easiest way to travel, but the tour by car was totally adapted for that. Well… it’s not an eco friendly way to travel, but the quickest and the most secure (or not!). Sometimes, you really have to trust your pilot… Bolivian transports can be tricky.
Valley of the rocks – the volcanic bombs desert
Our car trying to find the road hidden by the snow. The car looks ridiculously tiny compared to the big mountains.
Quick stop at 4850 meters: altitude requires lot of effort for your body. Even walking a few steps puts pressure on your system such as a racing heart of a constant feeling of tiredness.
Colourful lakes and alien landscapes
It was a world apart from anything I’ve ever seen before. With volcanos, red, green and white lagunas, strange rock formations, it seems like being in another planet.
The laguna verde – close to the Chilean border, at the foot of the volcano Licancabur
Laguna Roja (the red lagoon)- the horrible weather didn’t let me stay outside the car to take pictures.
The Sol de mañana geysers is an uncontrolled area and we could walk anywhere we wanted. Our guide told us “Don’t fall in or you will die!”. The sound of the volcanic activity going out by the holes was bedazing.
Even if the middle of the desert, I’ve been amazed by the nature and wildlife variety. One of the symbol of the Altiplano (“high plain”) are the llamas, and you can see them everywhere. There are domesticated and used for transport, food, and wool.
Living in the windswept high alpine regions of Peru and Bolivia, the vicuña were almost hunted to extinction during colonial rule. Recently they have reached a much healthier population thanks to local conservation efforts. It is not easy to take pictures of them. These are wild shy creatures that are easily perturbed by humans and the unknown threat they present thanks to their remarkable hearing.
I get to watch this peaceful scenery of flamingos feasting in the shallows. Searching the salty waters for food, it is incredible how these elegant and beautiful birds manage to survive (and thrive) in these harsh desert salt pans.
The best for the end: Uyuni
The train cemetery
Uyuni has long been known as an important transportation hub in South America and it connects several major cities. During the 1940’s the mining industry collapsed, partly because of mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned outside Uyuni, forming this mass train cemetery. The salt winds that blow over Uyuni, which hosts the world’s largest salt plain, have corroded all of the metal. I felt like being in a western movie decor.
The Uyuni Salar: totally surnatural
There are few places on earth that make you wonder if you’ve somehow been abducted by aliens and transported to a far off planet. The Salar de Uyuni is one of these otherworldly places. Located at an elevation of 3,650 meters above the sea level, the famous Salar de Uyuni is the word’s largest salt flat.
During the rainy season, a thin sheet of water covers the flats, reflecting a perfect representation of the sky above so that it is impossible to tell where sky ends and the land begins. Absolutely breathtaking!
Even if you know nothing of Bolivia, I am sure you have seen some remarkable reflection pictures from the salt flats, didn’t you?
A stop in the middle offers the opportunity, to take all those silly tourist pictures playing with the perspective and the lack thereof.
I hope you liked this article. I’ve got a lot of content about my trips in South America, and I will try to post more articles like on this subject. “Poco a poco” as we say in spanish.
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