The Southwest Circuit to the Salar de Uyuni: Day Two
Day Two of the jeep tour started off a little early after not having dinner until 11:30pm the night before. Breakfast was a little shabby too- just bread and literally one scrambled egg for the four of us. What? But luckily the rain had stopped and we were soon on our way with a patched tire. We climbed and climbed through gorgeous snow-capped peaks for a few hours, until we reached the Laguna Verde, at the jaw-dropping altitude of 5000 meters (17,000 feet). That’s the highest altitude either of us has ever been at (not counting being in airplanes of course) and I’m willing to bet a lot of our readers have never been higher! At this point we were in the far southwest corner of Bolivia, mere miles from either Chile or Argentina. Our country-counting instincts kicked in and we really wished we could just drive across a border really fast to say we’d been there. but there was too much to see in Bolivia!
Laguna Verde was dotted with a few flamingos, which I always thought of as solely warm-climate birds. But in reality every lake of this corner of Bolivia has a large flamingo population. The lake was gorgeous and I could have stayed to take pictures for several hours, but we hopped in the car to head to another lake to eat lunch. This lake changed colors as the sky did and at one point was actually even greener than the Laguna Verde. After lunch we got a great treat…a dip in the natural hot springs right on the lake shore. This pool was the best hot spring I have ever been to as it had continuously flowing water, was a perfect 98 degree temperature, and was mostly natural with just a simple stone wall around the edge. We soaked for a long time, staring out at the snow-caps and distant lighting over the lake. It was a surreal experience.
After a long soak, we were off again, finally feeling warm again! Good thing, because a mere half hour later, it was snowing hard! They really aren’t joking when they say that seasons can change in an instant at this altitude! Of course once we saw how much snow was accumulating fast we had to get out and have a snowball fight. I threatened Zach with severe consequences if he threw snow down my neck and thankfully he dared not try it. Jasper, our Dutch friend, had a very good arm though, and got a couple good hits in. I called it “Christmas in February” because it was the most holiday-like weather we’ve had in South America. Better late than never!
A couple more hours of driving took us through the blizzard, which literally went from all to nothing in one turn over a hill. All of a sudden there was ZERO precipitation, just the red earth and no vegetation, a very Mars-like landscape. At about 4pm we finished our drive for the day and after dropping off our bags at the hostel, took a quick trip to the Laguna Colorado. This lake had a ton of flamingos, as it contains a type of algae that they eat, which is also what gives it it’s red color. A walk around the lake was a great way to stretch our legs after being in the car all day.
When we returned to the hostel, we were greeted with hot drinks and crackers, just what we needed after such a cold day! The snow eventually caught up with us and we watched it fall all evening as we relaxed and chatted before dinner. It was nice to arrive earlier and have time to chill! We were repeatedly warned about all the hostels on the tour being “extremely basic” but that’s probably for people whose standards are higher than ours, because we found them perfectly fine. They all had minimal electricity, shared bathrooms with cold-water showers (not that any of us dared!), and comfy beds with plenty of blankets. There was no heating, so we always sat around with our coats and gloves on, but we also had much colder weather than most times of the year. I have also never slept with so many thick blankets in my life, but believe me, I was glad to have the five or six that I did!