I am not one to normally take tours, but in potentially dangerous, tough to navigate, or ecologically fragile terrain, it´s the way to go. The other issue is that some locations have many hidden treasures that cannot be found otherwise. As you will see, the hundreds of miles of gravel roads and many jewels described below fit the definition of ¨tour guide needed¨all the way.
So from the southern town of Tupiza, I took off in our 4 wheel drive Toyota/Lexus jeep´with 3 wonderful French friends (Nicolas, Francois, and Lucia–Lucia and Francois work with French immigrants), and our great driver/guide and amazing cook couple, Lucio and Maria. I´m down today from an attack of Tupac Amaru´s revenge, so can take the day to organize and sort photos, and post. Allow me to show you some amazing sites, if you can take the time!
Talk about divine intervention, of all the hundreds of guides in this part of Bolivia, how is it that I land with Lucio, a Credence Clearwater Revival freak (like me), owning an amazing collection on his MP3. Maria commented that he´s been gone on CCR since he was a young man…she likes them too, but prefers NOT to listen to them all day long! So brother Lucio and I shared song after song, and I translated the meanings of the tunes for him.
SW Bolivia is a mix of high altitude desert, small traditional pueblos, mines, towering peaks, volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, moonscapes, incredible rock formations, green, blue, and black lakes (due to various minerals), endless salt flats, llama, rare vicunas, and quinoa. Mostly, I´ll let the pics tell the story. My trusty iPhone couldn´t bring in the beauty of the landscape, but gives a flavor anyway.
Unfortunately, humans are endangering these creatures, through climate change–it´s much colder here earlier than normal and drought is causing the lake to have elevated concentrations of minerals. Babies aren´t surviving well, and eggs are abandoned. Sooo sad to experience.
Our last night was in Puerto Chuvica, where we stayed in a hostel made entirely of huge blocks of salt from the Solar salt flat. Met folks from many different countries along the circuit. Including many from Israel, as those finishing IDF service usually take time off to travel. Was in thermal pool with 7 of them. Very few travellers from the US, and fewer over the age of 40 (mostly in 20s).
My French friends commented to me that most travellers ask the same questions and do the same thing, but they liked that I talk about and do different things. Here´s a perhaps unprecedented site of someone dancing with a Quechua woman to the blasting tunes of CCR.
Our final stop was the train cemetary in Uyuni, with these cars abandoned over a century ago.
If you´d like to see more and better pics, check these out:
When we arrived in Uyuni, the 4 musketeers (me and my French buddies) headed directly north to the infamous mining town of Potosi.