The 2nd day of our Bolivian adventure started with a decent breakfast including sausages, eggs, bread, and teas. With limited resource in Uyuni area, there was no fresh milk, there was only powdered milk for the tea and coffee.The powdered milk made me think of baby formulas haha.
After the quick breakfast at 7 am, we already packed and only bringing our necessary for the rest of the 2 days; the other luggage was kept in the tour office. Freddy was strapping up our luggage and tanks of gasoline.
Our drive out of Uyuni to get on what they called the “international highway” where you can ultimately reach either Chile or Argentina. The road condition was terrible to be an international highway, it was all gravel…..uneven gravel. If you have back problems, Bolivia is not for you! Due to the poor roads, it took like 3 hours to get from one place to another at less than 40 mph, plus, Freddy is a slow driver! Once we got out of the town, it was basically nothing but mountains, shrubs, and alpacas!!! Tina said the alpaca owners tied colored ribbons on the alpacas to mark them so you can tell who the alpaca belongs to. I love this one with the pink bow on her ears so cute!
Those are Vicuña and they are wild! It is a law in Bolivia that you can’t hunt a Vicuña or you’ll face prison time! I asked then how can they shave their fur to make Vicuña products? When I visited Peru and bought baby alpaca scarves, I heard that Vicuña scarf is the most expensive. She said there are organizations that obtained permission from the government to gather those Vicuñas to shave them. Interesting! Also, note that Bolivia has the most wild Vicuñas in South America.
In 1.5 hour, we arrived at a village called San Cristóbal where it is a mining village. A Japanese company bought a silver mine there! This small village was a pit stop and the main attraction is the church.
Convenient store in San Cristóbal:
A store selling pots:
The famous church in San Cristóbal; the design reminded me of the church in Greece!
We took some photos of the church before we continued on our journey.
There were dogs everywhere but they are harmless. A breakfast stall?
After a short stop at San Cristóbal, we continued our way for another 2 hours or so on the bumpy road to The Valley of Rocks. As we were approaching, the area is surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks – those are actually volcanos! The landscape is very photogenic in that area.
We made a stop in the Valley of Rocks where we had the free time to climb up rocks to take photos. At more than 12,000 feet in altitude, we can’t really climb fast haha. Jason overlooking the Valley of Rocks and the gravel road that we spent hours in:
Jason was crazy enough to climb his way up to the top of this huge rock, I do not dare so I stayed on the “flatter” rock to take photos of him and the volcano as the background.
This rock is perfect for two people like the wings of a bird!
We continued on and came across more alpacas and llamas.
On the way, there was a break-down car in front of us and Freddy stopped to help out. That car was traveling with another one as part of a shared tour packed with tourists from different countries. That car has a brake problem, luckily, they got the parts to replace it. From the tour, we noticed that Bolivians are very helpful to each other, whenever we saw a break-down car, other drivers will stop to ask and tried to help! We continued on our route to the colorful lagoons.
Freddy was chewing coco leaves to help with altitude sickness :O Jason grabbed some for the photo and he tried one out LOL basically tasteless.
We passed more rock formations that reminded me of the hammer in Bryce. Tina told us that those “moss” looking are actually trees. Those types of trees only grow a few millimeters per year, very slow paced, so to get a few inches took decades!
The first lagoon was Cañapa Lagoon, sorry if I have mixed up the order as all the names sounded similar to me xD This was the first lagoon that we saw the wild flamingos but only a few at a far distance 🙁 Tina told us to not touch the water because it’s highly toxic and will make the car smell like sulfur. It was interesting to know that flamingos can digest toxic food while other birds can’t so they were able to survive in this harsh environment.
We only had our 24-70 mm lens so that was the most we could zoom in to take photos of the flamingos.
Next, we headed to Laguna Hedionda and Lagoon Chiarcota where it has very nice reflections of the snow-capped volcano peaks. The landscape was colorful but where are the flamingos?
They are very far away 🙁
Closer look at those “yellow” thing, I guess highly poisonous that many birds died there! Bird skeletons:
We walked around to take photos while Freddy found a spot to set up for our lunch. It continued to be windy so sometimes it was cold. Our lunch:
Basics again: pasta, fried chicken, potatoes, and veggies. Nevertheless, very healthy! The folks were enjoying putting ketchup on their food; they said the ketchup there tasted so much better perhaps they have good tomatoes!
After lunch, I continued to chase down the flamingos haha!
I walked very slow and quiet tried to get as close to the flamingos as I can but they always flew away before I even get that close. At least I captured them flying in a group! Tina said no drone near the flamingos because it’ll disturb their natural habitats and they actually had to look very hard close to shore to find food so scaring them away will waste their effort.
We were actually already in the Bolivian desert next to the famous Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the driest place on earth but great for stargazing! The desert here rocky desert (like Arizona) unlike the sandy desert (like the Sahara that we visited in Morocco).
There was no road, no signs, whatsoever so it was really based on the driver’s knowledge to find those places. Thus, the need to have a local driver in Bolivia, no way we can drive and find those places ourselves even Google doesn’t have the direction to most of those lagoons. Next off was Lagoon Honda where there was a higher concentration of flamingos in the turquoise colored lagoon so they really stand out! Can you a huge pack of them there?
I was so lucky to saw one fly up the sky so was able to capture this image:
The lagoon is a longer shape so the flamingos are closer to shore than other lagoons.
I attempted to walk down again and taking baby steps to stop, wait, then take another step. This was my favorite lagoon!
Next stop was the “Rock Tree” in the National Reserve Eduardo Abaroa. A lot more touristy there and you can see it was packed with cars parked there!
The famous “Rock Tree”, a rock that was formed by petrified volcanic lava and shaped like a tree. There was no touching allowed to preserve the rock as it’s the most famous one in that area.
There are a lot of rock formations that tourists can climb up to. But the background black clouds were approaching our way…awww!
The Rock Tree from the back angle facing the snowcapped mountain peak:
Jason once again attempted to climb up one of those rocks at more than 12,000 feet altitude, he was losing his breath LOL!
Peter was stacking rocks and he found this heart-shaped rock, cute isn’t it? It was very windy at that place that we put on our winter coats, LOL, doesn’t I look weird wearing a dress and a winter jacket?
Better rock stacking skill brother!
The last stop of the day was the most famous of the lagoons – Laguna Colorada was known as the “Red Lagoon”. However, by the time we got there, it was stormy and it actually snowed!!! I was disappointed that we couldn’t get good photos at Laguna Colorada due to the weather 🙁 My coworker who went there last year got an amazing photo with the alpaca there!
Can you see the groups of flamingos in the lagoon?
We took some quick photos and went back to the car, it became to hail!!!
Due to the weather, we didn’t stay for long, and we drop to the ticket booth where we paid the admission fee of 150 Bolivianos ($22 USD) per person, expensive! We really don’t think the National Park deserved this high admission fee as there are no facility inside the park….no toilet, nothing! On our way to our hotel for the night, we passed this family of alpacas. The white one with the red bow was super cute!
We arrived at the place where we stayed the night inside the park, very close to Laguna Colorada. A big huge satellite dish at the entrance.
And an old abandoned truck:
The house has two wings – one for private ones and one for shared rooms. Since we paid extras for private rooms with private bathroom, we were on this side of the wing, actually, we were the only ones in this side of the house!
Since we had the whole wing to ourselves, we had 3 rooms. Jason and I stayed at this room with a queen bed and private bathroom.
This was my lowest limit that I can accept being semi-OCD!
Peter and Jeffrey in one twin room:
Similar bathroom layout:
Judy has her own twin room as well. Tina said electricity (from the generator) will be on from 7-9 pm so shower and charge up our electronics as we can. There was also paid wifi but Tina said don’t waste money because it is very slow! Our dining room in front of our rooms:
We arrived at around 4 pm and we had a tea time followed by dinner at around 6 pm. Our dinner consisted of bread and soup again.
And this traditional dish with sausage, grilled beef, and eggs, on top of a layer of fried potatoes. It was the best meal of our trip but the quantity was not enough to fill us all.
As a surprise, Freddy bought in a bottle of local wine as a gift from the company! The wine tasted pretty good I heard (since I don’t alcohol) and this locally grown wine is only available in Bolivia, they don’t export it due to limited quantities.
When power was on at 7 pm, we took turns to shower. I showered first and the water was luke warm only. I kept telling the boys to shower before out of power, they waited and waited until the last minute! Jason started to take shower and there was no hot water so he told Tina and Tina had the staff to fix it. Once fixed, Jason and Jeffrey were taking shower but the tank can only supply one room’s worth of hot water LOL so they rushed their shower. When Jason got out, he was losing his breath badly LOL can’t be quick up here; the altitude was more than 14,000 feet!!! After 9 pm, the whole place was in darkness except a few solar lamps at the common room. Interestingly, they had very comfortable sofas there so we chatted a bit with Tina. Out of curiosity, I asked how are those shared rooms on the other side of the wing. She said ohhh like 9 people crammed into one room and the whole hall has 2 shared bathroom. I was glad we paid extra for private space!
We all went to sleep and I set the alarm to wake up at 3 am to see the milky way as no light pollution in that area. At around midnight, I heard a knock on the door and that woke me up. Hum…then I heard another knock, I say who is it? It was Peter! He asked if we have water, oh yikes we forgot the big bottle of water in the car, I have some in my water bottle. It was for Judy who got sicker and needs to take medicine. Poor her! After I got woken up, I had a bad headache due to the high altitude yikes! At 3 am, my alarm went off and I woke up, dressed in layers, and walked out with Jason to stargaze. We saw the milky way, it was behind the house but it wasn’t as bright as the time we saw in Lake Tekapo in New Zealand. There was no interesting background so we went back to sleep. We survived the powerless and the highest altitude yet night!