Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tupiza and the salt flats

The scenery in Tupiza is very similar to the scenery in Utah - big red rocks and a dry, dusty climate. While we were there, a South American overland truck parked in front of our hotel. It had sleeping compartments, a kitchen and seats all in one vehicle. The salt flat was the world's largest, the second being the Bonneville Salt Flat in Utah. On our first day we drove through some amazing red mountains; we even saw some Vicunas. In the evening we got to the salt flats;  we were on the edge where they harvest salt for cooking. Then we drove out into the salt flats. They were extremely hard. Our guide said they were 100 meters (300 feet) thick in some places. We drove for about an hour and a half in a straight line to our hotel, which was made of salt. It is amazing how much the salt looks like stucco. I am glad we had heaters because it gets down to -18/20 degrees celcius at night. The next day we got up and watched the sunrise on the salt flats. Then we drove out to the island Inca Huasi, where we saw some 900 year old, 9 meter (27 foot) tall cactuses. Then we drove out into the middle to get our funny photos.  After that we continued on across the salt flats. Then we drove to a cemetery the locals made in the 1400's. There were rocks carved into egg shapes and hollowed out. Because of the dry climate, the bodies were well preserved. Some even had skin. It was amazing: they were still in the cemetery, no security, no glass, just like they were left. Then we drove to a hotel made of lava rocks. In the morning we went to the 'tree of stone'. After that we went to a geyser field at just over 5000 meters (15000 feet) elevation. At that high elevation even getting in the car made me pant. Then we drove down about half an hour to a hot spring. We swam in the hot spring and it was very cold when we got out. At the hot spring, we met a biker. He had been biking 3 months. Then we went to the Salvador Dali desert, this because it looks like what he would paint. On the last night we stayed in a hostal without heat. We spent about 12 hours in our bed because it was the only warm place. At the Bolivia-Chile border crossing there was a huge fox. Our guide said he was Bolivian, and while we were there he never went to Chile.

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