The second day of our Salar de Uyuni tour began with an early start. We woke up for breakfast at 6am and began driving about thirty minutes later. The roads were bumpy and entirely made of dirt, but we passed a lot of amazing scenery. Our first stop of the day was the beautifully blue Laguna Hedionda, a lagoon full of flamingos. We walked around the lagoon, taking pictures and enjoying the view. It was cold outside, but the wind is what really gave us a hard time. I would estimate that they were blowing steadily at up to 100km/hr, which made walking around a challenge.
We left the laguna and drove to our next stop, Arbol de Piedra. Arbol de Piedra literally translates to “stone tree”, because it is a tree-shaped stone that formed from the sandy winds. It was so windy, that Daniel had to walk backwards toward the tree to avoid getting sand in his eyes and destroying the camera. I got out of the car for a quick peek at the tree, but promptly got back in and left Daniel to do the dirty work of taking the pictures. At this point, the elevation (4400 meters) was beginning to cause problems for me, and trying to push my way through the winds was making matters worse. Stepping foot outside the car left me gasping for air. Up until this point, neither one of us had any problems with altitude, and I´m fortunate that I only experienced breathlessness and general exhaustion. Many travelers get so sick from altitude that they end up hospitalized with pounding headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
The next stop of the day was Laguna Colorada. The lake is red because of the algae that live there, and it was full of flamingos. Again, it was ridiculously windy and cold, so we didn´t spend as much time outside as we otherwise would have. It was really beautiful though, seeing the red of the lake, the pink of the flamingos, and the bright blue of the sky.
We saw a few smaller lagunas on the way to our accomodation for the night, which was extremely basic. By basic, I mean that we shared a room with six other people, and shared a bathroom with several other rooms. There was no electricity, heat, or hot water, so once the sun went down it got extremely cold. Each small bed had four blankets, but it was still so cold that Daniel and I shared a bed and piled the extra blankets onto us. We ended up sleeping in our thick base layer clothing and two pairs of socks each underneath of eight blankets. When morning came, we were ready to get out of there!
We started day three early, and headed for the Solar de Mañana Geyser basin. The geysers sit at nearly 5,000 meters elevation, and again, it was freezing cold and windy. It was really beautiful, and almost eerie, seeing the steam rise with the sun´s rays streaming through. Daniel spent some time walking around, watching the geysers spit chunks of mud into the air.
Next, we drove to Termas de Polques hot springs. There were probably fifteen or so people swimming in the hot springs when we got there, but no one in our group could bring themselves to get into the springs because it was so cold and windy outside. It probably would have felt great while we were in the water, but the thought of having to get out and attempt to dry off in the elements was absolutely miserable. We spent some time exploring the area, then got back into the car to head to our final destination before crossing the border into Chile.
Laguna verde is a beautiful green lake, colored by the arsenic, lead, copper, and other heavy metals in the water. There is also a beautiful view of a volcano from the lookout point. We spent some time there taking in our final portion of the trip and taking some pictures with our group. Our driver took us to the immigration point, where we went through customs and were transferred into Chile. Despite the cold, wind, altitude, mediocre food, and basic accomodation... we had an absolutely amazing time. The Salar really is a surreal place and a site to see. From the breathtaking views of salt as far as you can see to giant cacti, colored lakes and flamingoes... it is absolutely amazing.