The best part of traveling, for me, is experiencing something entirely new. There are places on this planet that, through the relentless force of nature, are completely unique to themselves. To venture out into the rugged wilderness hundreds of miles away from the nearest city is like visiting another world. And if an extraterrestrial being were to take a trip to Eduardo Avaroa National Park and Salar de Uyuni here on Earth, surely even it would think this place is straight-up bonkers.
Thanks to the wonderful people at La Torre Tours, based out of Tupiza, Bolivia, Stephanie and I were fortunate enough to see a part of this planet that otherwise would only exist to us in adventure magazines. Big shout out to our fearless driver Alejandro, and our amazing cook Gaby. They worked really hard to make sure we got the most out of our 4-day ride through Bolivia’s outback. If you find yourself looking into such a tour, I can assure you there’s a reason 4000 reviews on Tripadvisor gave them 5 stars.
Day 1: Breathtaking views. Seriously – we weren’t getting enough oxygen
The tour starts with the longest day of driving. We headed southwest out of Tupiza and climbed up up up to higher elevation, then down down down through switchbacks and over dried river beds. We stayed entertained by the rugged landscape as it changed dramatically with each new valley.
At about 4200 meters (13,800 ft) above sea level, altitude sickness started to kick in. To put that height in perspective, ever been to Denver? Stack another Denver on top of that. Nice work – only a kilometer higher to go! We had hoped our gradual climb through the altiplano over the previous week would have prepared us, but no such luck.
You may have heard that a common remedy for altitude sickness is the humble coca leaf. With all the effort the CIA spends irradicating the plant, you’d think it’d be kind of hush-hush and taken on the side. I wasn’t expecting to see old ladies in every storefront sitting next to giant bags of the stuff and just about everybody with a big ole wad of it in their cheeks. But sure enough, the Bolivianos response to international pressure is, “Coca sí, cocaina no.” So, when in Rome… For the record, it tastes like green tea and was so bitter it didn’t seem worth the hassle.
Day 2: Vast desolate beauty
The views of the previous day turned out to be just a warm up for what was to come next. Amid the vast empty spaces and harsh backdrop, southwest Bolivia contains pockets of beauty that are out of this world. These photos will give you a glimpse, but really it takes hours for each scene to unfold its full majesty.
Night two was crazy cold. Like, all our clothes on with a hat in a sleeping bag under the covers cold. That sunset was amazing but I thought I was going to freeze my hands off.
Day 3: Flamingos and mirages as far as the eye can see
The hits just kept on coming for Day 3. If you haven’t gotten enough of flamingos and bright, briney lagoons the first two days, well you’re in for a treat.
My eyes might be playing tricks on me…
The third night we stayed in a hotel made of salt. Forgive me for not taking a shot of it, but picture cinder blocks made out of huge chunks of salt, and you get the idea. I finally got out to take some night sky photos. Not bad, considering I’m traveling light and had to use a rock for a tripod!
Day 4: Salt salt everywhere, nor a margarita to drink
We woke up early to catch the sunrise over the salt flat. That was neat, but even cooler was the ride. With the perfectly flat and unblemished salt flat as our road, Alejandro turned off the lights and drove in near complete darkness for 20 minutes. Only the faint glow of stars and the hint of sun before it peaked over the horizon to show the way.
We threw the word “surreal” around a lot during this tour. You just have to see it in person to really appreciate how strange this world is. Imagine the planet millions of years ago as a very different place. The ocean floor in this region was pushed up two and a half miles by tectonic forces and all its water drained out. Leftover is a perfectly flat layer of salt 3-6 feet deep in every direction for miles and miles.
Want to see more pictures from our trip around the world? Click around the links below for my previous posts. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter. I only post once or twice a month, so it’s all about quality over quantity. Hope you enjoyed!