Tour to Bolivian desert over the plateau

August 14, 2003 

Crossing the Bolivian plateau from Laguna Colorata to the shores of Uyuni Salt Flats, through some of the most dramatic landscape in the world, at altitudes getting up to 5000 meters above sea level. This is a paradise for geologists looking for strangely shaped rocks and for photographers interested in spectacular scenery.

Drive on the central altiplano, Bolivia
Today will be a long day of desert crossing by Jeep, from Laguna Colorata, to the "shores" of Uyuni Salt Flats, stopping in the most interesting places as usual.
Rock Tree, Bolivia Rock Tree, Bolivia
Picture of rock tree. The first stop is at Rock Tree, a group of rocks in the middle of the desert, charaterized by bizzarre shapes and sculptured by the elements.
Nicely shaped rocks and gentle hills dominate this part of the altiplano. Some frozen snow is also present here and there.
Giant lichens at 5000mt
Giant lichens at 5000mt
Pictures of beautiful lichens of soft aspect, but hard like the rocks on which they grow, populate the hills all around.
Giant lichens at 5000mt
Lichens are usually very slow to grow, especially in a harsh environment like this. I may not be surprised if the lichen near me, has hundreds or even thousands of years.In the below picture, a macro taken from a distance of 3 centimetres.
Panoramic photo of a mountain lake, still partly frozen from the last night.
Flamingos, Bolivia Flamingos, Bolivia
We arrive to another lake, full of flamingos.They often spend the night with their legs frozen in the water and they will be free again only when the sun will melt the ice on the following morning.
Flamingos, Bolivia
A panoramic photo of the lake, with hundreds of flamingos.
Bolivia's central Altiplano
Bolivia's central Altiplano

We continue to cross the bolivian desert. This frozen lake is perhaps a good place to take a rest, so we have the lunch here.
Bolivia's central Altiplano
After a few hour, we arrive on a sandy hill, from where an active volcano, with smoke on the top, can be seen.
Salt flats in Bolivia Salt flats in Bolivia
Salt flats in Bolivia
The altitude is slowing decreasing, here we are below 4000m, but the desert is getting even more nasty. Now the soil is replaced by a thick layer of salt, not clean and extended like the Salar de Uyuni that we will cross tomorrow, but still quite impressive.
Bolivia's central altiplano
Finally, just before sunset, we arrive to a small village where we will spend the night. Far away, the immense salt flat of Uyuni, blends into the horizon.
Cactus in Bolivia Cactus in Bolivia
Cactus in Bolivia

I use the last minutes of light to take pictures of the giant cacti populating the hills all around. They are probably Trichocereus, except on the top-right picture, which may be a Tephrocactus or an Opuntia.

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