4 Wheelin’ El Parque – Day 3 (by Nathan)
The next morning was cold…real cold, but it was expected when sleeping at 4500m (14,800ft). We bundled into the jeep at sunrise and we were off to a whole new set of destinations and jaw-dropping sights. The name of the park that we have been exploring for the last few days is called Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve. The park is one of the most visited sights in Bolivia and it contains some of the most beautiful, color-rich and grand natural earth formations on the planet. The laguna colorada was one of the most impressive thus far. This small lake contains all sorts of minerals, mostly borax, but it is the red algae that really flourishes here. The water was still and the air cold allowing for a hazy reflection of triangular mountains beyond.
Further along the drastic landscape was a bleak desert surrounded by colorful volcanic mountains. We stopped at a rock forest with hundreds of angular and twisted formations that are remnants from the last eruption many thousands of years ago. The most famous is the arbol de piedra, but we had great fun just climbing around all the enormous rocks.
We romped through the mountains climbing an occasional mountain and blazing our way through the highland deserts. The next stop was a series of five lagoons that the flamingos use a breeding sancuary. I never realized that these birds enjoyed high altitudes.
There were times that the terrain became pretty rough and it was nice to have a guide that had been driving these roads and trails for 15 years.
The landscape throughout the day was mesmerizing. Everywhere we looked was an beautiful snow-capped volcano, a colorful mountain, bright blue skies, multiple lagoons and thousands of llamas.
Our jeep caravan included an amazing Bolivian woman that cooked for us. While we played around at the valle de rocas she whipped together an delicious meal of chicken milanesa, noodles and salad. Of course it was served with the only drink that South Americans seem to know: coca cola.
Evening approached quickly, but we did have time to explore the cemetario de trenes just outside of Uyuni. There used to be reliable and functional train traffic in Bolivia. In the 1940′ hundreds of train cars and engines were abandoned due to rapidly depleting mining resources. Now it is just a heap of rusted metal, surrounded by fields of endless trash, nevertheless it made for a good photo opportunity with friends.
That night we prepped ourselves for what was going to be the saltiest day of our lives.