Posts Tagged With: LAKE

Salar de Uyuni, a perfect valediction for Bolivia.

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30/01-03/02/2014

Formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes, near the crest of the Andes at an elevation of 3656 meters, the world largest salt flat is by far the harshest and most inhospitable terrain we have set foot on so far.  The endless salt crust reflects the sunlight with such intense whiteness that it seems to be snow, at night it looks like the moon let its light absorb by the salt which glows bright under the with stars filled firmament.  Once saturated because of the seasonal rains (December till April), a thin layer of water at the surface turns the Salar into an infinite mirror that reflects the blue sky, the white cotton clouds and the surrounding highlands so perfectly that horizons fades away and that the mountains give the impression of being islands floating avatar-wise in the sky.

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By sunset the Salar de Uyuni’ (or Salar de Tunupa) plays with colours and masters optical illusions which words can’t describe.

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Both the 10.582 square kilometers salt dessert and the ‘Reserva de fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa’ form a natural frontier between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. To visit this wonders we travel to Uyuni village, founded in 1889 at the junction of the railways that enter Bolivia from Chile and Argentina.  Uyuni has nothing more to offer than a 19th century clock tower, several rusty tributes to the golden age of steam and if it wasn’t for the salt it probably would have become a ghost town.  Bolivia offers the cheapest possibilities to contract a tour that guides tourists through this rough area.  It takes us a while but after gathering some information we find the right deal: a 3 day tour with lodgements, food, guide and transport included.   It starts with the railway graveyard just outside the village and from there to the village of Colchani just some kilometers away from the salt dessert.

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We are amazed by the stunning views of this over-white otherworld landscape that the Salar awardus and the three day trip just had started.  After a short sleep on beds made of salt in a house made of salt we feel a bit dehydrated but are ready for the second day, where we leave the salt flats behind us and enter in a world of singular, eccentric landscapes. We enter a land of freezing salt lakes whose icy waters tinged bright red, pink, grey, orange or emerald green by microorganisms or mineral deposits. At the ‘Desierto de Siloli’, rocks sculptured by the very elements of nature designing the wildest and the most impossible formations are appearing any direction we look.

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There is a wide range of rare Andean wildlife in and around all these lakes. Large herds of vicuñas grazing on the slight vegetation of the high, semi desert grassland, as well as viscachas and even the elusive Andean fox are sometimes spotted.  The salty lakes, apart from the 80 species of birds, support large colonies of all three South American species of flamingo (James, Andean and Chilean) giving a supreme touch to a travellers experience.  In the morning we have a sunrise with geysers at ‘Sol de Mañana’ and a bath in a natural hot springs at the shore of Laguna Challviri… it’s all just perfect.  Refreshing the mind and recharging our inner batteries we are ready for a last day of wondering and gaping with disbelieve at this corner of Bolivia.  All in this three day trip is just so spectacular, enormous, and breath-taking that while driving back to Uyuni we are aware of the difficulty to describe such a place…

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Our recommendations:

–       As there is not much to visit in Uyuni village the stay is just functional, one afternoon to check out prices a cheap and comfortable night rest and the next day we start the tour, so we did not expect any luxe or extras.  Hostal ‘El Chavito’, close to the train station we got for 70 Bolivianos for the two of us.

–       We paid 630 Bolivianos each, at the agency: ‘Expediciones Libez‘ for a three day tour with food, transport, guide and hotels/hostels included.  If you are with a group of 5 then try to get the car for just the five of you, some tour operators load up the car with 7 persons which is very uncomfortable for long days of driving off road. Plus a 150 Bolivianos a person as entrance at ‘Reserva de fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa’ which is never included at any operator in the tour price.  Ask explicit for a sunset at the Salar of Uyuni as not every tour includes this spectacle.

–       There is the possibility to cross the border with Chile at San Pedro de Atacama, instead of driving back till Uyuni.  You miss a last half day of excursion but win a day of traveling to Chile.  In order to take this option it is important to get all the necessary papers and stamp passports at the police office of Uyuni.

–        In Uyuni railway station the cheap train tickets, on a reclining seat is a treasure to look for so try to purchase your tickets in advance we recommend to get them before the three day trip.

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Categories: Bolivia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Copacabana, on the Bolivian Side of Titicaca Lake

15-16/01/2014

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Facendo un salto sul versante boliviano del lago navigabile più “alto” del mondo ci si ritrova a Copacabana, un ridente villaggio di pescatori situato nella provincia di Manco Kapac che vivono della pesca giornaliera e del turismo portando a spasso i visitatori per le isole che la circondano. Dopo aver contrattato un trasporto economico con una delle mille imbarcazioni ormeggiate al porto, raggiungiamo la famosa Isla del Sol, una splendida isola abitata da aymara e quechua (le etnie predominante in Bolivia) nata sulle acque del lago Titicaca, soleggiata e verde, con esotiche calette bagnate da acque trasparenti e bruciate dal caldo tropicale.

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L’isola è divisa in tre comunità, Yamani al sud, Ch’alli nel centro e Chillipampa nel nord, ognuna dei quali riscuote il suo pedaggio dai passanti che decidono di attraversare l’isola a piedi. 

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La bussola punta al Nord, tocchiamo terra e ci dirigiamo verso le rovine inca dell’isola, in cui risaltano quelle del tempio dedicato a Inti, il Dio sole, e i resto dell’antico sentiero inca. Scattiamo delle suggestive foto allo spettacolare paesaggio incorniciato dai muri grezzi e dai sacri altari del sito archeologico.

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Da lì intraprendiamo un trekking di 11 chilometri seguendo il cammino inca che percorre tutta l’isola fino ad arrivare alla punta Sud da dove, dopo aver preso un po’ di sole aspettando la barca, facciamo ritorno a Copacabana.

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Una rilassante passeggiata per la spiaggia durante il tramonto con l’odore di pesce fresco appena arrostito e le onde a scandire il tempo dimenticato. Siamo pronti per una nuova destinazione.

Suggerimenti:

  • I prezzi in questa zona della Bolivia non sono bassissimi rispetto al resto del Paese però se siete in cerca semplicemente di un tetto sotto cui ripararvi e un letto su cui riposare dopo una lunga giornata sotto il sole cocente noi consigliamo l’ Hostal Las Balzas (20-30 Bolivianos a persona, ossia 2-3 euro), a pochi passi dalla fermata dell’ autobus. Vi sono ovviamente altri ostelli/hotel con più comfort, prezzi più alti e connessione WiFi.
  • I prezzi del trasporto per l’ Isla del Sol si aggirano sui 30-40 BS a persona (3-4 euro), andata/ritorno in giornata. Il pedaggio da versare alle comunità indigene se si vuole camminare lungo il cammino inca sono di 60 BS (6 euro) in totale a persona. Vi è anche la possibilità di includere una visita alla Isla de la Luna o aggiungervi una delle isole fluttuanti presenti anche su questo lato del lago.
  • Per provare la cucina locale e non sfondare i portafogli si può considerare l’opzione del mercato locale con tante leccornie a basso costo e alto tasso di colesterolo. 🙂 Vi sono poi una serie di locali e ristorantini con buona musica e un ambiente accogliente per chi cercasse qualcosa di più raffinato o una connessione WiFi.
Categories: Bolivia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Uros, a tribe drifting on Titicaca Lake

12-14/01/2014

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When the Arawak where pushed out of the Bolivian jungle and got later at the Uru-Uru Lake a second time overruled by other pre-hispanic civilizations, they not only after centuries changed name from Arawac to Uro but were forced to forget almost everything they knew to adapt to their new home.  Tired from both migrating and adapting to new territories they took the existence of living at the lake just a step further.  With the knowledge of living at the Uru-Uru Lake in Bolivia, the tribe made a final decision and start a life on the Titicaca Lake at some 300km north from the city of Oruro.  The now called Uros found a hard life but secure home on ‘homemade’ floating islands made out of dried totora reeds and drift in order to defend themselves far away from the mainland.

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The lacustrine lifestyle, drifting with the wind at 3812MASL, brings them new contacts and trades with lots of civilisations, such as the Aymara that lived at the shores of Titicaca.  Today as we speak, the Uros have dropped their anchor at the shore of Puno, a rather small village on Peruan soil.  The islands, all 49 of them, floating 5km away from Puno lakeshore are still the home of lots of Uro families.  By every marriage one island is build, a two year long task to make it and from that moment on a lifetime job of repairing and rebuilding every three months.  A high and sweaty price to pay in order to maintain tradition and cultural heritage.

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Uros survive on fishing skills from their ‘Caballitos de Totora’ reed boats, totora reed roots for alimentation, diverse handcrafts and of course… these days on tourism.  A visitor can get a boat ride to the community and observe the daily life of a civilization out of time.  He has the opportunity to buy some of the finest handcraft, visit some of the islands and experience the sensation of standing on a floating island which moves by every step taken.  It’s a proud tribe, drifting towards the future remaining and celebrating their cultural legancy.  Puno itself offers lots of folkloric celebrations and festivals, typical Peruan fruit and vegetables markets, booksellers at the corner of each street and a food court at the central meat market to enjoy some local dishes in between the blood dripping cadavers.   Yummie! 😉

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Our recommendations:

–          A boat trip to the floating islands of Uro just costs 10Nuevos Soles and the entrance fee is 5NS.  It is one of those places in the world that offers an unique opportunity to see something singular.  A must do when crossing the border at that side of Titicaca Lake.

–          Q’oñi Wasi is a nice familiar hostal right in the center of Puno close to every market and just 10 min from the harbour. Here you will find any kind of information about tours to the floating islands and other touristic attractions close to Puno thanks to a very prepared staff.

Prices with Wifi and kitchen included:

  • 15/20 NS dorms
  • 30 NS single
  • 50 NS doble
Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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