Day 10: Chituca to Uyuni
We woke up on our last day in Chituca to another glorious sunrise. We had a leisurely breakfast, packed up the land cruiser, and headed north toward the Solar de Uyuni —- aka. the Uyuni Salt Flats.
Along the way, we stopped at a place called Los Galaxias, a geologic attraction on the outskirts of the salt flats (think Wall Drug in the middle of the desert). The site features calcified coral (that look eerily like cactus) as well as a cave which houses calcified algae formations from a Paleolithic lake. The algae hangs from the ceiling and walls like spider webs. Los Galaxias is named both for the two people who discovered the caves, and because entering the caves seems like you’ve been transported to a different world.
There was also a second cave which had holes around the edges and near the top originally used as food silos. People would store their crops in this cool, dry cave to keep them fresh for longer. Eventually, the silos were used as tombs.
Finally, we walked up to a lookout point and saw the many fields of quinoa in the surrounding altiplano as Oscar explained how the plate tectonics of how the area formed.
After driving a little further, we made it onto the Uyuni Salt Flats. Over 4,000 square miles, it is the biggest in the world. The flats are also expanding each year as the salt continues to take in water and expand. We got out of the car to walk on the salt and take in the dramatic view.
The next stop was Isla Pescado in (nearly) the middle of the Uyuni Salt flats. The island is named Pescado because from above, it looks like a fish. One of the largest islands on the salt flats, Pescado is composed of volcanic rock and used to be almost entirely covered by the lake. Because of that, the bottom of the island has calcified coral along with metamorphic rocks. When we arrived, we opted for the longest (best) hike. We started at one end of the island and scrambled our way to the top without a trail.
From there, we walked along the top of the island and across all five peaks to the other end. After making sure to collect all the cool rocks on them way, we descended back down to salt level for lunch.
Our final stop was the Uyuni Lodge – our home for the next three nights. Unlike the lodges in Chituca and Ramiditas, the Uyuni lodge is named for the salt flat it overlooks, not the name of the town. The actual town of the lodge is Jirira, while the town of Uyuni is about an hour and a half away. We settled in to our room and relaxed. Just before dinner started, Oscar told us that Mars, Venus, and the moon were aligned. Of course, we had to go take a look.
PS. As we write this blog in the Uyuni lodge, every 15 minutes or so, we can hear the ice maker working perfectly. Ya hear that Whirlpool?