Into the Wild
Trip Start Sep 15, 2010
29Trip End Jul 23, 2011
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One of the main reasons I decided to change course and head inland was to see the dream-like landscape of the Uyni Salt Flats. I signed up for a tour upon arrival in northern Chile and the following day was placed into one of three small groups. For the next two days we caravanned past volcanoes, lagoons and geysers in a beat-up 4x4 with the Andean flute music blasting.
The accomodations for the first night were in a rustic lodge 4,700 meters above sea level. To say it was cold would be an understatement. I slept with five blankets, three shirts, two pants and a jacket and still couldn't stay warm
On the third day we arrived at our final destination. 11,000 square kilometers wide and between 2 to 20 meters deep, these salt flats are the largest in the world. Due to the recent rain, we drove through a foot of water for the first hour and a half. It literally looked like we were driving on glass and into thin air.
Once the trip concluded, I joined four girls from our group who were also headed to La Paz. Initially I dreaded the idea of visiting another chaotic capital city and only planned to stay a few days. However La Paz turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was a lot more colorful and clean than expected and I loved seeing the women traditionally dressed in long pleated skirts and brown brimmed bowler hats.
After a week of taking it slow, I took a tiny plane further north to explore the Amazon River Basin. Bolivia is one of the few places with large amounts of untouched rainforest and is the first country to have passed a national law that grants nature equal rights to humans. Of the two tour options, one through the jungle to see plants and the other through the wetlands to see wildlife, I easily settled on the latter
On the first day it took us six hours to reach our camp. First a three hour truck ride through several small rural towns, and then another three hours in a motorized dugout canoe. Despite the long journey there were facinating animals to observe at every turn. During the following two days we trekked through mud searching for anacondas, fished for piranhas and saw alligators eyes at night.
However as a beach girl at heart, the highlight of the tour was swimming with pink dolphins. Growing up by the Atlantic Ocean, I used to always run into the water at the first sight of dolphins and try to get as close as possible. As an adult here was my chance to do it again! We must have seen a dozen of them as they plafully splashed around us. No one actually touched one, but it was cool to feel the thrill of being five feet away.