Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia. 21 al 22 de Febrero, 2011

Esa mañana salimos apurados para llegar a la frontera de Chile a las 8 am, justo cuando abre para evitar a todos los buses llenos de gente que llegan alrededor de esa hora. Cuando llegamos ya había una cola de gente y 2 buses pero por suerte pudimos hacer los trámites antes que ellos. La ruta hasta Bolivia era en subida, pero corta. Llegamos 1 hora más tarde al puesto de frontera, que era una casita chiquita en frente de un volcán gigante. E se bajó con todos los papeles, pero el oficial parece que estaba recién levantándose. Después de esperar un rato en el frío congelante de los casi 5000 m.s.n.m., lo atendieron y le hicieron los papeles de migración, excepto las visas de los chicos que había que hacerlas en Uyuni. Los papeles del auto tampoco los hizo, y supuestamente había que hacerlos más adelante, pero nunca vimos ningún cartel que nos indicara dónde, asique nos enteramos en Uyuni que estaba a 80 km de la frontera camino a una mina. Ahora parece que hay que hacer los trámites del auto en Potosí que hay aduana. Al rato de pasar la frontera llegamos al puesto de guardaparques. Nos indicaron que debíamos seguir la huella para visitar las Lagunas Blanca, Verde y Colorada y que todo estaba indicado. Nunca vimos carteles indicadores, y huellas había no sólo una sino miles. Era como haga su propia huella. Vimos la Laguna Blanca, pero no llegamos a la Verde. Los paisajes muy lindos, muchos flamencos. Por suerte el GPS tenía ese pedacito de ruta psique nos llevó hasta la Laguna Colorada, que efectivamente es colorada y poblada por miles de flamencos. Ahí nos encontramos con otros guías que iban en 4×4 llevando turistas asique aprovechamos a seguirlos y conocimos distintos miradores de la laguna. En la Laguna Colorada estaban los refugios para pasar la noche. El refugio era en realidad la casa de unos viejitos, que casi no hablaban, con varias habitaciones. Nos dieron una que no estaba tan mal, igualmente decidimos usar nuestras bolsas de dormir para poner en las camas. Lo que sí era algo muy desagradable eran los baños, imposibles de usar, sin agua, un asco. La señora nos preparó una sopa de verduras y unos fideos con salsa para cenar que estaban ricos. Nos fuimos a dormir apenas anocheció. Al día siguiente nos esperaba otro largo día.
Nos levantamos temprano y salimos para Uyuni, el pueblito al lado del Salar. Arrancamos siguiendo la huella del camino principal. Al llegar a un conjunto de piedras en medio del desierto, donde estaba el árbol de piedra, nos encontramos con autos de otros guías. Entonces decidimos seguir a uno de ellos. Pero éste dejó la huella principal y se metió por el medio de las dunas….. al principio era fácil seguirlo, pero al rato aparecimos en un cañón súper angosto, por donde corría un pequeño río, lleno de piedras… E se divertía pero yo sufría un poco, y T cerraba los ojos. Así llegamos a unas lagunas que debíamos pasar para agarrar la “ruta principal” para llegar a Uyuni. Seguimos siguiendo al guía, porque la huella principal ya no era posible encontrar, y el GPS no marcaba ningún mapa para esa zona. Después de un tramo, perdimos al guía. Cuando no sabíamos si cruzar un charco gigante de agua o no, apareció otro guía, entonces empezamos a seguirlo. Este también nos llevó por otro cañón lleno de agua y piedras, pero finalmente llegamos a la ruta de tierra principal. Ahí nos relajamos bastante, y al poquito tiempo de entrar nos encontramos con un auto enterrado y otros dos tratando de ayudar. Paramos, y tratamos de sacarlo. Al ratito, paró uno de los autos de un guía para ayudar también pero se quedó en el barro en el intento. Ahora eran dos autos para sacar. Después de un rato, y distintas estrategias salieron los dos. Ya habían pasado 4 horas de viaje y todavía nos quedaban otras 4 horas. Asique seguimos sin parar, los chicos por suerte se durmieron un rato y finalmente a eso de las 4 pm llegamos a Uyuni. Nos fuimos directo al Hotel que teníamos anotado en nuestro plan (Hotel Toñito, creo que el único más o menos decente) y de ahí nos fuimos a hacer los trámites de las visas de los chicos, a buscar un tour para ir al Salar al día siguiente y a comer algo. También pudimos darnos un baño caliente que nos vino muy bien y hablar con los abus!

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
February 21 and 22, 2011

We arrived at Chilean customs at opening time (8 am) to avoid the buses we were told would arrive later, but there were already people getting off from two buses headed to Argentina. We rushed and made it just before the long lines. By the time we left customs and immigration the line had over 100 people. To cross into Bolivia we had to undo the last steep hill we had descended when coming from Argentina into Chile. It is a perfectly straight road that climbs about 2000 m in just a few miles. By the time we were at the Bolivian immigration ‘office’ (the decrepit blue house in the picture) we were at 4800 m and the temperature had dropped from 75F a few minutes earlier in Atacama to 35F. E tried pushing the wooden door that was stuck but someone shouted from inside to wait. We had arrived at about 9 but later learned that Bolivia is one hour behind Chile. Luckily other people started showing up and the officer let us in. The officer stamped our passports but also told us we would have to stop three more times. Once to do customs for the vehicle, another to pay the entrance fee to the park we were going to be driving through, and a third time to pay the entrance fee for the US citizens in the family (US$135 each). After E came out of the office there was no one to open the gate, so we let ourselves into Bolivia!
We were driving at a leisurely pace, taking in the gorgeous landscape and at the same time a bit stressed about the long drive ahead. We soon forgot about customs (it didn’t help that we were in no man’s land and that there was no sign to be seen). After a while we came upon a closed gate next to the park ranger’s office. We paid the park entrance fees and were indicated how to get to the shelters on the shore of Laguna Colorada, the place we intended to stay that night. It proved to be more complicated than we were told. At times there was not such thing as a main road (a track really) and we often encountered three or more tracks that went different ways. We missed Laguna Verde and the thermal baths we were supposed to find along the way. We were far far away from everything, a bit nerve-wracking at times. We did find the fumaroles and went off-road the off-road to take a closer look. It was drizzling and snowing at times and the ground was muddy but we managed to loop the fumaroles and get back ‘on track’. We continued North towards Laguna Colorada with the aid of inadequate maps and a GPS unit without the roads we were traveling in. We stopped a couple of Land Cruisers taking tourists to make sure we were heading the right way. It is difficult to describe the beauty of this place. Combinations of sand, rocks and mountains blended with shades of red, green and brown to generate a diversity of landscapes hard to imagine.
After about three hours of driving in bolivian territory we arrived at Laguna Colorada (4200 m) and found the shelter, which was better than we expected. It had beds, a light bulb powered by a solar panel and warm food. I added the extra 5 gallons of fuel and had a full tank again. It would turn out that we would have made it just fine without the extra fuel. During the afternoon we followed a few tours that would also be staying at the shelter around the Laguna Colorada. The red (=colorada) water was evident even though it was cloudy and we had a chance to see thousands of flamingos up close. The color is apparently provided by red algae. We went to bed just after the sun did.
We left at about eight the next morning in what would end up being an eight-hour drive filled with adventure. We were told again to follow the main track all the way to Uyuni and did so for a while. We had been keeping an eye on a tour Land Cruiser that was behind us and felt reassured we were on the right path until it drifted to smaller tracks. Since there is no other place to go than Uyuni we decided to follow the truck. When the driver stopped to let the tourists take pictures he told us he was indeed going to Uyuni and that it was ok for us to follow him. It turns out he was taking the ‘scenic’ route through sand dunes and driving inside canyons and along streams with rocky beds. When we asked again if this was the way to Uyuni the answer this time was “There are many ways to get to Uyuni.” After a while we lost track of this vehicle but luckily found another one to follow. When we hit the ‘main’ road that we would follow all the way to Uyuni we stopped to help a truck that had slipped into the mud and had been stuck for four hours. Two cars were already there and one more arrived soon after. A second truck got stuck when trying to help and after a few attempts everyone was on the road again. These past two days were quite an experience.

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6 responses to “Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

  1. Pingback: Llegamos!!! – That’s all folks… | M.E.L.T. America

  2. Hay varias fotos que son del nivel de “National Geography”. Que lugar tan mas divino y aspectos dignos del pais de las maravillas. No pense que este lugar fuera tan increible. Me alegra el hecho que ustedes estes gozando esta aventura, y al mismo tiempo, compartiendo con nosotros tan deleite. Gracias!

  3. M.E.L.T. las fotos siguen siendo hermosas y hacen de que continúe el viaje aunque físicamente haya llegado solo hasta SALTA, los sigo acompañando y cuiden muy bien de mis nietos….. ya han pasado por zonas difíciles, pero creo que aún el viaje les depara otros tan o más que los ya recorridos, un beso muy grande para los cuatro del viejo FOX.

  4. I had no idea how spectacular and beautiful this trip would be. Thanks so much for all the pictures and stories. I can’t wait for the next chapter.

  5. I can not believe that all of you were in Boston one and half month ago.
    I am enjoying your trip in this website.
    Enjoy a trip and drive safely.

    Takashi

  6. You made it!! Mamita, qué aventura!!!!!!!!!!!

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