June 15, 2010–Uyuni, Bolivia
Kaori and I woke up early in the morning, well before the sun came up. We were afraid to miss the sunrise, which we knew would be spectacular after seeing the sunset the night before. We weren’t prepared for the below zero temperatures, but we put on every available article of clothing and hoped for the best.
Our guide had told us the sun would be up at 7am, but we knew better. We didn’t, however, know better enough, and we were standing on the salt flat in the pitch-black night at 5:30am, nearly an hour before the sun actually came up. C-O-L-D.
As the sun reached over the mountains, rare, James flamingoes sprang to life and flew in a big circle around us before returning to their pools, as if on a morning jog to get the blood flowing after a long, cold night.
After returning to our lodge for a quick breakfast, we were off to climb Mt. Tunupa, or Pachamama (mother earth), as it is referred to by the local Aymara people who were so kind to us the night before.
Tunupa, in addition to flamingoes, is also home to mummies.
On our way up the volcano, loosely stacked rock walls defining land possessions stretch more than half way up the volcano.
The crater of Tunupa is beautifully colored. Green, red, yellow, black…the colors change as the sun passes through the sky.
After wearing out our knees on the way down the mountain, we hoped back into our Landcruiser (for some reason, EVERY jeep on the flats is a Landcruiser) and headed to Isla Incawasi, an island covered in coral fossils (as it was submerged in the ocean before the Andes were formed) and cacti as old as nearly 1000 years.
In the picture below, you can see the bubble-like appearances of the coral fossils that cling to the rock of the island. Here Kaori is trying a piece of the flat, to find, unexpectedly, that it is very, very salty. Uyuni. One of the best things we’ve experienced thus far.