The ” Lagunas Road” as some people call it, is (actually called “Reserva Eduardi Avaroa”) is on many peoples list, a series of salt lakes in the high desert of western Bolivia, connected by several roads or tracks, the altitude always 4000 m or higher. It is a harsh country, windy and it can get cold at night. There are no towns until you cross the border to Chile, this remoteness makes it a perfect home for flamingos and vicuña. The lakes are very picturesque, due to minerals and algae the reflect in different hues of color and are named accordingly. We drove the western route and spent the first night at Laguna Ganapa. The six of us parked the three vehicles near the edge of the lake and just could not get enough of the flamingos. Early in the morning their quiet chatter woke us up, we went outside with our cup of coffee and sat quietly, so not to interrupt them as they busily searched for food. But what’s that? Wroom wroom, here come the “Adventure Tours”, Landcruisers packed with tourists looking for an adventure. One after the other, originating either in Uyuni or San Pedro the Atacama they start out at 4 am (a lot of km to cover) unload their international clients for a quick photo shoot and then race on to the next site. So suddenly we had a gaggle of Chinese girls posing with the flamingos and “high fiveing” all around us. Luckily it did not seem to faze the birds much, but we broke camp and drove on. Later we talked to a guide as we lounged in a hot spring on the route. He told us that there are around 150 to 200 tour vehicles that drive the circuit Salar/Lagunas and they are very busy all year around. They drive much faster than us, it took us several days for the 450 km route. The road is rough and dusty, places for our campers to spend the night – out of the wind – were hard to come by. So we either huddled behind a rock outcropping or in a canyon.
It really is an amazing area, high desert, salt lakes and high mountains, geysers and hot springs. But what we loved most were the many flamingos – three different kinds – in the lagunas.
One day, in the middle of nowhere, and in an area with very rocky roads, we came upon a group of motor cyclists from Italy, they had three flat tires and two broken air compressors, a sick guy in the support vehicle and one less motorcycle than they started with because Bolivian customs had confiscated one at the border. We helped them out as well as we could and sent them on their way.
When we left Bolivia we crossed into Chile to go to San Pedro de Atacama for supplies, do laundry and take lots of showers to get all the dust off. Driving into San Pedro on a paved road was a real treat. San Pedro was bustling with tourists, young and old, lots of tour operators, nice restaurants, street dogs and ice cream parlors. Heaven for Günter, I now call him “Senor gelato”!
What looks like moss covering rocks, is actually a bush with densely packed branches. It is called yareta, high-altitude plants which can live up to 3,000 years.