LUCY UNSWORTH | Inspiring Journeys -- The Bolivian Antiplano

Inspiring Journeys -- The Bolivian Antiplano

March 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Inspiring voyage - April 2013

The Bolivian Andes - one of earth's amazing places-April 2013

One night while I was watching a show called “The Americas. Something caught my attention, a short minute about the Antiplano. The what?  Bolivian Andes. Checklist Bolivia.

Google earth view of the largest salt flats in the world

In retrospect, I was a bit of a  newbie at planning for these "off the grid" locations. The transition from "studio portrait" photographer to wildlife and landscape photographer is a learning process. It's like going back to school! I love geography but I did not do my homework. I should have gone a couple of months earlier to catch the rain, to capture the water on the salt flats. This was only my first trip and it is a place I will go back to. 

After some planning and making sure I had a dependable guide company, flights from La Paz and Uyuni aand secured flights to Uyuni.  I was on an American Airlines flight out of Miami south the highest airport in the world,  La Nuestra Senora La Paz airport at over 13,300 ft and a very crowded city with over 2,000,000 people and by the way, there is only one traffic light. Crossing the street in downtown La Paz is a challenge but it seems to work.

Panoramic taken from just outside the airport at La Paz - 13,300 ft. I stitched vertical images.

Altitude is a funny thing...Age, youth,physical fitness do not seem to determine how you might respond to these kinds of altitudes. I was hoping that I wouldn't get sick and have to return to sea level, meaning I would have to go home.I did make every effort to put the odds in my favor,  I took altitude medication and got some advice on taking nighttime Tylenol, a good anti inflammatory.  Landing in La Paz was like landing on the moon.  I hit the altitude wall. I went from zero sea level from Florida to over 13,300 ft. My brain slowed all the way down and I had trouble remembering a simple three number lock. So much so, Bolivian customs had to cut my lock, I couldn't t remember three simple numbers.

When we reached the hotel, they had us drinking coca tea, a staple for altitude stability. I never stopped drinking tea the entire week!

The Hotel Rosario - downtown La Paz

The next morning on Amazonas Airways for the flight south to Uyuni at an altitude somewhere about 12,500ft. Uyuni is home the the largest salt flat desert in the world high in the Bolivian Andes. On the little island made of salt blocks visiting tourists leave their mark as they walk around the dried flats.

The salt flats high in the Andes - Visitors place the flags as if they had reached the Everest summit.

Not too far away is the yes... the hotel on the salt flats, made of salt. Chairs, tables, beds, walls and all the decor is made from salt. The floors are carpeted in salt. Different and off the grid.

The Salt Hotel at over 12,000 feet.

Locally made salt. Adding iodine and bagging dried salt

We left the Salar De Uyuni south, stopping at a volcanic island in the middle of the Salar called the Island of Incahuasi, which is inhabited during the  dry season to offer tourists a place to rest and eat. Its' a place where all the tourist stop and grab that "Kodak moment" And, by the way, it is the only place for miles in the vast salt flats to get something to eat.

From then on, we went south and as the sights of tourists began to fade, we climbed in altitude through the Siloli Desert and the active Tomasamil Volcano as we climbed from 10,240 ft meters to  13,444 ft and we just kept climbing! We drove along the Chilean border to San Pedro de Quemez.

I traveled south with my guide visiting the most amazing places, El Lago Verde, El Lago Rojo sprinkled with Bolivian flamingo, vast areas of amazing sights. I would get out of the car and stand there in constant amazement, hypnotized as I viewed the beauty of the desert thru my lens of my camera. lens.

The railroad that from the north to the south with Argentina and Bolivia on the right side of the rails.

The view of the little town of San Pedro de Quemez

Resident flamingos at around 14,000 ft.

A visit into the cave miles into the great salt flats.

Riding the salt flats as we go south

Local resident in Uyuni

El Lago Rojo with feeding Flamingos -Flamingos' become smaller to adjust to high altitudes and grow larger when they migrate to Argentina

El Lago Verde and again speckeled with migrating flamingos

Then southern most stop in the Andes... a challenge and an expedition to earth's wild places!

My next inspiring journey .... South Dakota to photograph iconic wild mustangs and buffalo.



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