Uyuni and further upwards

I confess that it’s been a while since my last blog entry here. Actually, nearly two months have passed since I concluded my travels in South America and returned to England. I’ve so far documented the highlights of my seven weeks in Argentina from start to finish, but haven’t yet broached the latter six weeks spent in Bolivia and Peru. Rest assured I’m determined to finish my story, as a) I don’t like leaving projects half-way and b) I still have plenty of impressive photos and stories to share.

I ventured north from Salta to a small and dusty border town called La Quiaca, where I spent a single night before crossing on foot into Bolivia. From the other side of the frontier I would make my way up to Uyuni, a small city and gateway to the country’s fabled salt flats. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I would be going there by train: there is a narrow-gauge railway network that connects what I presume are the key mining towns of Bolivia together. Originally built to carry mineral exports to the Pacific coast via Chile, there are currently a handful of passenger trains each week.

A brief word about altitude sickness. Since Salta, I’d ascended from a modest 1,150 metres above sea level to 3,700m in Uyuni, and I would be ascending to a staggering 5,000m+ for a brief period during the salt flats expedition. The NHS website states:

Altitude sickness is a common condition that can occur when you climb to a high altitude too quickly. The decrease in atmospheric pressure makes breathing difficult because you aren’t able to take in as much oxygen. Most cases are mild, with symptoms that can include: headache; nausea; dizziness; exhaustion.

Proper acclimatisation to altitudes of about 2,500m (just over 8,200 feet) or more is the best way to prevent altitude sickness. It usually takes a few days for the body to get used to a change in altitude.

I was lucky enough not to experience any headaches, nausea or dizziness whatsoever. However, I did suffer from fairly extreme exhaustion for quite a few days as well as breathlessness when exerting myself physically.

After resting for a few days, I embarked on the Salar de Uyuni three-day expedition, in which you get taken to see the famous salt flats, and then up into the surrounding mountains. It is a breathtaking tour and is more or less the sole tourist draw to the city. Below are a selection of photos from the trip, which the iPad version of the WordPress website has arranged into a very nice mosaic-style grid.