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    South by South America Tour – Bolivia Part 2

    Wednesday, September 18, 2019
    Markuu Villa Mar to Villa Martin, Bolivia

    Some partially obscured lettering on a shop in Markuu Villa Mar, Bolivia.
    Some partially obscured lettering on a shop in Markuu Villa Mar, Bolivia.

    A llama sighting in Markuu Villa Mar, Bolivia.
    A llama sighting in Markuu Villa Mar, Bolivia.

    Day two of our three-day Salar de Uyuni trip with the tour operator Cruz Andina started out with a quick breakfast at the hostel in the village of Markuu Villa Mar, followed by a little llama viewing in a field across the road. Then I went on a little walk by myself north through the village, where I shot a few photos of some interesting buildings. On the way, I saw a group of mostly older Bolivian women standing in a circle and talking, dressed in their colorful traditional clothes. I wanted to take a photo really bad, but was afraid I might bother them if I asked, so I just kept on walking.

    A tiny church in Markuu Villa Mar, Bolivia.
    A tiny church in Markuu Villa Mar, Bolivia.

    Welcome to the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    Welcome to the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Up at the north end of town, I bought a few snacks in a little shop, then waited outside on the dirt road for Magic Mike to show up in the Toyota Land Cruiser. Right there was a toll gate with a young lady in a tiny booth who would collect money from every driver who passed through. When a vehicle pulled up, she would walk out to the driver’s side window, collect the money, then lift up the bar by hand and let them through. It was pretty funny.

    A shot from the top of a rock formation at the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    A shot from the top of a rock formation at the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Scott strikes a pose on the camel rock at the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    Scott strikes a pose on the camel rock at the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Our first stop of the day was at Valle de Rocas, or Valley of the Rocks. On offer here were a bunch of boulders and other rock formations with steep cliffs perfect for free climbing. I ascended to the top of one of the highest formations, forgetting about the fact that it’s easier to climb up, looking for the next handles and steps instead of looking down. Descending, however, is another story, as the steep incline of the cliff becomes apparent, with intimidating near vertical drops dozens of feet high looming close by in some places.

    Sam and Ting Ting at the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    Sam and Ting Ting at the Valle de Rocas in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Lunchtime somewhere in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    Lunchtime somewhere in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    I asked Sam and Scott, who were on the ground, which path down looked easiest. Although I was intimidated by the steep cliff, I was never in distress, although it seemed like everyone thought I was. Making the descent difficult was the fact that my movements were really restricted by a second layer of clothing consisting of the merino wool shirt and long johns I was wearing under my already tight pants. I could have made it down by myself if I was there alone, but thanks to a few pointers from Sam, I descended more quickly.

    A walk through marshes toward the Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    A walk through marshes toward the Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    The beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    The beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Next, our whole group did a little climbing at some other rock formations nearby, one of which looked just like the profile of a camel. I was stoked when everyone in the group climbed a pretty challenging little face inside what looked like a small city of cliffs. After that, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant out in the middle of nowhere, where several tour groups pulled up in dust-coated four-wheel drive vehicles. As our stomachs digested, we proceeded over to the Laguna Catal, a seriously beautiful place with an idyllic lagoon set amidst some picturesque cliffs with llamas grazing in a pasture off in the distance. A little bit of rock climbing was also on offer here, although it was much easier and not so high as the first spot.

    A cliff at the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    A cliff at the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    The group waves on a cliff at the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    The group waves on a cliff at the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    After a few photo ops, we descended down to the lagoon, around a bend and walked over soft marshes into another picturesque valley populated with herds of llamas who were, as always, busy munching away. Back in the car, we made a brief stop at Canon del Inca, which looked for all the world like a miniature Grand Canyon. After a few snaps at that gorgeous place, we headed north. After a short while, we stopped at a roadside pullout, where a couple of us got out and snapped a quick couple of photos of Sora Canyon.

    A couple of llamas graze near the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    A couple of llamas graze near the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Soft ground with a stream near the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    Soft ground with a stream near the beautiful Laguna Catal in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    Then we headed north for a couple of hours until we reached the tiny village of Julaca near the Salar de Uyuni. The most prominent place in town is a station on an old railroad line that extends from Uyuni west to the border with Chile. In Julaca, our group huddled inside a small cafe / shop and drank beers for an hour while chatting with the young lady who worked there, whose smile was cute as a button.

    Searching for an echo at the Canon del Inca in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    Searching for an echo at the Canon del Inca in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    A quick stop at Sora Canyon in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.
    A quick stop at Sora Canyon in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia.

    After another short drive, we ended up at a brand spanking new salt hostel owned by the tour operator Cruz Andina in the village of Villa Martin. Having just opened two weeks before, they were still getting the bugs worked out when we arrived. There was no receptionist, and one guy who worked there had to fire up a generator just to turn on the lights. At least we got hot showers and a really yummy dinner within the salty walls before sauntering off to sleep in a comfy bed with thick blankets to ward off the cold, gusty winds outside. It’s a good thing we turned in early, because we had to be up and at ’em by 5:00 am the next morning for sunrise on the salt flats.

    A young lady who works in a small cafe / shop in Julaca, Bolivia.
    A young lady who works in a small cafe / shop in Julaca, Bolivia.

    A hallway at the brand new salt hotel owned by the tour operator Cruz Andina near the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.
    A hallway at the brand new salt hotel owned by the tour operator Cruz Andina near the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

    Words and photos ©2019 Arcane Candy.

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