On the second morning of our trip from Uyuni, we awoke with sore backs and cold toes after having spent the night in a salt hotel. The place was built entirely from the stuff: salt tables, salt floors, salt walls. Instead of sleeping, I spent the night licking my bed. But we loaded our tired bodies dutifully into the jeep and, within no time, had reached the desert of Chiguana. Shrubs, sand and the occasional llama were our only companions as we cut southwest through one of Bolivia’s most underdeveloped corners.
The Salar de Uyuni is the most bizarre landscape I’ve ever stepped foot on, wresting the title away from South Dakota’s Badlands, which I visited when I was nine. (That’s a long run, Badlands, nothing to hang your head about!) Absolutely level as far as the eye can see, the salt flat becomes one of the world’s largest mirrors when covered with water, and serves as an important orientation point from space. But we were visiting during winter, when the ground is cracked and dry.
On the second day of our hike, we woke at sunrise with aching shoulders, backs and legs, but possessed by a strange energy. The Crater of Maragua was within sight, and the promise of restorative thermal baths at hike’s end made us eager to get moving. But breakfast and packing up the campsite took longer than anticipated: a delay which would later haunt us…
This past weekend, Jürgen and I embarked on a three-day hike offered by Condor Trekkers: a relatively new, non-profit tour operator in Sucre. Starting at 5am on Saturday morning, our hike led us into the heart of the Andes, along the Inca Trail, into the Maragua Crater, past dinosaur footprints, through waterfalls, into the houses of Quechua-speaking campesinos, and over mountains, before depositing us into steaming hot thermal baths. Three days of spectacular scenery, unexpected adventure, sore shoulders, and starrier night skies than I’ve ever seen.