Uyuni Salt flats, Mummies and Volcano Tunupa

ihana.com - big trip - diary - bolivia - april 2003

Tastes like salt, sort of

German bikers

B sticks his arm in a hole

Friday 25 April

Leaving the Isla de Pescados behind we landied towards the largest of the bumps on the horizon, reported to be Volcano Tunupa. On the way we spotted a dot in the distance so altered course to intercept. As we neared, the dot split into two and became clearly defined as cyclists, from Germany. We spent a while chatting with the very amenable Clemens and Katharina, sharing the normal travelly tales and arranging to meet later at the foot of the volcano, 30 or so kms distant. We poured two of the four diesel jerry cans into the tank and made quick time to the tiny village of Coquesa. A little track leads up the imposing volcano, we paid a dollar US (still no Bolivian cash) to the guy who came scampering out of the village to unlock the gate and he gave us the padlock key to the mummy cave, 10 minutes low box climb upwards.

Mummies

Died of severe headaches

Offerings of coca leaves and fags...

...no wonder they're dead

The rocky track ends at a gate and its 10 minutes walk to the mummy cave. Inside, the various remains seem to be undisturbed despite free access to tourists, but its impossible to tell if things have been removed of course. The mummies dont look too healthy though, especially the one with his skull sawn in half.

Outside we spotted some country folk working their land so went for a chat. They grow potatoes and corn on the dry earth, although they said it hadn't rained for 2 months the crops seem to be doing okay. The volcano is criss-crossed with well built stone walls marking each families territory, and groups of llamas roam about with the traditional ear decoration, also denoting ownership. The locals, amazed by the digi camera, told us it was an hours walk to the viewpoint of the crater above so we struck upwards.

Family working...

...in their field

Llamas

Volcano Tunupa

Good views

Coquesa

The hot hike was well worth it for the impressive sight of the coloured volcanic crater and of course the salt flats stretching out to the horizon behind. On the way down to the village we spotted the german bikers arriving below. It was too late for them to make the journey to the mirador so they searched out a friendly locals hut to sleep in whislt we took up their excellent suggestion to camp out on the salt.

The scene was truly awesome in the failing light of the evening. The scudded cloud cover containing a myriad of changing shapes and hues, parked on the hard salt crust which resembles an ice covered lake with the volcano in the distance, all enveloped by a rich solitary silence - until we cranked up the 1000 watt stero with some pumping dance tunes of course. Great stuff.

Wet shore of the salt lake

Looks like a nice spot to camp

The awesome 360 degree view needed to be recorded so we made a spin-round video of the scene before cooking up some tea using the MSR dragonfly camp cooker. Our trusty Coleman double burner is on the blink, partly altitude related, partly due to the fuel delivery system being minged up internally from burning poor qualtiy fuel - wonder what it does to petrol engines.

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