Day 2 of our trip through the Salar de Uyuni had us exploring the Tunupa Volcano. This was the bit that turned the regular 3-day trip into a 4-day trip and I was super-keen to get out and do a bit of walking again.
We first of all visited the mummies of Coquesa – with a short tour by a local guide who was actually very difficult to understand. These mummies date to around 700 AD and have been preserved by the cold, dry climate.
Then we headed up on a short hike (not difficult at all) to the two viewpoints on the Tunapa volcano. Actually – there is a higher mirador as well, but you needed a specialised guide for that one.
From these viewpoints you get an amazing view out over the Salar, and a decent idea for how big it actually is. It is absolutely enormous! And to be honest, the photos don’t do it justice!
Of course, you also get an amazing view of the super-colourful Tunupa volcano. In my opinion – this was much more impressive and colourful than the Rainbow Mountain outside of Cusco in Peru. And I didn’t have to get up at 3am to do it!
From there we headed south across the Salar towards Incahuasi Island but, rather than joining all the other million tourists having lunch at the island, we decided to have lunch out in the middle of nowhere on the salt flat. A much better idea 🙂
There was also a point as we were driving along where the heat haze made some reflections that vaguely approximated the awesome reflections that are possible when the lake is full of water. I had to jump out and take a picture of the “floating island”, even though it was not a patch on what I’d seen in 2001.
We ended up with 2.5 hours to explore Incahuasi Island, which is famous for its large amount of enormous cacti (Trichocereus pasacana according to Wikipedia).
Given the island is pretty small, this is actually a lot of time. So I headed up the main track to the top of the island and then did a bit of a choose-my-own-adventure to try to find a place where I couldn’t hear the impromptu concert put on by a visiting school band, and could sit in silence and contemplate the landscape. Eventually found it on the far side of the island, well off the beaten path and in an area that was full of fossilised algae and coral.
From there we headed across to the western side of the Salar and, just before leaving the salt flat, stopped and waited to watch one last sunset across the Salar. Cold thanks to the wind that was howling a gale, but absolutely stunning!
Stayed in another Salt Hotel this night in the small town of Aguaquiza, and headed out to the Galaxy Cave as a night excursion. To be honest, this was a little underwhelming – the cave is very small though I do admit the structures in the cave were the most delicate I’d ever seen. What was fantastic was how excited the guy who found them was about showing them to us and to relate the tale of their discovery 🙂
He then took us to another cave that was full of ancient tombs. Nothing in them (all looted long ago) but really quite impressive the sheer number of them in this one small place.
Then it was up onto a platform to freeze to death while looking at the stars. Unfortunately, it was fairly cloudy so this wasn’t exactly the success it could have been, and I admit I became an impromptu guide as I pointed out various constellations to the group, and expounded the virtues of visiting SpaceObs in San Pedro de Atacama if they were heading that way.