Middle Class Traveler

Adventures of the Middle Class

Category: Guest Travel Blog

I Dreamed of Another World


A last glance at the Laguna Colorada in the early morning: this shallow salty lake has regained its serenity and lost its intense red color, but still offers striking reflections. We head toward the desert of Siloli in Southwestern Bolivia, a desert dominated by magnificent ocher colors and surrealist landscape. The Siloli desert features unusual natural sculptures. The most stunning rock formation is the must see Arbol del Piedra known as the stone tree. A fragile-looking geomorphological rock formation, it is an impressive 16 feet high. It marks the entrance to the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve established in 1953 in Sur Lipez Province in the far Southwestern region of Bolivia. From there we begin our journey along the “Ruta de Las Joyas,” crossing successively several lagoons: Honda, Chiar Kota, Hedionda, and Cañapa.

Starbucks

In a landscape surrounded by volcanoes in the distance, Laguna Honda, whose name means “deep lake”, is in fact only 2 inches deep. But this shallow lagoon is particularly calm, and the bright blue sky is reflected in this true natural mirror. Laguna Cañapa is an endorheic salt lake with a surface area of 1.4 km2 is also surrounded by volcanoes and home to significant wildlife such as flamingos. It is a breathtaking sight, especially when the colonies of pink flamingos take flight… Two flamingos (speaking Walloon together), dress in pink, gently shake a leg and hobble in steps hushed by the water of the lagoon. They peck at salt larva, then evaporate in a few strokes of feathers… magical!

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Following the Las Joyas road, we reach the Salar de Chiguana (415 km2), at over 11,810 feet above sea level. The railway line connecting Uyuni to the Chilean coast crosses the Salar de Chiguana. After the War of the Pacific in 1884 with Chile, Bolivia lost the Atacama Desert, thereby becoming a landlocked country. Under the peace treaty of 1904, Chile guaranteed freedom of transit for Bolivian commerce to the ports of Angofasta and built the Arica-La Paz Railroad, connecting the Bolivian capital to the coast. In the Salar de Chiguana there are small boron mineral deposits that were mined in the early 1990s and exported to Europe. This amazing landscape of salt stretches endlessly to the horizon with the giant volcano Ollagüe looming in the background. The volcano is situated at the border between Chile and Bolivia (height 19,252 feet). It is one of the most active volcanoes in the entire Cordillera Occidental. Although the landscape recalls the Southwestern of the United States, the Salar de Chiguana has a strange omnipresent succulent, the Yareta, which resembles moss stuck on large stones. In fact, the plant is as hard as a rock and grows concentrically extremely slowly for centuries. Locals in remote villages of the Altiplano used this succulent, full of resin, to heat their homes.

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Turning to the villages, we arrive at San Juan Rosarion, usually called San Juan, a tiny place, but a semblance of a return to civilization where travelers can spend the night in hotels or, more commonly, shelters built entirely of salt. Walls are made of salt bricks as are tables, chairs, and beds. The floors are grains of salt.

Virgin Atlantic

Up very early for another highlight of the trip: the sunrise over the Salar de Uyuni. The “White Ténéré” at 4,086 square miles is the world’s largest salt flat and lies near the crest of the Andes at 11,995 feet. “I dreamed of another world / Who remain a mystery / A landless mundane / Yes, I wanted to jump into the air” (Free translation of the lyrics by the French singer Téléphone – Je rêvais d’un autre monde). All limits fall away in this other world of extreme climatic conditions. It is a timeless and spaceless journey to discover the Salar de Uyuni. As Alphonse Lamartine wrote, “O time Suspend your flight, and you, propitious hours, suspend your course: Let us savor the fleeting delights / The most beautiful today!” The desert plains, desperately flat and blindingly white, stretches out as far as our eyes can see. The Salar de Uyuni is a unique show, a landscape both lunar and solar, cold and sparkling. Only passengers on the space shuttles can see the whole desert.

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This natural marvel of the end of the world is, like Titicaca, one of the remains of a vast inland sea that stretched between two mountain ranges and then evaporated. A brief geological history of the Salar tells us that tens of thousand years ago Lake Minchin covered the area. Instead, now we have a desert of salt composed of billions of salt crystals. But there is another version of the story, a charming local legend about the formation of the Salar de Uyuni is linked to the dormant Tunupa Volcano on the Northern side of the Salar de Uyuni rising to 17,457 feet above sea level. Legend says that the Altiplano’s volcanoes could speak and move. Only Tunupa was female. One day Tunupa became pregnant, but the child’s father was unknown. Male volcanoes talked all night and took the decision to remove the small volcano from his mother. This decision infuriated the gods, and they withdrew the right to move, talk and meet from the volcanoes. Tunupa volcano wept so much that her tears mixed with her milk spread on the dry ground; thus was born the Salar de Uyuni.

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Amid this white area stands the Isla Incahuasi Quechua “the Inca house.” It is also called “Isla de los Pescadores” in reference to the neighboring island “Isla del Pescado” featuring giant cacti on an area of 61 acres and forming a hilly and rocky projection in the middle of the Salar – salt flat. There are walking trails allowing tourists to hike easily to the summit for a superb view of the vast white Salar with Tunapa in the distance. In addition to cactus in bloom, the island is also inhabited by the Bolivian vizcacha, Andean rabbits of the Chinchillidae family.


The Salar is composed of 10,000 billion tons of salt of which more than 25,000 tons are extracted annually. It is also rich in minerals, and its crust covers a pool of brine, exceptionally rich in lithium, an estimated 140 million tons and a large part of the world’s reserve. The depth of this salt flat is 460 feet. It consists of 11 distinct layers of salt whose thicknesses varies between 2 and 10 meters. To be in the middle of the Salar is like being in the midst of an infinite mirror; visual perceptions will surprise you. Fresh and salt water rivers underlie the surface of the Salar. This water, which passes under the salt crust, carries with it air that will find a way out. Ojos de Agua are round holes forming small eyes in the heart of the Salar where air and water well up from under the salt crust.

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The train graveyard, the “cimenterio de los trenes”, Uyuni, is the last stop on this Bolivian journey. It is located 2 miles outside the city of Ulyni. A legacy of the age of steam, dozens of old steam locomotives from the early years of the last century peacefully end their lives in the middle of the Salar. From the late 19th century to Mid-twenty century, Bolivia knew a golden age as a result of silver mining. When the silver era dried up, there was no need for a train network. Uyuni, in Southwestern Bolivia, was a transportation hub for trains carrying silver and other minerals from the surrounding mines to the Pacific Ocean. Another early departure at dawn to enjoy a Bolivian landscape like no other !
Hasta pronto

This blog post was written for www.middleclasstraveler.com by http://www.c-ludik.fr/en/

Across The Border



“Should we cross the border / Going Beyond / Without missteps / Discover what is behind…” (Donoré – Passer la Frontière). Let’s cross the border and discover the Bolivian Altiplano, seemingly “the region” to discover. The Altiplano or high plain is located in west-central South America, lying between Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. It is the second largest plateau in the world after the Tibetan plateau. The Bolivian Altiplano is beyond anyone’s imagination, at least, mine and probably yours: an endless, magnificent journey amidst surrealist scenery straight from another planet, and an arduous journey as well. A region with an arid climate where the mountain tops and Salars de Uyuni stretch to infinity. The scenery of the Bolivian Altiplano is among the most beautiful in the world!


Just after crossing into Southwestern Bolivia, the Laguna Verde, a salt lake with blue-green hues, appears at an elevation of 14,100 feet nestled at the foot of the magnificent volcano Licancabur, which rises to 19,252 feet. The lake offers a colorful panorama of breathtaking beauty. The magnificent colors result from a high concentration of lead carbonate, arsenic, calcium, and sulfur. You just want to jump right in. At daybreak, as the sediment in the lake is stirred by the wind, the lake’s colors can change from deep brown to emerald green in a second. Between noon and 2 P.M. green is the most striking color. The region is, during the day, constantly exposed to an icy wind, whipping the surface of the water into white caps. Next to Laguna Verde, across a narrow strip of land, is the Laguna Bianca. Like Laguna Verde, Laguna Bianca at an elevation of 14,270 feet on the Altiplano is named for color created by the high concentration of minerals in its waters. The play of colors and reflections on the lake waters is everything but wearisome.

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The Bolivian Altiplano is characterized by a clear, deep blue sky, blinding, high-altitude sunshine, ultraviolet rays that burn the skin, and rarefied oxygen where the slightest movement requires great effort. In the colorful barren landscape stretching to infinity, only the snow-covered mountain peaks mountains shimmering at the horizon catch your eye. Here water boils at 158° Fahrenheit. In such scenery, the experienced Bolivian tour guides and drivers seem to have their itineraries engraved in their brains like road maps. Soon we cross the Dali Desert, also known as the Deli Valley in Southwestern Bolivia, located at an elevation of 15,584 feet. This is a surreal moon-like landscape. The minerals give the supernatural landscape colors that resemble the surrealist paintings by Salvador Dali. Rock formations eroded by strong wind could not be more surprising as if were sculpted by the artist himself!
In this desert, apparently hostile to all life, we find wild herds of hoofed vicuñas from camelid family— a kind of camel without a hump—and also their predator, Mister Fox. As Sting sang, “The Fox had done running / And the beast is at bay / He’d run them in circles / By the end of the day” (Sting – The End of the Game).

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

At the foot of Cerro Polques lies a small hot-spring pool, the “Thermas del Polques,” with a temperature reaching 86 °Fahrenheit, while outside temperatures are much lower… We are still at 14,108 above sea level! For fun, you can bathe or just dip your feet in the warm water rich in minerals while marveling at the landscape of the Laguna Salada.

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Fifty kilometers away at 15,978 feet above sea level lies Solfataras, a geothermal field in the Sol de Manana, “Morning Sun” in Spanish. It is an impressive two square kilometers of steam pools with bubbling mud and hellish fumaroles. The Sol de Manana has a splendid landscape of colors and sounds. Listen carefully: the area whistles, smokes, bubbles like a pressure cooker! Be careful where you put your feet because there is no protection. You need caution with every step. A thick smell of sulfur hovers over The Sol de Manana. As usual, we are warm inside, but cold outside! Remnants of winter surround the Sol de Manana, extraordinary peaks waiting for Spring’s final frost !

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We arrive at the Laguna Colorada, a shallow salt lake in the Southwest of Bolivia’s Altiplano near the Chilean border, a moment we have been waiting for since the beginning of the trip. We are stunned and dazzled by the splendor. Even though I had previously seen a few photographs, the reality is quite different. The waters of the lake have a stunning bright reddish color resulting from the wind disturbing the red sediment and the pigmentation of some algae. This shallow lake, only about 3 feet deep, and surrounded by mountains, covers an area of 23 square miles at 14,035 feet. Algae and plankton thrive in the mineral-rich waters. The lagoon hosts numerous colonies of flamingos that proliferate because of a lack of predators. In the Andes, there are three endemic species of flamingos: the Chilean flamingo, distinguished by its grayish legs with pink joints and a white and black beak, is 43-51 inches high and feeds on crustaceans; the James’ flamingo, the smallest of the three, and the Andean flamingo, the largest with a pale yellow and black beak, and which, like the James’ Flamingo, feeds on algae. In addition, to the colonies of pink flamingos, lamas (small and large) graze peacefully on the edge of the lagoon. Dream or reality… we do not quite know where to look, it makes your head spin and hurt… the joys of high altitude!


This Blog was created by http://www.c-ludik.fr/en/ for www.middleclasstraveler.com. Please visit the above website for more exiting travels!

Picking Your First Camera for Travel Photography



Picking Your First Camera for Travel Photography

 

By Ryan Ellis

 

I hear it all the time from people looking to start out in the photography world:

“There are so many cameras out there! How does a first time buyer know how to make the right choice?”

 

Well if you are reading this article on Middle Class Traveler, chances are you are in the same boat and you are probably looking for something to do a little travel photography with. For a lot of people, it comes down to balancing some key ingredients:

 

  1. Cost
  2. Performance
  3. Size and weight
  4. Objective

 

Not necessarily in that order but a good chance that cost is going to be at or near the top of the list for those just starting out. Let’s quickly take a look at each of those and then I have a couple of suggestions that could be right for you!

 

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Let’s work backwards and ask yourself “What is my objective here?” This question alone will lead you to exclude about half the field right off the bat. If your answer to this question doesn’t include professional wedding photography or publication in a major magazine or large format art gallery printing then you can and probably should exclude all the full format cameras.

 

But what is a full format camera? If at this stage in the game you don’t know, you probably don’t need one. It basically is a larger sensor to give you a larger frame similar to what 35 mm film would give you. Some cameras have a full frame sensor and other have a crop frame. This is a smaller frame size and is significantly cheaper, but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce some really fantastic images. An easy way to tell the difference is that full frame cameras will usually cost in the thousands of dollars. Crop frames cost in the hundreds. If by budget constrictions alone you have chosen the crop frame, you are in the right place!

 

Choosing a crop frame also takes care of size and weight because they are lighter and smaller. This is what you want if you are going to use it for travel. The last thing you need is to be trudging up the stairs of Cinque Terre lugging a 5 pound beast and all its accessories around.

 

Well we already have taken into account objective, cost, size and weight so let’s get to the meat of it. Performance. In the photography world, brand does matter. No two brands have dominated the space more than Nikon and Canon. You will find staunch supporters on both sides. I happen to shoot with Nikon. Usually whatever the brand you first purchase is, will be the brand you stick with out of these two forever.

 

Lately Sony has been making a big push with mirrorless cameras which can be even smaller and lighter than the DSLR cameras offered by Nikon and Canon. The mirrorless lack a view finder so everything is shot live off the screen. I am so used to shooting with a view finder I couldn’t imagine making the switch but you can’t argue with the results. They are really good.

 

Whatever brand you choose, you don’t have to shoot for the moon with your first purchase. I would argue that the right camera is only about 10 percent of the battle. Whatever brand you choose, your photography education is the most important thing that you can invest in to make your pictures look better. Throwing the camera into automatic and hitting the button isn’t going to get great results. Focus, ISO, shutter speed, aperature, lens type, and 1000 other things all matter more than the type of camera you are shooting with.

 

That being said here are the three cameras I think the travel photographer should first look into and all run in the $300-$400 range:

 

 

All of these will get you to where you want to be, with all the functions you will need. For now the kit lens will do just fine. I will outline the first lenses to buy in another post. If you have questions post them in the comments or email me at ryan@raleightraveler.com.

 

This article was written exclusively for Middle Class Traveler. You can find more of my work over at Raleigh Traveler or have more articles like this delivered to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter here!

3 Must See Sights in Cornwall



Cornwall, the most southwest part of England is in one word, stunning. Often dubbed the Cornish Riviera, it is known for its beautiful beaches, picturesque countryside and seaside towns. I’ve decided to compile a list of my three must see spots when in Cornwall. If you only have a day to visit Cornwall, I highly recommend utilizing Plusbus tickets if traveling by train. It gives you unlimited use of the buses in either your departure or arrival town. I also suggest traveling by train because of the view. Traveling through Devon and Cornwall on a coastal route is probably one of the more picturesque train routes I’ve taken in the U.K. The journey itself is worth it!

Starbucks

 1. St. Micahel’s Mount in Marazion. St. Michael’s Mount is a massive castle, atop an island that sits across the water. There are no words or pictures that can adequately justify the beauty of this castle. The only way to reach it is to cross a causeway during low tide, or take a boat across the water to the castle during high tide. Be sure to check their website as there is a handy tool that lets you know when the tides are expected to be low so you can cross the causeway. The Castle closes one day a week, and turns out the day is a Saturday, so keep that in mind when taking a day trip. Due to its location on the Southern Coast, the Castle maintains a subtropical atmosphere and has many beautiful gardens year round. There is actually a sister castle directly across the way off the coast of France called Mont St. Michel. Definitely a must add for your next trip!

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2. Minack Theater near the town of St. Levan, is an open air theater, oceanside. The theater looks like it was plucked from the past and plopped into our time. It costs £4.50 to enter the theater to view, and there is pretty much no getting around it as its quite impossible to see the theater from outside since it sits at the top of a cliff and is built into the cliffside. Regardless, it is worth the fee. How many people can say they’ve seen a show or band, oceanside on a cliff?! Note: the theatre closes at 4pm in the winter season.

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3. Porthcurno Beach is directly below the Minack Theatre cliff and is absolutely breathtaking. Its hard to believe its a beach in England, as opposed to a warm Caribbean beach. The sand was soft and white, with clear and bright blue waters. Looking back on my photos it’s truly hard to believe that they aren’t paintings. Why not spend a day surfing or fishing? Pro tip: if hike halfway up to the Minack Theatre on the cliff – you get astonishing views of Porthcurno Beach.

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Total Cost: £5.80

Minack Theatre: £4.50 , Plusbus Ticket: £1.30

 

 

For just £5.80 you could be seeing all these views as well! So what’s stopping you? Be sure to comment your favorite places in Cornwall! Cheers xx

 

 

This blog post was written for www.middleclasstraveler.com, and you can find more of my work at www.youngbrokeandwandering.wordpress.com.

 

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Expert Travel Tips



Expert Travel Tips To Help You Find More Fun

Traveling is a really fun hobby for many people. Even though travelling to new places is a lot of fun, it can really be very stressful when trying to make travel plans. The following article has many useful tips on planning for a successful trip.

If you have to wear a suit on an overnight trip make sure it’s the right one. A wool suit will arrive fresher than one made of any other fiber. Hang it up in the bathroom when you arrive, turn the shower on hot, and close the door; let it steam for a while and all the wrinkles will drop out. It will look as good as new.

Selecting an aisle seat will always keep your options open. While a window seat offers a view, an aisle seat allows you easy access to restrooms, overhead baggage and flight attendants; in addition, you do not have a person crowding you on one side.


If you are collecting frequent flier miles from your travels, pay attention to the terms of use for those miles. In many cases, the miles expire just twelve to eighteen months after they’ve been earned, or they can only be used on certain dates and to a limited set of locations. Before selecting an airline based on miles, know the restrictions.

If you are traveling overnight or into the early morning, get your doctor’s permission to take a sleeping pill after you board. Eat your breakfast and then drift off to dreamland, and you’ll sleep comfortably through the whole flight. Wait until you are airborne to take your pill though, in case your flight is delayed or must return to the gate.


Try using a racing belt to discourage pickpockets. Getting robbed can ruin your entire vacation. To lessen the chances of this happening, consider investing in the storage belts that we use to store our keys, money, and such. This will keep your valuables close to your body where they are less likely to be stolen.

If you are finding it difficult to pick a place to travel you can ask friends and family. The people closest to you should have some insight on the type of person you are and the the kind of destinations you should like. Wherever you go just remember to have an open mind and make the best of your trip.

If you want to attempt to get an empty seat, there are some tricks to try. Ask for a seat near the back end of the plane, because these generally fill up last. If you are not comfortable with that, ask for an exit row seat. These seats come with extra responsibility, that not many are willing to accept.

When going on a cruise, wear your room key around your neck, on a lanyard or similar item. Losing your room key on a cruise ship can cost you greatly, not only in money, but in lost time. Keeping your key with you wherever you go can insure that you, and your belongings, will be safe.

Many people love traveling to different destinations. However, not many people like planning trips, because making those plans can be a source of stress. Use what you’ve learned here to take the stress of of making travel arrangements, and you’ll enjoy your trip that much more.

This blog was written for www.middleclasstraveler.com and you can find more of my work at www.traveldefinition.com

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