Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cueva Galaxia Cristal, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni is arguably Bolivia's top tourist attraction, and many people go on a muti-day circuit tour of the salt flats, taking in the spectacular Altiplano landscapes, the surreal lagoons, and the beautiful flamingoes.  But one of the lesser visited attraction in the circuit is Cristal Galaxy Cave, and I feel it would be a shame to miss it!

Strange petrified stone formations overlooking the salt desert
Visiting it would typically add an additional day to your standard circuit itinerary, but on the same site is Cementerio de los Chullpas, a sacred burial cave cemetery. Skulls and simple artifacts are still visible, but unless your guide fills you in on the stories and myths surrounding the place, there is little other information on it. However, it is the cave next door, the Cueva Galaxia Cristal that we were more impressed over!

Entrance to the burial cave

Formed some 225 million years ago when a volcano came into contact with the sea (Salar de Uyuni was a sea then), bizarre formations were created. The cave was rather small, and when me and my friends entered, we were all immediately amazed. The sight was unlike any I've seen. Shapes aside, the strutures and formations were riddled with holes and fibrous lines and some were so thin, in fact they looked like a membrane of a leaf! I was actually worried that I would accidentally crack or crumple the formations! At some points, somehow I would imagine the scene would have easily passed off as some alien hatchery or hive of some kind! Or maybe I have too much imagination...

The cave was discovered only in 2003, so it's relatively "new" but I hope the authorities would properly manage the place. The "path" in the cave is relatively narrow, and an overly enthusiastic tourist would have easily cause mishap. We were the only tourist then.

Having seen caves ranging from limestone caves,  salt cave, glacier cave, and also another lava cave (this would have been considered a lava cave I believe), this still impresses. And really, the scenery in the Altiplano is so wonderful, adding a day to your tour wouldn't hurt!

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