Uyuni Salt Flats

Trip Start Feb 04, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  , La Paz Department,
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The bus to Uyuni was overnight where half the trip is on a smooth tar road and the other half is on a bumpy dirt road so there was not much sleeping that night. We arrived in Uyuni the next morning and I started my 3 day tour to the salt flats straight away in a 4x4 with a crazy Bolivian driver.
First we headed out to an abandoned train station. It had a lot of old train engines from the 1800's that were used to transport all silver and other metals and minerals all over Bolivia. After that we headed out to the salt flats. It was one of the most amazing sites I've ever seen. As far as you could see in all directions just white flats. When you looked on the right angle you could see every individual salt flake on the ground as big as a dinner plate. The flat area made it easier to take trick photography. There were spots with water on it that reflected the sky and made it look like the sky and salt flats were joined. Really spectacular site. In the middle of the flats was a group of flags from all over the world of people that had visited the area. We had lunch there in a building made from salt bricks and that night we stayed in a small town just outside of Solar.
The next day we went to the red lagoon. It was full of microscopic plankton which made it a dark red colour. It was really cool to see. The lagoon was also full of pink flamingos eating in the water. After that we went to some geysers and mud pools. By then we were up at 4100m above sea level. These were crazy, you could walk right up to boiling mud pools and geysers. They were boiling at 250'C. The whole area smelt of rotten eggs and apparently not far under the ground ran a lava river. It was really cold outside but the heat around the mud pools was enough to you warm. From here we went higher in the mountains to 4600m above sea level. As we drove up the mountains you could see the vegetation and wildlife slowly disappear to tiny little shrubs and then to eventually nothing. Then the whole area looked like we were in Mars. Just rocks and dirt. We stopped at a spot that had a couple of random rocks sticking up out ground formed into cool shapes over time (one rock looked like a tree). We then headed up to 5100m above see level, our highest point, to see an active volcano. This spot was actually higher up than when I went skydiving which was only 4800m. I was sucking in the big ones up that high, I would walk about 50m and was exhausted. At the base of the volcano was a green lake that was really salty and had poisonous minerals in it so nothing could live there. Around the lake people who had visited the area made all these little rock stacks. There were hundreds of them and I still don't know why they were there. But I added my own rock stack to the collection. From up there I could see the boarders of Argentina and Chile. So I could see three countries at once. We left that spot pretty quickly as it was freezing and windy even though it was sunny and we went back to our camp for the night which was down at 4000m above sea level.
The next morning, the 2 kiwi's and I got up at dawn, battled the cold and went down to the natural hot spring near our accommodation to watch the sunrise. We had breakfast and were about to leave however one tour member was still in a deep sleep. After we shook him and poured water on him he woke up, but was like a zombie. We took him to a nearby doctor at a bauxite mine and he told us he had severe altitude sickness and had to be brought down below 3000m immediately. So our driver drove like a rally car driver down the mountain to get him to a safer level. It took us about 6 hours to do a normal 8 hour trip. As we came back down I could see the vegetation again and we also saw pecena's, a type of llama, and also ostriches.
When I got back to Uyuni, the tour organised a bus to take me across to Argentina, and it only cost $12 for an overnight ride. I was unaware that this was about to be a bus ride from hell.
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