Salty Time!

Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
Trip End Mar 09, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

To get to Uyuni, it is said the train is the only way to go. This is partially accurate.

We had got a bus down to Oruro, a town notable solely for being totally nondescript. It was another place that reinfoirced for me that mankind is not as far advanced of the animal kingdom as we would like to think: the structures and food that we saw probably came a distant third to the kingdoms established by bees and ants. Its a little disquieting.

It was in this reflective frame of mind that we went to the station. We were unofrtunate enough to come on a day that is one of Bolivia's 312 annual public holidays, and thus the station was closed - as it had been for a number of days the prior week as well. The sign said it would reopen at 8:15a.m., but signs say a lot of things, and in Bolivia, they rarely mean it.

We managed to speak to a couple of lounging police, daring to briefly interrupt them from their focus on playing the Find-a-Word and sleeping. They were desperate to communicate to us that 6a.m. was the key time, and they wrote down for us some key Spanish directions as we were alearly too dense to understand the spoken word.

Thankfully, our hotel hostess spoke perfect English and was able to translate. The crux of the situation was that the aggregation of consecutive fiestas, public holidays, rain and a general reluctance to work meant that the ticket office on the following day would be a shitfight on a royal scale. As a result, wouldbe passengers were invited to go to the station at 6a.m. to get a number in the queue, then return at 8:15 when the ticket office opened in earnest.

In theory, yes.

It should be noted by the reader that there are only four trains a week here. It should not be that hard to smooth demand to a managable level. "Should" not.

Claude and I democratically split the task. I would do the dawn shift, then return to bed and allow Claude to negotiate the riot, although at least at a respectable hour.

The alarm went at 5:10a.m., and all would have gone quite well but for the standard practice of locking you in. Good luck finding the night attendant to let you out... I went everywhere and eventually found he had a little campbed under the stairs. But it was still 5:45a.m. I was still well ahead of the game.

Locals queue from 8p.m. the night prior. So arriving on scene, my first reaction was that either Bon Jovi or the Spice Girls were due to play Uyuni (yayy!!!). But no, this was the queue to get your little Coles deli counter style numbered ticket.

To Be Continued....................

* * *

Uyuni is famous for only one thing:  Salar de Uyuni. 

The town is small and incredibly missable but this attraction is truly incredible.  When first we heard of the Salar de Uyuni, it was from the mouth of another tourist who was flagrantly outraged that we had never even heard of them.  "This is the only reason I came to this continent. I just canīt believe that you donīt know about these Salt Flats" she chastised us struggling to contain her outrage (and spittle).

Who would have thought someone so desperately in need of anger management would be so right.

We were heading south from the base of Bolivia to northern Chile and this meant that we would travel directly across this region.  We decided to take the tour which would neatly pop us out at San Pedro De Atacama in northern Chile. 

After speaking to a few, we decided on one of the 70 tour companies at Uyuni who took the daily tour.  Our choice ultimately fell to the giggliest guide who managed to speak to us in basic English to lock in the sale and then avoided the English language for the subsequent three days. 

The tour was incredible and the landscapes we passed through were more like life on another planet then anywhere I have been before.  We visited these famed salt plains during the rainy season which meant that the surface salt was drowned under a permanent lustrous liquid layer.  The horizon, the sky and the salt were one indefinable mass which sparkled and shone for as far as the eye could see.

We passed through rock tree regions, incredible desertscapes, red lakes, green lakes, geysers and bubbling, hot springs.  Even through an interesting rocky,desertscape which was called Dali Desert after the shapes and formations of rock which looked just like Daliīs paintings.

Anyhow, I could write about it for hours, but  pictures speak a thousand words.
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