Salar de Uyuni

Trip Start Jan 08, 2014
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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Where I stayed
What I did
Train Cemetery
Salt hotel
Ojos de Salar
Colchani Salt Factory

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today isn't over yet, but our tour is - actually it ended several hours ago.  It is now 1 pm and our tour ended at 10:30 am BUT it started at 5 am.  We were up at 4:30.  I had to put away my charging batteries propped up by my daypack because I needed by daypack.  I did change some clothes although it might not have been noticeable to anyone else.  We had a breakfast downstairs of bread and jam and tea or instant coffee.  I had the trimate tea - I hope it had some coca leaves to combat altitude sickness although I don't really have a headache anymore - fatigue yes, especially climbing the stairs to the third floor.

Jorge/Roger came quite promptly not that long after 5 am and we headed off.  He had the Toyota Land Cruiser all spiffed up again - he treats that vehicle better than a baby I think.  First we went off to the Salar de Uyuni for the sunrise.  There was quite a bit of water to get to a less flooded part and even then, you had to be careful where you stepped.  Fernanda set up her tripod and so did Howard.  I took some shots into the rising sun and some away with the surreal blue sky and hardly any horizon.  When we got back into the 4x4, I said I thought it was definitely worth getting up at 5 am for the sunrise here.

We stopped at a few more places and I am not sure I have them in the proper order.  There were the little hills of salt on the surface where the local salt miners would scoop up (probably by shovel) the mounds of salt and take them to be processed.  There were some machines there.  Then we saw the ice hotel with its salt carving of the Dakar race and lots of flags.  Apparently the salt hotel is no longer officially open, but there were people camping with tents inside one part and quite a few people having coffee on little cloth-covered tables in another part.  You could see the salt blocks used in the construction of the buildings.  We also traveled to the Ojos de Salar - where salt water bubbled up to the surface.  It was not a hot springs since the water was cool but Jorge said that the water was good for rheumatism.  Let's see, where else did we go? 

We stopped at a village where the buildings were constructed of salt and we went to the banos where a man explained their salt production business.  They brought in the salt, then they heated it for a bout 30 minutes to get our the moisture by burning local brush.  They had piles of salt in this building.  Then he demonstrated how they filled plastic bags with the salt and sealed the bag over a flame.  He asked for some money for his explanation since they were not selling any salt at this time due to lack of demand.

We stopped at the train cemetery outside Uyuni and I thought this place was great.  There was quite an assemblage of train cars - lots of engines it looked like - wheels beginning to sink in the sand and graffiti painted on them.  But it was quite picturesque.  Quite a few other people were there posing near the cars and on them (just like the rocks but no one peeing that I could see).  I think that was our last stop and Jorge/Roger drove us back into Uyuni.  He dropped us all off at the hotel where Astrid and I have booked the room for a second night.  The others were not sure exactly when they would be going back to San Pedro.

Both Astrid and I were quite hungry after our minimalistic breakfast so we headed out to find a restaurant highly rated in the guide book.  We looked and looked and it did not appear so we went into an appealing internet cafe instead.  Here we got real coffee, real orange juice and I had an excellent omelet and Astrid, an egg sandwich.  While Astrid chatted with the very nice young woman running the place, she found out that the other restaurant moved and changed its name to avoid paying taxes - a common occurrence here.  The young woman would do the same.  They do not get the required licenses and then are warned - after the 4th time, they have to close, but then they go somewhere else.  The young woman would do likewise.  Astrid and I are planning to go to the restaurant at its new location later.

At this point, I was getting cold, and didn't have my glasses or camera.  Astrid wanted to come back to the hotel too...for some reason.  She ended up deleting photos.  I uploaded and started today's blog.  I still need to do yesterday's.  Now I am going to try to get a little sleep - just as well - I just heard a loud thunder.

I hadn't noticed but, with the window open a tiny bit, rain had splashed on my sox and farther over on the bed into my electrical gadgets.  This I noticed when Astrid woke me up because she was ready to go out...was it for lunch?  Or dinner?  In any case, we tried to go to the new Cactus restaurant but it doesn't open until 6 so we went to a pizzeria.  There are tons of pizzerias in this town - it is a real backpacker town, with lots of hostels and lots of young people in shorts, hiking boots and weird hats.  Astrid and I both settled on the same pizza but ordered individual ones because of the price - under $1 for mozzarella, olives, tomato sauce and even capers.  Oh, and mushrooms.  We saw some kind of adventure movie in Spanish - I hardly knew what was going on, but it seemed like a "raiders of the lost ark" genre.  After that we took a stroll to the train station - Astrid had taken the train on her previous visit and then we picked up her laundry.  She wasn't sure she got everything so she came back to the hotel while I went in search of photos of the ladies in the bowler hats and big skirts - to no avail.  They very obviously did not want their photos taken, so I came back, only to find the Brazilian girls still ensconced in the lobby with their computers and ipads and other gadgets.  I feel sorry for them that they have been stuck here waiting for so long - since 10:30 am and it is now almost 6 pm.  I will try to get on the internet at some point tonight I think - first I must try to remember what happened yesterday.

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