The Salt Flats

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, December 13, 2010

After finishing our last Spanish class in Sucre we spent the rest of the day traveling to Uyuni, going first to Potosi, the highest city in the world. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore, so only saw the impoverished area close to the bus stop. The bus journey from Potosi to Uyuni was the worst yet, the entire journey was on an unpaved road covered in huge rocks and it was literally 6 hours of back-breaking, bumpy ride. We sat at the very back of the bus and quite often just as we were drifting off to sleep we would be woken up because we were literally thrown out of our seat into the air. 

Friends had advised us on a hostel and tour company for the Slat Flats, and we recognized some poeple at the bus stop in potosi from the last hostel so we arranged to form a group and see if we could get a jeep for the five of us. So despite arriving at 1am it was easy to get onto a tour the following morning at 10am as it had all been thought out the day before.
The first stop on the tour was at a train graveyard which is littered with rusted old trains that used to transport goods to chile across the flats. Unfotunately we only got a few good pics because it was overrun with tourists, so we took a few snaps and got back in the jeep. Next it was a stop at a village selling artisans at the edge of the Slat Flats and then it was on to the flats. As we approached it had been raining so there were pools of water on the salt which created shimmery reflections. We drove onto the salt and then took some initial perspective photos, which were actually much harder to take than expected. The jeep then stopped at a salt hotel, which was made entirely of salt, the brinks and the tables and chairs inside and even the floor was a snowy dusting of salt.

We then drove for what must have been at least an hour across the salt flats experiencing the vastness of the place. From every window all you could see was a flat white plane of salt and in the distance the outline of mountains, which looked as if they were floating due to the mirage effect caused by the salt and the blue sky. The ground was much drier here and large cracks had formed in the salt. At parts it looked like a hexagonal pattern covered the ground where it had dried. We stopped at one of the rock islands in the flats, which was covered in cactus and then had lunch served on a table made of rock, which they had put a table cloth on and parasol, very nice! Then we had time to take photos on the salt flats, which was lots of fun trialling out different shots and messing about on the salt.We had so much fun hear playing with the camera and this landscape. The area hear was truly breathtaking and even after climbing to the top of this rocky island  view point hight up is was impossible to take in the sheer scale of it. Unfortunately we had to move on after about an hour of taking photos on the flats, seems like a long time but the more photos you take the better you become at fooling your cameras perspective so its always hard to leave. 
 The next stop on the tour was the devil's cave, which was a small area formed by a vocanic erruption which had been excavated and had coral formations, but in comparison to the salt flats was pretty underwhelming. We also visted and ancient burrial ground with graves just made as holes in the ground and we even saw some old humans bones pretty spooky!
  We then headed for the first nights accomodation, which was in a small building with separate bedrooms. Our bed was a bit makeshift with a concret block at the bottom and a mattress over hanging this block on top!

The next day the landscape changedalot and was pretty fascinating the first stop was a rocky landscape created by volcanic eruptions when the entire area was a lake and the magma had joined with the water. The guide believed that due to climate changed there had been less water in this region over the last 20-40 years and this giant expanse had gradually dried up. We saw many active volcanos some with smoke emitting from thier craters. We also stopped in an area were all the rocks are exposed to the sand and the wind and are eroded into amazing shapes. 

 After a short journey we arrived at the first lagoon, which was filled with flamingos. This was the first time we had seen flamingos close up and they are really incredible looking birds with beautiful pink feathers. They make a sound like a bird purring and as they are fighting this becomes more high-pitched and faster.

After this we went to a second lagoon, but this was mainly white, which was due to the borax in the water, a highly acidic mineral. Here we stopped for lunch and then after saw two more lagoons, but these had only a few flamingos. The scenery then started to change into desert and we drove through the dusty heat for miles, stopping to photograph a mountain nicknamed, seven colours and eventually we reached a cluster of rock formations. We drove again for miles through the arid landscape and it made us realise just how vast this country is. We arrived at our final destination, the red lagoon, which was really beautiful with red water mixed with white and filled with flamingos with a backdrop of mountains and llamas grazing at the edge.

On the final day of our tour we had been told to wake up at 4am, but when at 4.50am our guide had still not appeared we went to find him and found him still asleep! We had thought we were waking at that time to view the sunrise, but by the time we got into the car it was already rising, so we only managed to stop the car for a few photos. The first stop for the day was to view a fumarole, a jet of steam rising from the ground which was really a giezer just a man made one as they pumped the water into the whole and it is super heated by the ground boils and shots out as a jet of steam pretty cool. In this area we also found natural geysters, which produce steam from the ground at 100 degreesC. We were told not to get too close as you can see the mud and rock boiling in holes in the ground it it leathal if you fall in, even the steam from the geysters can badly burn you. The whole scene looked quite mystical with the hot steam tracing along the ground with the sun just lighting the edges.

From there we went to a natural thermal pool at the edge of a large lagoon. It was still freezing cold, so the prospect of getting undressed was not too appealing, but in the end Carla decided to take the plunge and the water was nice and warm, around 35 -40 degrees C, wonderful! After 20 minutes we got out and headed to our final stop of the tour, the green lagoon. Unfortunately, the lagoon was not very green at all as when it is windy it causes the colour tobe more vivid and on tat day there was no wind, so we took a few photos and got back in the jeep to head to the Chilean border. What an adventure the salt flats are definately a place we will never forget
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Ann Friend on

Great photos! What about entering a competition with one or more? x

Yo Big Daddyo on

Spectacular! Great pics and cool creativity. I see you have copied the dance position from one of my paintings; Carla on the bottle, so to speak. I might be claiming royalties on that. :-)

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