Shimmering Salt And Fancy Flamingos.
Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
435Trip End Dec 31, 2020
The Lonely Planet says of this trip:
"High altitude lagoons tinged crimson and turquoise, simmering geysers, flamingo's in flight and Uyuni's blinding salt flats are a dreamy and extreme three day 4WD journey in wild uncharted terrain
"at least 16 people,including 13 tourists have been killed in jeep accidents on the Salar de Uyuni salt plains since May 2008."
We climb into our vehicle with a discussion that seats will be rotated during the trip. In front with the driver of our vehicle is Andrea from Switzerland, back seat is Avan, Patrick from Holland, then James from UK. In the "back back" with me is Megan (James and Megan are new weds leaving UK to live in Oz). Travelling companions for three days with a driver who speaks only Spanish. We soon ascertain though that most of the others in our vehicle have enough Spanish to get by and they will be able to interpret for us. The other vehicle travelling in tandem with us has two Japanese girls, two Japanese boys, a Brazilian boy and a German girl. The Japanese girls are not travelling with the boys.
OK let the adventure begin!
Our first stop is a gorgeous lake with Flamingos and a backdrop of mountains so stunning that even without their perfect reflections in the lake, we would have been astounded
We pull into our lodgings for the night around 2 pm and a lovely hot lunch is served immediately. Our sleeping arrangement is two bare cement rooms with six single beds each and a toilet and cold shower (only for who ever was game, in near freezing temperatures!) We spend the afternoon literally catching our breath, lying on our beds. Then, stupidly, some of us undertake a 4 km walk, in a howling gale to see a nearby lake, which turns out not to be nearby and we do not make it to the lake and barely make it back to camp. Coco leaf tea is served late afternoon to help with altitude sickness. One of the Japanese boys is very sick and can't even keep his coco leaf tea down. (the illness also convinces him to quit smoking)
As the sun sets a deep penetrating cold sets in and we all rug up in thermals and coats
A new day sees us travelling long distances through stunning scenery on bumpy and unforgiving terrain. Seating positions have been rotated except for Megan and I in the back back. The Japanese guy in the other vehicle is alarmingly sick, but soldiers on as best he can and most of us are swallowing panodol for the altitude headaches.
We end the day right on the edge of the massive Salar de Uyuni and our lodging is in a hostel made entirely from - salt! We have a "matrimonial" bed too. Even the floor is loose salt much like beach sand to walk on. We pay to have a hot shower ($10 bol each) and enjoy a tasty evening meal of chicken, vegetables and rice and are surprised when bottles of Bolivian wine are also put on the table
The sky is beginning to lighten as our land cruiser glides smoothly over the salt and water sprays up. There is a surreal feeling that we are in a boat. To the East the first pink glow begins and the Land cruisers stop. We get out to take millions (well close) of photos. The Japanese boy is feeling better and even joins in the fun of group photos. It is freezing cold so it seems that rather than being on salt we are on ice.
We move on, the salt beneath us now is hard and cracked into hexagonal shapes. Once again we bizarrely feel like our land cruiser is a boat as we pull into Isla de Pescado, an island rising up out of the salt flats. This island is peppered with prehistoric looking cacti, many over 12 metres in size and over 100 years old.
Back in our Land cruiser (Boat?) we head off again speeding across the now brilliantly sunlit salt plain that goes as far as the eye can see. Our next stop is all about funny photos. It has become the tradition to do on the salt flats, to take pictures using the illusion of distance and perspective
We enjoy traversing the salt at high speed, a smooth ride after the two days of 4 wheel driving, until we reach the edge and now know that our adventure is almost over. One more lunch then a visit to a railway and train cemetery on the outskirts of Uyuni. As we are entering Uyuni a near tragedy occurs. A truck with a driver on the phone, pulls out between the two 4wds and just misses our rear end and forces our companion vehicle to swerve into the gutter, fortunately managing to stay on his wheels while avoiding a sure disaster collision. However all are safe but shaken and before we know it we are unloading our packs from the roof of the land cruiser for the last time. Goodbyes are said and most of our companions head for buses out of Uyuni, we head off to the ATM then the Tonito Hotel where we run straight into Fi and her Kumuka tour again!
It is Christmas Eve and we have wonderful pizzas, us and Fi's tour together, reveling in the tales of our last three days and looking forward to spending Christmas as a group.