Riding Salar de Uyuni

Trip Start Nov 22, 2005
Trip End May 15, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, January 20, 2006

Bolivia is a strange but fascinating country. On the bus ride into Bolivia, there were 3 things that I couldnīt help but notice:
1. Driving through kilometres of grass and mountains when occasionally, in the middle of nowhere, there would appear a little Boliviano walking across the fields. With not a building or vehicle in sight for hours, I couldnīt help but wonder where they were going or even where they came from.
2. Packs of llamas being tagged with pink earrings and pink bowties, which I have affectionately labelled the Gay Llama.
3. In these high altitudes they don`t have "summer", only "dry" and "rainy" seasons. Unfortunately I arrived in the "rainy" season. So much for my summer vacation.

I joined a tour group here in Bolivia. Even though I met quite a few people travelling on my own, it was nice to sit back and let someone else do all the planning. First stop was Uyuni and the Salt Flats. The Salt Flats is the remains of a prehistoric sea which has evaporated, leaving behind 10,000 sq kms of salt. It is not only the largest salt flat in the world but also the highest navigable lake in the world. Our tour involved driving in a 4WD across the lake and camping overnight on an island. The drive was amazing. Reflections on the lake are virtually mirror images and for as far as we could see was glistening white salt. We would drive for a couple of hours until in the distance an island would appear. It would then take another couple of hours to actually reach the island. Needless to say, our drive also involved numerous toilet stops in the middle of the lake (something to think about when you next reach for the salt at dinner). Some highlights included the Salt Hotel (made entirely out of salt bricks), flamingo bird watching, and attempting to build a Saltman with the salt from the lake (salt just doesn`t stick together as well as snow does).

We also had a multiskilled Boliviano tour guide driving us through the lakes. He not only pumped out great tunes on his car cassette player (Total Eclipse of the Heart remixed in spanish, anyone?) but he was also able to fix the 4WD overnight when it continuously kept breaking down in the middle of the lake. Our drive back from the islands was a smooth drive with no breakdowns. Strange how the 4WD that was following us started breaking down on the drive back.
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