Who knew so much nothing could be so beautiful...

Trip Start Jul 14, 2010
Trip End May 18, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, February 20, 2011

      The bus ride to Uyuni only stressed my increased amazement at how much rock there is to be climbed in Bolivia.  Every time I looked out the window I saw, aside from really beautiful landscapes, a bunch of amazing cliff faces all over the place.  Itīs hard to tell if the rock was actually good from the bus, but a man can dream, can't he?
      Uyuni, it turns out, is really nothing special.  The town looks a lot like Boron or 20-Mule Team out in south-eastern California.  Yet, even little old Uyuni had something new to teach us.  Note to anyone who is interested in travelling:  make sure that your hostel is neither under a karoake bar, nor next to a bar (especially when it's the start of carnaval).  Yep, sadly, after all this time, Katie and I were stuck listening to terrible music, oftentimes being sung by people who were obviously tone deaf and/or intentionally trying to drive us crazy (highly unlikely).  The thing about carnaval in Bolivia is that all the bands have a set number of songs.  I think there might be 3 or so songs that we keep hearing over and over, and trust me, they are not good songs.  Maybe the first time you hear it you might think to yourself, "this is fun!" But, you soon learn that the two short melody lines that are repeated over and over and over and over wear on your patience.  Needless to say, we didn't sleep well for the time that we spent in the town.
      This wasn't a real problem because the reason for coming to Uyuni, unless you're deaf and want to laugh at all the tourists suffering, is to go to the Salar de Uyuni.  The Salar de Uyuni is the worldīs largest salt flat that is also home to the worldīs largest lithium reserves.  The town of Uyuni essentially exists as a salt and lithium mining town with a large portion of the towns income arriving in the form of tours out to this salt flat.  Katie and I decided to take a 3 day tour of the surroundings and it was pretty amazing.  The rainy season in Bolivia ends in March so the entire salt flat was covered in a thin layer of water.  We got to hop up on top of our Jeep and ride through the salt flat which, thanks to the calm surface looked like a giant mirror that reflected the surrounding mountains, blue sky, and clouds.  It was probably the most surreal thing I have ever seen with everything looking like it was sitting on the edge of the world.  I hope the pictures do it justice.  The second most surreal thing I have ever seen came a little bit after leaving the salt flat as we were driving, looking out the window of the jeep, watching our back right tire rolling off into the desert.  My first response was to yell to Katie to get out the camera (the driver didnīt really appreciate that) but, sadly, she couldnīt get it out in time.  I have never actually seen a car break in the way that our jeep broke.  Not only did the wheel come off, all of the bolts that held the wheel on were sheered in half, and, I believe, the brake drum was also sheered off where it attached to the axle.  I'm no car expert, but I don't think that this type of injury is supposed to be fixed on the side of the road. Yet, our driver and many of the other drivers (I forgot to say that at least the first day of the tour was a caravan of all the tours in Uyuni following the same route. Imagine 25 jeeps driving out into the middle of nowhere.) managed to get the wheel back on, assuring us that it would get repaired a little later on that evening. For the rest of the first day driving I sat at the window with the camera awaiting my chance to get the picture of a lifetime but, sadly?, the wheel never came off again.
        Katie and I have had amazing luck on our tours and this time was no exception.  It seems that every tour we take we have the best group of people travelling with us.   In this case we had two Belgians and two Brazilians who were all the nicest people, especially when we started talking about our native foods. Katie and I have had a hard time over the past 8 months describing to people what "typical America food" is.  The problem is that many of the national foods have come from overseas, with a lot of the traditional dishes arriving from the UK.  We have resigned ourselves to saying PB&J's, chocolate chip cookies, and apple pie are our traditional foods which doesn't paint a very good picture of Americans. Any help that our faithful readers can provide would be much appreciated in solving this international dilemna.
       After the first day of the tour, the sights became less and less.  That didn't make it any less amazing though, especially since the landscape looked like the moon with snowy mountains and random lakes scattered around.  The altitude was high enough that there wasn't any vegetation, ind a few scrubs here and there, and we weren't driving on any roads, just dirt.  The landscape was interrupted by a llama every now and then and, much to my amazement, outcroppings of really great rocks. Especially on the last day when we drove for about an hour next to a Joshua Tree like landscape of rocks. It was pretty amazing.  Anyways, check out the pictures of the trip because it was quite a lot to describe in a few paragraphs.

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