Salty Mars - Uyuni and the salt flats

Trip Start Sep 16, 2010
Trip End Jan 18, 2011

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Salt Hotel

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What is up ya`ll!!! Thank you for joining us yet again for another thrilling installment of Pav and Sim`s most excellent jaunt. This week we headed to the southern plains of Bolivia and embarked on a tour of the famous salt flats. They are the largest in the world covering 12,000 square km`s, so pretty effing big. We had bought the three-day tour tickets in La Paz through the trustworthy agency that had gotten us through the Coriocco road and up Wayna Potosi without issue or premature death. Enjoy!!

Day One

We arrived in Uyuni, the town sitting on the edge of the salt flat, and immediately realised that this place was a one-trick-pony only serving as a hub for tourists to visit the flats. In other words, it was a shithole. We leaped off the bus feeling none to spritely and were picked up by a friendly gal from the agency. After a spot of breakfast we met out would-be companions for the three day trip - two couples, one from New Zealand - Leyton and Arna - and a US/English couple - Matt and Robin - they all seemed very nice and we bonded over a coca sweet which made our mouths go very numb. Our guide was a short guy (they`re all short) called Pablo. We chugged off towards the salty haven but first stopped at a train graveyard where the first trains used to transport salt from Uyuni were lying, rotting away. Like children we climbed all over their tetanus infested carcasses. Jumping between them, clambering around inside them and posing for photo`s in the desolate landscape. Back in the jeep (there is a lot of that) we headed for the actual salt flats!! It was like an endless white ocean (apparantly it was a prehistoric inland dea which dried up at some point) and the faint views of mountains in the far distance appeared like they were floating, it looked surreal. After an hour of endless whiteness we arrived at a sort of island (Intihuasi i think it was called) covered in huge cacti. The sun was beating down on us as we meandered around the island, poking cacti which reached up to 12m tall and nearly 1,000 years old!! And getting a better view of the salt flat surrounding the island. After a luncheon of Coca Cola and Llama steaks we wandered into the salty winderness for a bit and set about taking some of those famous perspective camera shots. Basically, because the salt falt is so flat and white visual perspective is distorted and you can take pictures which makes an object, say a shoe, another person, or a rotting llama foetus/T-Rex, up close and a person further away look the same height, as you will no doubt see from our childish photography. After this it was off in the jeep to the first stop for the night at a hotel made entirely from salt!
    One extra note is to be mentioned about the jeep. The windscreen had the most outrageous crack in it and whenever we passed another jeep coming in the other direction Pablo would ut his fists against it for fear that it might come crashing inwards - slightly sketchy but normal for Bolivia.
    That night we had outselves a few beers as it was Leyton`s 30th birthday, his wife Arna forgot, and then slinked off to bed in our salty palace in preparation for an early 6am start.

Day Two

Left the salt hotel at 7am and cruised into the bleakness of the flats. The white salt soon turned to red dust which looked a lot like Mars and the the geography became more mountainous and rugged. Stopping at a few viewing points we could see mountains and volcano`s in the distance and we jumped about the strange rock formations like children, hanging off them and lunging about the place willy nilly. The next stops were to see the huge lagoons which had formed in isolation in this mental-looking landscape and the first was a deep blue colour full of various types of Flamingo and other birds. Sim attempted to leap around on the shoreline and jumped in a huge stretch of birdshit and mud, losing his flipflop and getting shitty feet in the process. The next lagoon was called Lago Colorado and this was an amazing red colour, caused by the algae in the water blooming in the sunlight. The last stop was at a cool looking rock formation called the `stone tree` which was exactly what it said on the tin. Again we clambered about the rocks having a bubble bath. Finally we made it to our second night`s place of accommodation, which was just a shack-type place and not made of salt. I managed to leave my jacket at the park office an hour away and had to pay the driver to take me back to get it - idiot. Anyway, that night more beers were had with a particular taste for a beer called Bock, a 7% absolute menace of a beverage. We gave one to Pablo and the next time we saw him he looked smashed (why we gave our driver booze I don`t know!). Apparantly that night there were some sinister happenings with cars pulling up, men shouting (this may or may not have involved little Pablo) and trying to get into our room (all six of us were in room one, cosy), but as me and sim slept through it I don`t need to elaborate.

Day Three

The final day was to involve an ultra-early wake-up to see the sunrise. Up at 4:30 we got ready and had our bags by the jeep ready to go as instructed by Pablo. Unfortunately Pablo was nowhere to be seen and Matt and Leyton proceeded to hunt him down, eventually finding him in a bed looking really poor and getting up very gingerly. At 5am we set off, not before Pablo reversed over a French guys baggage, and headed in the direction of the geysers and the rising sun. The sun rise over the mountains and turned the sky a cool reddy-pink colour.The geysers were really really effing cool. Big, hot, eggy jets of hot air bursting from the ground and surrounded by pools of bubbling mud. You could walk around freely, this is Bolivia after all, and feel the eggy hotness of earth`s power beneath your feet. Then back in the jeep and off to some thermal pools nearby. It was really bloody cold getting changed but the pools were like a nice hot bath temperature and it felt good on our weary, dusty bodies. The views over the steamy lagoon with the night`s ice melting slowly and the birds fluttering about were really cool. Getting out was hard work and very cold but we made it to breakfast and gorged on pancakes and coffee. This was basically the end of the trip and from here we were to drive back about 10 hours to Uyuni. However, Pablo was looking really quite poor and tired and so Leyton, who was a New Zealander and could do anything manly, took over wheel for most of the drive with Pabo dozing in the passenger. How we got back, I don`t know. Back at Uyuni we grabbed our bags from the office and went with the others from the group to a well-known pizza house. We ate far too much pizza and apple pie, I felt very sick, and then caught our night train which was heading to the border at Villazon.

Hope you enjoy the pictures, we are trying to update the blog as we speak

Much love XXX

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