A salt lovers heaven!

Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

10,582 sq kms of pure white salt! It couldnīt get much better for a salt feind like myself! Boo was a little horrified at my slight love of salt...not that I licked it off the salt flats or anything....please, I do exercise some restraint!

Our much anticipated salt flat tour in Bolivia kicked off on typical Bolivian time (i.e late) on the 9th November from the small tourist town of Uyuni and we were excited! Crammed into our Toyota Landcruiser were three Frenchies, the guide and his cook wife, Boo and I and all our provisions. We stopped at numerous places on route to collect more things that hadnīt as yet been organised. Boo had the cleverness to check we had a spare tyre on board (many tours donīt) and although it was somewhat bald, it would suffice if needed (it was).

First stop was the train graveyard....somewhere I really wanted to go to take black an white photos. We also ended up nipping out there the evening before at sunset when there was no one else out there. A wise move as the pics during the daytime werenīt as great.

Then it was onto the massive expanse of white salt where we stopped off for 30 minutes for our guide and his wife to have a late brekkie and for us to peruse the salt markets and take pics. Then its back into the 4WD and onto the original Salt Hotel which is no longer a hotel as it has no water and nowhere to put its waste. All the 3&4 day tour companies stop there to do their lunches and take the obligatory trick photograpghy, like this one: Sadly there was no water on the salt flats so reflection photography was at a minimum.

Back in the 4WD for some more driving...to a massive dormant volcano, Mt Tunupa, and our home for the night. By this point, Boo and I had managed to crack the Frenchies out of their shell and everyone was getting along famously....it must have been our impressive singing to our guides extensive collection of music. Everytime our guide started the 4WD, we were blessed with two heart felt songs by Bryan Adams full blast (argh!), closely followed by īLady in redī, two Elton John songs and (a saving grace), a Crowded House song. And given he only had a total of 8 songs and we were in the car for a minimum of 6 hours a day, you can imagine just how many times we heard them! The lucky French boys were only with us for a day and half so they managed to escape the monotony early on! We realised on day two that actually the guide and his wife only just got married a year ago so maybe that explained the heart pouring love songs from the 80īs!

That night as we were all sitting outside with our various teas and beers staring at the stars and telling stories, we watched the most enormous meteorite burn up into the atmosphere and then split in two as it rained down. It was awesome!

Day two saw us climb up Mt Tunupa, at least until the base of the crater exterior. It took us from 3,600m to 4,000m. Had we more time, we would have gone to the crater rim and its amazing colours, but alas, lunch was calling and it would be too rude to be late to lunch! You can ask Boo... all I could think about on this trip is food! Then after lunch, it was off to the Incahuasi Island in the centre of salt flats, which is covered in cactus plants. And tourists. Sadly as the sun wasn't out, the photos didnīt come out as good as they could have so we decended off the island, bade farewell to the French fellas, said hi to another 3 peeps who had come to join our tour and motored on to the next hostel for the night, Bryan Adams blasting all the way of course.

Day three took us off the salt flats and into the the most amazing, barren vista of volcanos! A mix of extinct, dormant and still active, I have never been totally surrounded by volcanoes. It was fantastic. I was so keen to climb them, but alas, not time for that. It was to be a day in the car, bouncing around from one lake to the next and they were stunning. A colourful contrast of flamingos, water, greenery around the lakes and then barren asents up the surrounding volanoes. Complimented by more Bryan Adams. If only he knew how he was worshipped in the salt flats of Bolivia!

That night was brilliant fun with the birthday of a Pomme from a neighboring car in our hostel. Drinks were bought from the makeshift market, card games were dealt and the night ended with a DJ mixing session of laptops(!), iPods and other MP3 players. My tiny but powerful speakers have been somewhat of a hit this trip and there are orders left, right and centre for them!

The final day saw a 4am departure in time to see the geysers at sunrise and then take a delicious dip in the natural hot pools before brekkie. Given we were still at 3,800m, we were only allowed to stay in for a max of 20 minutes and even that left us feeling a little light headed. Then after brekkie (and defrosting Boo's frozen bikini off the clothes line(!), we headed straight for the border and San Pedro....but thats a tale for another time....

We had a ball in Bolivia...its a country of strong contrasts, making the most of what its got. Iīd definitely go back. Hasta luego Bolivia, muchas gracias!
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Pip on

WOW - loving the salt and loving the pictures
Keep em coming!

Pip x x

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