The Salt Flats

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waking up a combination of cold, tired, hungover and pissed off is never a good thing, but I find I am once again in the back of a jeep with the sun barely up.  I console myself with the thought that this is the last time I need to pander to someone else's time frame, knowing full well I'm not getting out of bed tomorrow for less than ten grand.  We're gunning it across the salty landscape before I can complain.

Here we are then, the culmination of three days nightmarish conditions.  I say nightmarish, but not in comparison to a war zone.  It was only a bit of cold and a lack of hot water, but when you've got someone like me who prefers their creature comforts, then I'd throw a tantrum if there isn't a power socket for my hair straighteners.  I can't wait to be back in a warm bed within ten feet of a power shower and a fluffy toilet seat.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, and I've said that before and I'll say this again, that we really do take so much for granted.  The end is in sight as we speed on into nothingness.

I'm not going to be able to do this justice in either words or pictures.  The Salar De Uyuni is the worlds largest salt flat at over 10,000 square metres.  It's sheer size is almost overwhelmingly daunting.  A blindingly white salt plateau that appears perfectly flat right to the distant horizon, and covers a pool of brine, which apparently contains much of the worlds lithium content.  Science and geology aside, it is totally mesmerising, and, if you have a camera and a few props, a huge amount of fun.

Playing with perspectives is one of the many reasons why this place attracts so many people each year.  Granted the sight itself is truly stunning, but it isn't as much of a laugh as creating stupid pictures that make you look like you're about to swallow your best mate, you're standing on a Pringle tin, or pushing a jeep like it's a dinky car.  You only have to google some images to see there are thousands of them out there, each more creative than the last, each trying to find the most original and humourous picture to entertain and amuse.  I've not put much thought into it compared to some of the efforts I've seen, but we're still wracking our brains to come up with some new ideas, so much so you could get lost in the attempt, and end up spending hours upon hours in the white desert.

We're all perspective'd out though as we finally make out way to the last stop, leave the jeeps and guides behind and once more strike out into the country on our own.  Uyuni is the closest town to the Salt Flats, and one that for most serves as a base to see the natural phenomenon.  Over the course of the evening the group departs to head their separate ways, goodbyes are hugged out, and eventually myself and Paddy are left to sauce it up in The Extreme Fun Pub.

Now I'm not sure if I missed something at the door, but it was neither extreme, nor was it much fun.  The aforementioned Irish girl turned up very briefly, then was the only one who didn't come back out due to 'tiredness'.  I was left to converse with a crazy bald guy who kept touching girls to see how long it would take to freak them out, and a Dutch motorcycle dude who financed his way around South America by selling drugs.  Added to this the bars walls are covered in the names of foolhardy individuals who have taken it upon themselves to see how fast they can drink 'The Challenge'.  This consists of around ten shots, each with a ridiculous amount of alcohol, to be downed in the quickest time possible.  Do it fast enough and you'd get it for free.  This is assuming you're not dead.  One 'hero' boasted 28 seconds.  He was from Bolivia.  The vast majority were made up of English and Australians.  It was time to call it a night, before I got drunk enough to give it a try and wake up in a gutter with a street dog licking the vomit out of my mouth. 


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