Monday, March 29, 2010

Bolivia - salt flats and desert. Day #1

Some of you may know that I went to South America last year and I've finally gotten around to editing some photos and putting them up on Flickr. Even though we've been back home for over 4 months (where the hell did that time go?!), I thought it was about time I did a bit of a wrap up of the trip and shared some photos.

So I think I'll do a few blog posts this week dedicated to the South America journey. The posts won't be done in the order we travelled, but in the order I've been editing and posting photos.

Today's topic is the Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) & Bolivian desert trip we did.

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So this tour was one of the top things I was interested in doing in South America. I'd heard some really good things about it from a few people and had seen some amazing photos, so I was determined for it to be on our itinerary. Ryan and Rem had no idea what it was all about, so I had to convince them it would be really cool. I think in their minds they had visions of just driving out onto some really flat, salty land and going 'Oh cool. More salt.' I think in the end they were really glad they did it as it exceeded their expectations and wasn't all just a lot of flat, salty land at all.

We travelled to Uyuni from La Paz on an overnight bus. Most of the trip was ok (as ok as an overnight bus trip can be), but the last few hours were pretty uncomfortable. We went off the sealed road and onto a dirt road which was bumpy as all hell, and the bus became freezing! Had to get out beanies and goose-down vests for the last part of the ride. I was also busting for the toilet, but unfortunately the toilet on the bus was impossible to use due to the bus lurching around all over the place, and throwing its passengers a foot into the air.

We got into Uyuni shortly after sunrise and were greeted by a hoard of tour operators trying to get business. Tourism is one of the big industries in town, so the competition was high and the touts were aggressive. I think their plan of attack was to wear people down until they gave in.

In the end we decided that to get this particularly persistent guy off our backs we'd agree to go check out his operation. We were surprised that they actually had a pretty decent set-up and seemed pretty reasonable so we decided to go with them.

We had met a Swiss couple on the bus who we found out were also wanting to do the 3 day tour ending in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, so we teamed up with them for the trip.


Before heading off, we had to get our exit stamps on our passports in case the migration office at the Bolivian border into Chile was closed. You can get an exit stamp on your passport and then you have 3 days to leave the country. We did it in Uyuni because we didn't want to risk being stuck at the border.

We headed out of Uyuni towards the first destination, which was the train cemetary. Basically it's where a lot of old trains have been left to rust, and for some reason it's on the standard tour. I think it's basically just because it's a pretty random sight and there are plenty of interesting photo opportunities.



Our next stop was the salt-flats, which really are just that. It's a big, vast, blinding expanse of white, salty plains.

Basically this, for miles on end:

We took a bunch of silly photos, mostly involving us jumping in the air, like this:



We moved on to a little village which seemed to sell a lot of tourist trinkets carved from salt. I also observed this bus, which I was a bit glad I wasn't on:


After the brief interlude at the trinket town, we headed for a salt hotel, where we had lunch on tables and chairs made from blocks of salt. In fact the entire building was made from blocks of salt.

We took some more photos after lunch, and attempted some perspective photos, which didn't work out as well as we'd hoped. Ryan gave up and tried to make salt angels, but much to his disgust the salt was hard and uncomfortable, and his attempt at a salt-angel proved fruitless.



From here we went to Isla Incahuasi, which is this 'island' in the middle of the salt flats, covered in cacti (some up to 1000 years old). It's a really bizarre sight and you can get a really cool view if you climb up the top.



We took some more perspective photos, and then Ryan and Reto practised their dragon-style kung-fu. As you do.




We paused again on the edge of the salt flats for a group shot, before continuing on to our accommodation for the night....



Our accommodation was very basic, but was actually one of the comfiest beds and best nights sleep I had on the whole South America trip. The rooms were made of salt, including the bed base and the bedside table. Even the floor was rock-salt (which wasn't too pleasant on bare feet).



After dinner that night, the owner's kids (and half the kids in the neighbourhood) came and gave us a little performance. They were really funny - all embarrassed and checking to make sure nobody was watching through the window. After they sang for us, we gave them a few coins, but then Evelyn busted open a packet of lollies and all of a sudden pandemonium broke out. The kids went crazy and luckily we had some spare lollies because one kid wasn't quick enough to grab and almost missed out. The poor bugger was on the verge of tears until we found the back-up supply! I suppose kids are kids in any country!

2 comments:

  1. Wow! Great photos. I think you need to do high jumps and kooky photos in that kind of landscape.

    Sounds like an amazing hotel!

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  2. oh wow! great photos!... i am getting the itch to travel again, just looking at them. have yet to get to south america.... one day! ;)

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