End of the Salt Flat Tour with the Dutchies
Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
117Trip End Ongoing
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Our most amusing moment of the trip came at Wim´s expense. He got up in the night to go to the loo in the sub-zero temperatures, still feeling terrible because of the altitude. He struggled into his fleece which suddenly seemed several sizes too small, and also struggled into his shoes. In his half-asleep and ill state he came to the conclusion that his whole body had swelled up due to his altitude sickness. Sitting on the loo a little later, his fears were calmed by shining a light on his fleece and realising it wasn´t his, but belonged to his girlfriend Ria - and the reason his shoes didn´t fit was down to an extra pair of socks
The woolliness in the head that altitude gives you wasn´t confined to Wim alone - I caught Ed one morning trying to stuff his whole sleeping bag into another bag about the size of his fist - he was sure he could do it!
Another key moment in our trip was Javier trying to overtake another jeep in the snow (egged on by us) and getting us stuck. The four of us pushed the fully-laden jeep out of the hole at 4500 metres altitude, it felt like we´d run a marathon and both Ria and I fell in the snow. Pretty extreme!
Anyway, final day is what the build-up is about. We had stayed in a hotel the night before completely made out of salt blocks. Due to the insulating property of the blocks it was the warmest night we had throughout the trip. Also that night we discovered a taste for llama meat and Bolivian red wine.
Driving out on a rough and ready road before dawn we arrived on the world´s biggest salt flat - El Salar de Uyuni. Only as the sun rose could we begin to see just how immense this place was. A bitterly-cold, sparkling white place; both immense and impressive.
As the light came up, we couldn´t resist the first of many photos playing with perspective. People holding up the jeep in one hand, or balancing a person standing on one leg on your hand - a great way to keep warm too
Later, we drove to to Isla de Pescado (Fish Island, so called for the shape) - the only geographical feature in an otherwise flat expanse. The island consists of walking trails bordering rocks and enormous cacti, thought to be over 100 years old. Here, we met other jeeps doing the tour and downed numerous cups of coca tea to try and keep warm.
Out tour ended with a drive around ojos de hielo (eyes of ice) where we could see perfectly formed salt crystals floating in the holes of the salt flat. Apparently in summer when a layer of water covers the flat, the hills and mountains in the distance appear to be floating - this layer of water also camouflages the holes to the extent that a couple of years ago a jeep went into the water. No-one hurt, but all a little surprised!
Arriving in Uyuni, we certainly felt we had experienced a journey - putting up with Javier´s jokes for 5 days was an extreme test in itself! As always, hard to say goodbye to people whose company you sincerely enjoy and Javier and Nuria were definitely in this category.
Uyuni itself was no tourist gem - cold, lacking hot water and had a profusion of black flowers as Javier called them (black rubbish bags blowing around in the wind).
Doubtless, we consider the Salar de Uyuni tour a unique experience and a definite highlight of our trip!