Salt of the earth
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We took the tour with Lissa and Kim, hoping there would be safety in numbers after hearing stories of drunk drivers and guides not knowing where they are going. We were joined by Richard, who came to the observatory with us, and a couple from Singapore Francoise and Serene.
We had to cross the border into Bolivia which was nothing more than a small hut and a line in the dirt. This understated crossing doesn't do justice to the significant history and ongoing border disputes between Chile and Bolivia. The War of the Pacific in the late 19th century saw Chile victorious over the combined forces of Bolivia and Peru and in the process taking all of Bolivia's Pacific coastline and therefore access to trade, as well as huge mineral rich desert
The salt flats themselves are more than 12,000kmē of a flat, white crust of salt formed in hexagonal shapes above brine solution. They are the remains of an old lake that dried up. The flats can be incredibly disorientating, creating a very strange perspective of distances...which also means you can have great fun creating bizarre photos.
But before we got there we passed white lakes, green lakes, red lakes, multi coloured mountains, desert flats, volcanic rock gardens and lots and lots of flamingoes. We spent our nights in some truly remote places including a bizarre but brilliant hotel built entirely from salt bricks.
Much to our relief, our 2 drivers were not drunkards (at least not while driving) and our fellow travellers were great company. It's hard to take in such relentlessly beautiful scenery and by the time we reached our final destination of Uyuni we were all exhilarated but completely knackered! Before we could relax, there was one last sight to see - the weird and wonderful train cemetery displaying the remains of some of Bolivia's first trains abandoned in the open air.
We said goodbye to Lissa, Kim and Richard in Uyuni as we all went separate ways and were sad to leave our travel buddies behind. We embarked on the bumpiest 12 hour bus ride yet to La Paz where we collapsed in nice beds after hot showers (the first in 3 days) to wait for Ben!