Uyuni

Trip Start Mar 28, 2008
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Trip End Mar 27, 2009


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Flag of Bolivia  , Uyuni,
Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday

Today, Julie was feeling alot better - one and a half days in bed seemed to help with lots of coca tea!!!

We were leaving Potosi today to go to Uyuni, we were warned the six hour journey was on a very bumpy road. It however wasnīt that bad and the roads are made of what looked like compacted sand. They seem to constantly repair the road and it is quite scary to go on these roads, because they are only wide enough for one vehicle and you have to beep your horn everytime you go around a corner. The scenery was spectacular and we saw lots of Llamaīs.

Uyuni is the poorest place we have been to so far yet there was a great american owned hotel and pizzeria. You only visit Uyuni because it is a stop off before you visit the Salt Flats. We had a great pizza and death by chocolate cake - yum!

Friday

Our group all started the morning with pancakes - we definately like this place! We then set off for our two day excursion to the Salt Flats.

These are one of Bolivioīs most extraordinary attractions - the salar de uyuni covers 9,000 to 12,000 square kilometres. It is the largest salt lake in the world, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. It is easy to believe you are on another planet, so harsh and inhospitable is the terrain (do you like our plagerism!)

The Salar is not a lake in any conventional sense of the word, though below the surface it is largely saturated by water. Its upper layer consists of a thick, hard crust of salt.

One of the main reasons for visiting this area is to take crazy pictures - with a large expanse of white salt and in places no mountains. The pictures you take have no perspective. Things become out of proportion - hard to explain until you see the photos.

However, there are lots of other things to fill the two days. We first visited the train cemetary, quite a boring place for non-train spotters! The remnants of trains were just left on unused train tracks. We were told abit about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids (we thought they were fictional cowboys - sorry Dad!) and then we set off for the local salt refining and packing factory.

There were 3 people working and they each have to fill at least 3,000 bags per day to make a basic living - Julie helped them of course!

There was a small market there and so many tourists, it was like been at a market in England!

We then headed off to the first ever salt hotel - it used to offer a pool of water that you sat in up to knee level to draw out the toxins, it however had problems with pollution and sanitation so the hotel now functions as a museum. There are some amazing carvings made out of salt - it is quite weird to think you can make buildings and carvings out of salt.

We then drove out to the middle of the salt flats to start taking pictures - we didnīt realise how hard this would be. We managed to get a couple of good pictures though. The surface is very hard - even when you try to lie down gently you still feel discomfort. It can be very cold in the shade and very hot in the sun with the reflection off the salt.

Julie discovered this with a MAJOR white sunglass mark and burnt lips (we did have factor 40 on though!)

We then went to some caves which were only discovered in 2001, called the Galaxy Caves. The first one had coral features everywhere, quite spectacular to look at. They were coral because at some point the area was covered by sea. The next cave was called Diabloīs Cave (Devilīs Cave), which was a cemetary for pre-incaīs - we took some photoīs and for those who watch Most Haunted on Living TV, we have alot of Orbīs featuring in them. Spooky!

We then went to our "hotel" which was built of salt bricks - it was surprisingly nice, just a shame after a few uses of the toilet they smelt really bad and were just off the communal dining area. Each tour brings its own cook and alcohol. Lights go out at 9.30pm so we managed to make use of our head lights.

Later that night we went outside to look at the stars. We have never seen stars like it!

Saturday

Today we had to get up at 5.00am - a huge struggle for Julie as you can expect! The electricity still wasnīt on so we had to get washed and dressed in the dark.

We then set off to see the sunrise over the Salt Flats, the sun was due to rise at 6.20am and we were there 10 minutes early and it was so cold, we had to jog around to keep warm. A double shock to the system but well worth it!

We then set off for Fish Island, one of the small islands on the Salt Flats. There are hundreds of cacti on the island, some 800 years old. When you reach the top you can see the huge expanse of the Salt Flats. Pictures do not do it justice.

We then had a well deserved breakfast of pancakes and Dulce de Leche (gorgeous thick caramel spread - why donīt they sell this in England?!?)

We then had a second attempt at taking photos - abit more successful this time! For lunch we tried Llama which was okay.

We then got back to the hotel in Uyuni and had to waste 9 hours until our night train to Oruro. This was incredibly hard when all you want to do is go to bed and sleep but couldnīt.

We caught the train at midnight and had a restless night sleep. We arrived at Oruro at 7am to then catch a bus to La Paz - we luckily managed to catch the 8am bus so we didnīt have to wait around. The journey to La Paz was 3 hours - we were exhausted when we finally arrived.

Driving into the City the views are amazing, La Paz is set in and around valleys with snow topped mountains in the distance.
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