Sallar De Uyuni - amazing...

Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
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16
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Trip End Jun 15, 2011


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Being on another planet

This was the feeling I had for 3 whole days. So strange...
So our jurney begins on a bus (of course...), 10 hours (of course)  from Sucre to Uyuni via Potosi.
The bus ride went fine, although it was a day ride so it´s much harder to sleep...
when we finally arrived to Uyuni - I saw the most remote village you could ever imagine... broken houses in the middle of the desert, and nothing to look at. Time has forgotten this place, but it´s visitors will not.
We arrived in the evening, so we booked a tour for the next morning. By ¨We¨ I mean (for those of you who can´t follow my entries) Phil and Clair from England, Johanna and Matilda from Finland, Sam from Australia and myself - the Israeli.
We booked a tour through Oasis tours which were supposed to be good, and went to sleep in that lost village.
The next morning we were packed and ready to go on a Toyota Landcruiser, with a driver/guide who speaks no americano (Thanks Johanna for translating everything).
Now before I begin to describe our adventures, I have to ask you something.
During the entire 3 days, our driver played the same tape with Bolivian folklore songs over and over again. We wished we were deaf by the end of it... So I ask you - please open this link as you read this entry, just to make it more authentic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46MTsrSwzbM

Now that we understand each other, I will begin.

Day 1 - Trains cemetary, salt ¨factory¨, salt hotel, crazy cactus, funny photos, barbon cave, dead inca people.

Our day began at 10:30, leaving Uyuni and heading over to the nearby trains cemetary. Apparently there has been trains coming over from Chile and other countries, collecting salt and other commodities. Whenever a train ¨died¨ they left it there near Uyuni... Thus - Train cemetary.
I can´t say that it was amazing, but it was much better than the village itself...
After taking some pictures among the wreckage, we continues out trip to a more interesting location - the Sallar salt factory. Of course that there was a market there, trying to sell us Gringos some salt, salt sculptures, salt dice, and regular Bolivian folklore. We had an explanation about how they prepare the salt (all by hand!) including the part where you put it in a bag and close it with fire... crazy people...
From the factory we headed into the salt flats. Out first stop was at an area in the desert that was full of little piles of salt - this is where they ¨harvest¨ it and then take these piles by trucks to be ¨processed¨ at the factory,
Netxt stop was the salt hotel. It´s no longer active and now serves as a museum, but it is made entirely of salt. The building itself, Tables, Chairs, beds and floor - all salty.
I´m not sure how comfortable you feel sleeping in such a hotel, but the idea is nice and unique. the beds seemed comfortable, but I didn´t try them.
From the salt hotel we went on to a crazy place in the middle of the salt desert. It´s a small village that seems like an island in a see of salt. Crazy view, huge cactus, several llamas and small houses. Unbelievable scenery - taken straight out of a science fiction movie.
I can´t really explain this, but you really do feel on another planet. Nothing makes sense, and you´re trying to convince yourself that what you see is real... Well, it gets worse later on (red pools and flamingos).
We climbed up to the observatory (yes, the Mirador) to see a spectacular view of the huge salty area around us. After the group photo we went to fool around a bit and tried some of the famous ¨optical illusions¨ you can photo since the desert gives you no sense of perception.
We bought some dragons to have fun with, but the best photos were of people... As you can see - results are average, but it was fun nonetheless!
We left the salt flats, heading deeper into the sallar desert. The driver stopped at an entrance to an unusual cave - filled with very strange carbon-based shapes...
Looks like the inside of a whale or something... anyway - it was very disturbing, and the burial caves nearby that features skulls of Inca and coca leaves were not helping either....
We arrived at our ¨hostel¨ early that evening, only to find out that it´s even more deserted than Uyuni (Duh) that now seemed like a large metropolitan... The beds were basically cement coffins (just like graves), and we were wondering if our mattresses are not simply laid on somebody´s tomb. But dinner was good and the blankets were warm (it can get down to -30 degrees celsius at night and upto 40 during daytime).

Day 2 - Strange rocks, 5 lagoons in the middle of the desert, pink flamingos, lagoona colorada .

We woke up early (6:00) for breakfast, which I would have liked if my stomache would have been willing to accept any food... We left the hostel with not much regrets and head on to another strange part of the desert - rock formation that are basically dried corals from the time this area was a huge lake.
After frolicking in the sun between the sharp rocks, we headed on to an active volcano, which unfortunately was unapprochable. We saw it from afar as well as some more strange red rocks formation (yes, mostly unusual rocks around there).
We took some photos in the area and tried to enjoy the unusual scenery (once again - doesn´t look like our planet),
But then we had one of the most unusual experiences on this jurney. We headed the first of 5 lagoons that are spread around the desert (not including Lagoona verde, Lagoona colorada and some other lagoons the bolivians forgot to count).
And there it was - in the middle of the desert. A huge lagoon with PINK FLAMINGOS flocking around. Yes, desert - lagoon - flamingos. We knew that this is what we should be seeing but you still can´t believe your eyes. I told Sam that I think the Bolivians just bought some funny looking chikens, painted them pink, spilled a lot of water and stuck them in the middle of the desert.
The second lagoon wasn´t much better - same concept, much more flamingos, still feeling it´s all fake.
We headed on to third fouth and fifth lagoon but with much less surprise... Hmph. More water? More flamingos? Eh, we´ve seen that already... give us something new!
The new thing was... yes - more rocks! but this time it was a really famous rock formation called ¨Arbol del Pietra¨ - you may recognize it from Salvador Dali´s painting.
It was awesome, but we had enough of rocks and wanted to see new lagoons! I mean, not really new lagoons but something completely new!
So the final twist was Lagoona Colorada. Apparently this lagoon has billions of microorganizms in it that changed it color to red. And by red I mean Orange. And by orange I mean bright unbelievable orange. I´ve never seen anything like it and yet again - I believe it´s a Bolivian conspiracy - simply pouring tons of orange color into a regular lagoon. big deal...
From there we went on to our second ¨hostel¨ which was even worse looking than the first one... But this time we had a hot furnace with fire, and dinner included hot wine - which was awesome.

Day 3 - Flat tire, geizers, hot springs, Lagoona verde and an oasis.

Waking up at 4:00a.m. Yes, I´ll say it again - 4:00a.m. I can´t even begin to describe how cold it is at 4:00 in the morning in the desert. It was so cold that we had ice on the INSIDE of the car´s windows. All of them. Just to make things worse - 30 minutes after we left we had a flat tire, so we all had to get out of the jeep and start dancing in the freezing cold as our poor driver had to change the flat tire (no gloves on).
After this mishap we arrived at yet another unusual place - the geizers.
One was artificial (looked cool but it´s a fake), and the others were HUGE... at 180 degrees - you don´t want to get too close. But the Bolivians are not fans of fences, warning signs or instructions so you could actually step over and touch it (or jump in if you wanted to), In such a cold wheather - I had to touch it myself. It was hot.
After leaving the geizers we arrived at a wondeful attraction - the hot springs! 30 degrees celsius are perfect to have a nice warm bath. It´s just that the Bolivians once again made a mistake and didn´t have any warm shelter to change clothes nearby. So when it´s close to 0 degrees outside, it´s no surprised that the only people to enter the springs from our group were the Finnish girls being used to Finnish sauna...
I had the courage to touch the water. It was warm.
Heading off to our final attraction - Lagoona Verde (green lagoon). Upon arrival our driver/guide appologized on behalf of the bolivian people and explained that the lagoon appears much greener later in the afternoon... so we just saw a regular - a bit greenish huge lagoon. We forgave him.
Then we kissed goodbye Matilda, Johanna and Sam who continued into Chile and began our long jurney (no... not 10 hours, just 7) back to Uyuni. On our way we stopped for lunch at a village in the middle of the desert that had a wonderful spring in the middle of it (apparently they don´t understand the concept of DESERT around here),
Lunch was great and we were thrilled to be back in Uyuni.
So thrilled that we took a bus to La paz as soon as we got there. I won´t tell you how long the ride took (more than 9 hours and less than 11).

So writing now from La paz (yes, cheating a little bit) and will edit an entry from here as soon as I take some photos...
Until then - thanks for reading and Hasta Luego!

Gilad.

P.S.
You can stop the bolivian song now.

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