Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
41Trip End Sep 04, 2011
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The plan for the next three days was to spend 3 days and 2 nights exploring the Salar de Uyuni and surrounds
On arriving in Uyuni we were greeted by a very strange sight…. snow! It apparently never snows in Uyuni and it should currently be experiencing its dry season but the snow obviously followed us from La Paz and Copacabana. We didn’t think too much of it until our tour operator explained that we would be able to see next to nothing. Luckily, as we were on a private tour, we were able to postpone our departure by a day and got to spend a day in the town of Uyuni – the bustling metropolis of absolutely nothing
The following day we awoke to clear blue skies and headed off on our tour. Our first stop was the train mausoleum. All different engines and train carriages have been abandoned here. Our second stop was a salt factory on the edge of the salt flats. Here we were shown how they collect, clean, grind and package the salt. Finally we were able to hit the Salar. We had not known what to expect but what we saw was beyond our wildest dreams. We were driving through the snow and all of a sudden the snow stopped and we drove for about 1 km on dirt before hitting the whitest sand you have ever seen. The Salar is perfectly flat, to the point that you can actually see the curvature of the earth and is edged by a large mountain range. Over a foot of snow fell across the region and the snow was a blessing because as it melted, 6 inches of water remained across the entire Salt Flat. This only ever happens in the wet season and people travel there specifically to see this phenomenon as the white salt flat underlying the water allows a perfect reflection of the sky and mountains and even in the wet season there are very few days that you are to see this
We spent the first night in a salt hotel. As the name indicates, the entire hotel is made from salt: the walls, tables, chairs, beds etc... We were given a very nice room and spent most of the evening playing cards and then at the very late hour of 8pm we all crawled into bed. Not because we were exhausted but due to the fact that it was below freezing and we were all on the brink of hyperthermia
The snow we had experienced on our Uyuni trip was not only a blessing but it was also a curse. Firstly, it made the entire area absolutely freezing and secondly the snow in the mountains had still not melted. The second day began with us trying to climb the mountains in order to reach the lagoons and stone tree. Unfortunately the snow was very thick and most of the drivers decided to drive in convoy for safety. We were the second car and watched the lead car try to decipher where the road was hidden below the snow. On a couple of occasions he misjudged where the road was supposed to be and the convoy would have to stop in order to dig him out. At one point we had to climb a steep hill with a ditch on the one side and a cliff on the other. The occupants of all seven vehicles got out to clear the road. We realised how incredibly dangerous driving in the snow was as on numerous occasions our vehicle would be driving straight and in an instant later the back of the vehicle would kick out, spinning us off the road. If this had happened on that steep road, we would have been finished. It was all rather terrifying and we even made a pact that we were allowed to eat each other if we got stranded. Georgie even started rationing Midge’s water intake in case there was a shortage. One thing that is indisputable is that the Toyota Landcruiser is the best 4x4 around
The convoy headed to a nearby town in order to spend the night. We were all so energetic and lively as we all felt like we had escaped death! We headed out to explore the town, which was about 200m by 200m. After a full tour of every avenue and corner of the town we returned, a full 5 min later. It is at this point that we would like to describe the food we ate on the tour. We were told to take this specific company as the food was the best. We were therefore surprised when the very first meal we were served was grilled llama meat. We were a little shocked and when we asked we were told that all food we will be served is strictly Bolivian. We managed to just stomach the llama meat but whenever red meat was served thereafter, we chose not to know. One the second night we were given a typical Bolivian dish that consists of meat, sausage, tomatoes and sausage
On our last day we were taken to a place with the most incredible rock formations. The wind and climate are so incredibly harsh here that the rocks have been sandblasted into the most incredible shapes. We also got to visit a couple of lagoons and an awesome canyon that cuts through the mountains. We then headed back to Uyuni town when Midge happily climbed into bed to sleep off the last of his ‘llama poisoning’.
We were very sad to have missed out on large parts of our Uyuni tour but our main objective had been to see the salt flats and we got to see them at their absolute best. It was a fantastic experience, except for the fact we almost had to become cannibals! Out next stop is Potosi, the highest city in the world. Let’s hope Midge can handle the six hour bus ride we have ahead of us!