Can you pass the salt please?

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, July 30, 2005

A few years ago I was in La Paz with some friends. We only had a couple of days left before our return flight home, and hence had to choose between visiting Rurrenabaque in the Amazon Basin or Salar de Uyuni. We ended up going on an adventurous trip to Rurrenabaque, but since that day I knew I would come back to Bolivia in order to visit Salar de Uyuni. And now I'm here!! I have signed up on a three days jeep adventure with Cordillera Tours in San Pedro de Atacama, heading over the altiplano and through Salar de Uyuni on our way to the town of Uyuni in Bolivia. With me on the trip are Catherine and Marcus (a young and friendly couple from California, on their way to Tierra del Fuego in a pickup) as well as Tom and George (two funny Britts). They will all head back to San Pedro de Atacama from Uyuni, while I will continue northeast towards Potosi.

The whole adventure costs me US $75, including a guide, cook, transportation, food and accommodation. On top of that, add some out of this world scenery. Not a bad price if you ask me. It ends up being a wonderful trip, just as I expected. It's freezing cold at night (most of the trip hovers around 3500-5000 meters above sea level), but warm and nice during the day. We visit all the main sites of course, including Laguna Verde, Laguna Colorada, Sol de Maņana (a geyser basin at 4950m. In the previous blog entry, I know I said that the El Tatio geysers is the world's highest geyser field at 4300m, but this is a basin and not a field according to the "Crowded Planet", and I don't really know the difference to be honest. And neither do I care), Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, "The Rock Tree" and the "Salvador Dali desert". We also spot quite a bit of wildlife, like flamingos, foxes, alpacas, vicuņas, llamas and vizcachas.

After spending the second night at the Salt Hotel (yes, that's a hotel built entirely out of salt), we top it all off by visiting Salar de Uyuni itself and Isla de Pescadores. Salar de Uyuni at 3653m is the largest salt flats in the world. It's about 12,000 sq km (that's half the size of Belgium with it's 9 million inhabitants). This time of the year it's a blindingly white desert, while in the rainy season it got a thin layer of water on top, giving it a perfect mirror image. No matter what, it's an incredible place and unbelievably isolated (more or less the only people you see for three days are other jeeps herding backpackers to and from Uyuni).
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