Free from the elections, I travelled from Potosi to Uyuni with a group of people from the hostel. There was Arne from Germany, Rachel from UK/Australia, Bart from Holland, Mathias from France and Patricia from Switzerland. A right old European grouping. The journey was one of the most gorgeous ones I have done with an ever changing landscape. After a number of hours we arrived in the dusty, mess of a desert town and found ourselves both a hostel and a tour for the following days. You don’t come to Uyuni for Uyuni. you come to Uyuni as a jumping off point for Bolivia’s premier attraction – the largest salt flat in the world. The following day, the six of us crammed into a 4 by 4 and started a three day tour of the Salar De Uyuni and other sights. The first day was spent mostly on the salt flat. And what a place it is too. At 3653m and 12,106 sq km you feel totally isolated amongst the hexagons and heptagons that stretch for as far as the eye can see. Outside of feeling pretty insignificant against the landscape, the main thing to do on the Salar is to take lots of photos. Due to it being one of the most perfectly flat places on earth, with no hills, bumps, shadows or any particular visual reference points it proves to be a perfect place to mess about with perspective. With two primary school teachers and one artist it wasn’t long before all number of props were utilised to create some fantastic shots. Unfortunately, for this blog there will be a slight delay in the the presentation of the end results, but is a shot of the work in progress: Although the first day was mainly all about the salt flat, we also visited a place full of disused and rusting trains. There wasn’t a lot to do there other than clamber over them, which was as you might guess was perfect entertainment for a little while. We also visited a small hilly area, which is covered in cacti and gives excellent views out over the Salar. To finish the day, our tour was the last off of the salt flats as we watched the sun go down over the mountains in the distance. At this point the landscape had gone from loose salt into a winter wonderland. It may have felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere, but hidden slightly away was a small salt hotel, where we slept for the night. Everything including the beds, chairs and tables were made of salt. Slightly ironically though, we had to ask for salt to be brought to the table during the meal time. The next day, started slowly. Where the first day had been all about short distances and having a lot of free time, now we started the long drive part. However, the part of me that was wondering whether I should have done the one day tour soon vanished as we soon came across three lagoons full of flamingoes! The first had the novelty factor and the stunning landscape. Oh and it was lunchtime, which made it even better.
By the second one, the novelty factor had worn off and disappointed a little, but the third arguably gave the stellar view of the whole trip. With the wind blowing, the lagoon, which was dominated by the volcano behind, turned red. The range of colours were stunning. It was very cold though, and by the time we had retired to our second nights accommodation, fit with broken windows, it was the first time on the trip, where the ski thermals came out, as well as the down jacket. For the last day, I had assumed that we would literally drive to the border and that would be it. However, the geysers at 5:30am were a sight worthy of the previous two days. Seeing the bubbling mud and the discharges of steam took me right back to Indonesia. There was still time for a quick bathe in a thermal spring, until Arne, Rachel and I were dropped off at the border. After a quick exit stamp, we bordered a very cramped bus and made our way into Chile.
Three days in a 4 by 4 was not something that I was relishing, However, it will be one of the highlights of my year. Each stop we had, we were treated to something quite unique and on a spectacular scale all at high altitude, sometimes reaching as high as 5000m. Then there was the journey in-between, where watching the landscape continuously changing was incredible. And all for sixty quid. Who can argue at that?