One of the main reasons we decided to include Bolivia in our South American adventure was because of the Uyuni Salt Flats. Come on, you’ve seen the pictures! All those backpackers taking pictures coming out of a Pringles can or being “eaten” by a dinosaur, or the -mostly Japanese- pictures with the perfect reflection of the starry sky. WE HAD TO GO.
So we took a 8 hour overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni, the small town where hundreds of travellers gather just before starting a tour of a lifetime. As I said, we were there mostly for the Salt Flats, so we were not prepared nor expecting all the beauty ahead.
The tour took us to many, many places and let me tell you, it’s a lot, a LOT, A LOT! of driving, but you just don’t notice -or care- because there’s beauty everywhere you look. Our first stop was at the “Train Cemetery” which is basically that; a bunch of useless and rusted trains from God knows when and where, that have now become a tourist attraction. It’s pretty cool in its own way, people have written funny stuff on some of them, which makes them good for cool/funny pictures, and by adding swings and passages here and there it has become a playground as well. Be careful though, on a sunny day, those bad boys get very warm, and I know, you must be like DUH, Monica! but I was so eager to explore them I burnt my ass and hands a little bit. You know, just a friendly reminder to use your brains more than I did.
After a fairly quick stop at the Train Cemetery it was time to finally visit the Salt Flats. Just so you know, if you want those reflection pictures á la japanese you’ll have to go during the rainy season which is good for the salt flats but kinda sucks for all the rest of the trip. The ideal would be staying at Uyuni long enough to experience both seasons and all the artistic photo possibilities!
The Uyuni Salt Flat or Salar de Uyuni in Spanish, is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar.
Finally something flatter than my chest! 🙂 (…hello darkness my old friend🎶) and after driving around we found the perfect spot for our optical illusion photos.
I have a million of pictures of this! The tour guides are experts in taking the best and funny pictures and they also suggest you to take the pictures with your phone, don’t ask me why, I don’t remember. We were stupid enough and maybe shy to get one of those photo props like toy dinosaurs to make our pics even funnier, oh well, we suck… maybe next time.
We also got to see the proof of all the tourists from all around the world who have been lucky enough to visit this awesome, bucket-list-worthy place. A very nationalist proof.
At lunch time we got to see the process of the salt production and we got to eat in house made of salt, with salt tables and chairs.
The following day we left behind the salt flat to start exploring the amazing area around. Full of mountains and volcanoes, it has so many beautiful landscapes that I regret every single day not having a better camera back then! But the memories are in my head 100%. I remember being very tired but always fascinated.
I was the only Spanish speaking person in the car (there was a couple of Canadians and a couple of Aussies) so I talked a lot with the driver, a 50-something old man who was very happy that Evo Morales was president because he would finally get a pension when retiring after working for about 40 years, and being away in these tours more often than his wife and children approved. He looked way older than 50, his wrinkles product of being under the sun most of his life. He also told me he was very used to the altitude and one time when he went to Chile, closer to sea level, he almost fainted.
Because of my friendship with the driver we got full access to his very big bag of coca leaves, which he chewed constantly and admitted he couldn’t go a day without them. These came pretty useful because there were moments when we were as high as 5,000 m above sea level.
We also had one stop at the Laguna Colorada, or Red Lagoon, a place where I am sure could be the set up for a Sci-Fi movie. Just out of this world, I’m sure Mars looks like this. It is also full of flamingos, just there, in the middle of anywhere, some animals are weird.
At the end of this day, we got to our hostel which had no electricity but had something better. It had a natural hot spring water pool. Hopping in the pool after a long day of excitement, into the warm water, with no electricity or other houses around, thus, no light pollution with the Milky Way above us, fully unspoiled, was pure magic.
The following day we woke up and it was snowing! Crazyyyy, but not really, it happens due to the altitude. You never know how the weather will be, so layering is the way to go. And by layering I mean also a beanie, gloves, scarf and thermal clothes. Because this day was cold AF.
And so it ended our adventure, and we had to say goodbye to those who were going to Chile, and for us was a long drive back to Uyuni and from there back to La Paz and to our final stop in Bolivia: Lake Titicaca.