Slat Flat Tour - Day 1

Salar de Uyuni Travel Blog

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Salt huts on the salt lake

Day 1 of this much-anticipated tour, and I arrive at the office to find out that my attempt to sign-up to a tour with guaranteed English speakers - I was promised two Aussies and two Brits as company - had failed due to the blatant lies of the tour agent.  It turned out to be far from a problem though; the 2 French guys, the Argentinian couple and Danish girl all spoke good English and turned out to be fantastic company.

The first stop was a small village on the edge of the salt flats themselves.  Here the only industry is to clean the salt and sell it, make souvenirs out of salt, or alternatively use large blocks of salt as bricks for the buildings.  Nobody from outside the village wants to work there, everyday digging for salt, but oddly most of the young people seem to stay.

Me and the salt lake
... 

Then it was onto the wonderful salt flats themselves.  This is a 12,000 km squared area of land that is pure salt for up to 50 metres down, deposited years ago when the whole place was under (sea) water.  Now of course if provides a plentiful source of salt for Bolivia and the world.  At this time of year the place is largely under about a foot of water, due to the rainy season (although we didn´t see any sign of this on the trip, the weather was superb throughout), but this made the place no less beautiful.  The blues of the sky were perfectly reflected in the water, making it impossible to distinguish land and sky.  Only occasional distant mountains marked the difference, with small mounds of salt, and their reflections, the only break in the overwhelming landscape of beautiful blue.

A random dog wandering around!
 

I had been told before-hand that this was one of the highlights in South America, and it certainly didn´t disappoint.  Not only was it a magnificent sight, it also felt like a magnificent place to be (in a similar way to Machu Picchu, but with the wonderful contrast that this was beautiful because it had remained untouched by mankind rather than built by mankind).

After the all too brief hour or two spent on the salt falts the tour took an odd turn.  As we drove back, a few of us allowed to sit on top of the jeep to admire the view, the driver apparently asked 4 times where we were, each time being reminded we were up above.  As we drove back on the narrow rode the driver insisted on sticking to the middle of the course despite the loudly-beeping car behind making it pretty clear he wanted us to let him go by.

A jeep crossing the salt plains
  Then the driver, also acting as ´guide´ asked us where we were supposed to be going next (the train cemetery), and on the way managed to bump into a wooden lampost despite it being eminently missable.  We began to get worried.  This guy hadn´t a clue where he was going, wasn´t telling us anything about what we were seeing, and couldn´t drive!  Perhaps he was drunk, he certainly appeared it, so we asked him (on the pretence we´d forgotten something) to take us back to the office where we could ask for a replacement.  On the way back he scraped the side of a stationary car, confirming our suspicions, and then worked out the real reason we were going to the office and began swearing at us in Spanish.  Fortunately two bumps on the jeep were too much for the tour agency owner, and he volunteered to drive and guide us the rest of the way!

We didn´t return to the train cemetery, bus as it was simply a load of rusted old trains it was no loss.

The beautiful markings of cracked salt in the foreground
  Instead we proceeded into the desert and past continously changing landscapes to see a sall place - Santa Maria - made rich by gold.  And then it was on to our beds for the night, at another small village called Villa Alota, where we discovered how clear the night sky really can be.  The numbers of stars, and easy ability to see the Milky Way, was incredible.

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Salt huts on the salt lake
Salt huts on the salt lake
Me and the salt lake
Me and the salt lake
A random dog wandering around!
A random dog wandering around!
A jeep crossing the salt plains
A jeep crossing the salt plains
The beautiful markings of cracked …
The beautiful markings of cracked…
Mounds of salt in the otherwide un…
Mounds of salt in the otherwide u…
A load of salt in the village of s…
A load of salt in the village of …
This one is for the cute animal br…
This one is for the cute animal b…
This place is just beautiful, it r…
This place is just beautiful, it …
More of the salt flats
More of the salt flats
More of the salt flats
More of the salt flats
Salt flats and distant jeep
Salt flats and distant jeep
A train in the ´train cemetery´
A train in the ´train cemetery´
A view of the bell at Santa Maria…
A view of the bell at Santa Maria…
Sunset on Day 1
Sunset on Day 1
Salar de Uyuni
photo by: Morle