Now we're talking.
Salar de Uyuni Travel Blog› entry 9 of 20 › view all entries
I got up early this morning and booked my 3-day trip to the Bolivian Altiplano that left at 10:30am. I quickly hit the market that was just being set up to buy a few things for the trip. I got a 'Spalding' backpack for 35 Bolivianos (~$4.50), and a hat for the sun cost me 12 Bolivianos (~$1,50). Not bad.
I separated my things into two piles, one to take on the trip, and one to leave at the tourist agency. It's really the first time I've ever packed for a trip within a trip, so it was quite a different thing. I made it to the agency in time, and started to wait around.
Here's a brief explanation of the trip. The standard trip involves a Toyota Land Crusier loaded up with a driver, a cook, and six tourists that are matched up by the agencies.
My agency, Reli Tours, farmed me out to another agency Sol de Manana, and I met the rest of the group. German couple Lukas & Julia, and lots of solo travelers. Mathias from Germany, Uwe from Germany, Chantel from Switzerland, and Julio from Argentina. If you were counting then you've notice that adds up to seven tourists. Including Juan our driver/guide and Esa our cook, that makes nine people in the 8-seat Land Cruiser. Esa, being a smaller Bolivian woman was lucky enough to sit in the middle front, where there was no seat, for over 1,200 kilometers! Not only that, but guess who was next to her.
We headed out to our first destination, Colchata, and got there in about 25 minutes. Colchata is a tiny town on the eastern edge of the salt flats, and it exists there entirely because of salt. There was a small craft market set up there for the tour groups, and not much else. Well, there was the adorable adolescent llama we took pics of, and an ongoing water fight involving the local kids that had me catching a water balloon in the small of my back.
We then entered the salt flats, which were very boggy on the edges. We made it through with no problem and then stopped where some workers were gathering salt into plies to truck to Colchata for processing. It looked like back breaking hard work. I grabbed a salt rake and did a bit myself, and could not imagine doing it all day.
Salar de Uyuni is 4,085 square miles) and is the world's largest salt flat. It is near the crest of the Andes, 3650 meters high. Being on the salt flat was very cool. Being from Wisconsin in the U.S. where it gets very cold, it can only remind you of being on a frozen lake. But it was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
We stopped next at the Hotel de Sal, which is a hotel built entirely out of salt in the middle of the worlds largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni.
From there we drove about 45 minutes to the west. We were heading for Isla Pescado in the center of the flat, but it was not visible at all. Juan just picked a direction or landmark and kept driving. After a while a few spots of land appeared on the horizon, and Juan adjusted course slightly to point us towards the biggest one. It took what seemed like forever to get there, as seeing nothing but white along with some surrounding volcanoes can really play with your perspective.
Isla Pescado is about 60km from the nearest 'land', and it has a very isolated feel.
We drove about a couple of hours more to arrive in San Juan de Rosario, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, where we were staying for the night. Our dorm was brick with smoothed walls, no heat, one light bulb, and seven cots.
More to come....