Salar de Uyuni – in the middle of a salt desert

Uyuni Travel Blog

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What a bumpy road, the bus was shaking almost all the time and I felt how every cell of my body vibrated. Impossible to keep on sleeping, no matter how early in the morning it was. I pulled the window curtain a bit aside and had a look out there. No wonder the road was so bumpy...there was no road at all actually. We were middle of nowhere, some sort of dry steppe.

Then houses appeared, roads, some people. We were arrivig in Uyuni, our final destination. A small isolated community at 3.675 meters above sea level. Poor Dan, not the best information for him , he still suffered from the altitude sickness. But there we were, we stepped from the bus into a freshly cold early morning.

The agency by which we booked our 1 day tour into the salt desert was supposed to be nearby. Well, everything was nearby in this tiny town.

To be honest, we found it quite quickly despite the fact that tour agencies seemed to be the only employer here besides hostels/hotels and restaurants so there were many of them. The woman inside told as that we were too early and that we had to wait for an hour and a half, but we knew that already. At least we had time to arrange our further transportation to Oruro and to have some breakfast. We left the backpacks in the agency office and walked towards the train station which was just few meters ahead. Taking a train sounded like a good alternative to a bus. The train station was still closed but according to the schedule on the entrance door they were supposed to open within an hour.

Dan bought some new sunglasses, looked like terminator then.

Allright, then breakfast first. There were few places round the corner so it wasn’t a problem at all. On the way Dan entered a shop where he saw sun glasses. He didn’t bring any and that was a no go visiting a bright white shining salt desert. And imagine what, while we tried to suggest him ones that would look good on him, he chose the one we would think of the last...a huge „fake“ reiban glasses. No kidding, he looked like a high altitude sick terminator...but what should I say...that’s Dan.    

After the breakfast it was time to get back to the train station which was still closed.

We did the mistake to walk a bit around the building, because when we got back there were already some people waiting.

Me during our tour.
Not too many anyway, we should make it in time back to the agency. Slowly more and more people were come, we were lucky that we came that early. And then suddenly the entrance door got opened and we saw besides the guardian a station employee sitting behind a table...not a desk...just an ordinary table. And in front of him several lines of chairs for the people waiting for their turn. As we were 3rd we sit down in the front line of course. The station employee wasnt the fastest one but within few minutes we had our train tickets for the train at 1am. After a short discussion Pavel and Marian decided to buy a ticket for the first class paying the double price (was still cheap compared to prices in Europe), but me and Dan decided that it won’t make that much difference taking the 2nd one as we would probably fall asleep immediatly.
Marian and Dan on a train cemetary.

With the tickets in our hands we hurried back to the agency office. The woman there told us to buy enough water for the tour...of course she had some to sell. And as there was not so much time left we bought it eventhough it was double priced compared buying it somewhere else.

Soon the land rover arrived and we „climbed“ in to join a Bolivian couple and a Japanese guy on our 1 day tour. Our first stop came already after some 3 km...the „Cementerio de trenes“...cemetary of trains. A graveyard of  rusting locomotives. Looked like an iron trash place somehow. It had definitely an atmosphere on its own.

Most of the tours I’ve ever joined anywhere on this world had a stop by some souvenir shop.

Wrack of a train.
This one wasn’t an exeption. Local people were selling everything possible made of salt of course. There was even a salt museum...not a really good one to be honest. We were still looking forward to get to the real salt desert as we haven’t been there yet. During the ride we got to know a bit better the other passengers. Adriana and Miguel were a couple from a city called Cochabamba and our Japanese was learning Spanish in Argentina so meanwhile he spoke Spanish better then English. All of them really nice people.

Finally, the salt desert. In a height of 3.653 meters above sea level it covers an area of some amazing 12.000 sq meters. The white planes looked endless. Without sunglasses it was really hard to keep the eyes opened as the salt reflected a lot of the sunlight. We stopped here by a place where some workers seemed to collect the salt and all around were little artificial salt hills.

Me...
The salt industry in Bolivia seemed to be based a lot on manual work.

We did some pictures all around and even climbed some of the little salt hills to pose for more pictures. Like typical tourists, I know. But hey, this was our first time in a salt desert.

Our next stop was the „Isla de los Pescadores“. The Spanish speakers might wonder as the name means „Fisher’s island“. Well, it really looks like an island in middle of a blindingly white sea. It‘s a hill with amazing stands og giant cactus. 

Our driver stopped near some other land rovers and the rest of us headed towards the path up the hill.

Dan.
The cactus all around were standing like brave soldiers oposing the sun which burned down without any mercy. Many cactus were several centuries old and some of them were already dead...dried out. But not even the death could take them their impressive looking. We walked along the whole path with leaded us around the island back the the place with the parked land rovers where some groups were enjoying their lunch. When we approached our rover we realized that our driver was preparing our lunch as well. Perfect, I was getting hungry already. There’s nothing better then a lunch in the middle of a desert, hehe.

When the lunch was over we did some pictures directly on the salt floor next to the hill. Some funny ones as well as the the distances lose their visual effect here.

Souvenirs again...
As far as I’ve seen some pictures of other travbuddies who have been to Salar de Uyuni EVERYBODY does this kind of pictures.

Before returning back to Uyuni our land rover did one more stop at a salt hotel…made of salt of course. Our guide told us that it was built illegally so the government would pull it down soon. Would be interesting to know who was the investor in this case.

It was around 5pm when we were arriving back in Uyuni, still a lot of time before the departure of our train. Us and our new 3 new friends from the desert tour agreed to sit down somewhere for a couple of beers and some dinner. We found a nice looking place and stayed there as long as possible. Really long, several hours. Later in the night when almost all the guests were gone except of us, the waiters closed the door and started to pull some tables together.

A salt museum.
We had no idea what was going on but as nobody was trying to throw us out we decided to stay. Some new people came in and we started to realize that they were celebrating a birthday party of some family member. They had even a little life band, great. Later on one of the women approached us and brought us even a bit of the birthday cake.

A really nice gesture. Nevertheless, around 11pm we finally decided that the guys deserved some privacy and left the restaurant. Our Japanese friend decided to return into his hotel, the Bolivian couple was traveling with the same train like us. But what to do now? We still had some 2 hours left and all the places around were closed already. The only thing we could imagine was to stay directly on the train station. There were people waiting already. Within the station was a little cafeteria full of waiting people, but we were lucky and a table got free.

While we were waiting we ordered some coca tee…not just to get something warm as it was getting a bit cold but also as a help to keep us awake.

Finally my hour showed me that it was already 1pm, but as so many things in this corner of the world neither this train seemed to leave in time. God, my arms a legs felt just heavy, all I wanted at that moment was to get some sleep. Then we heard the information that it’s at least possible to get inside of the 2nd class wagon. Pavel and Marian meant we should just go, we would see each other in Oruro . S we did it and walked towards our wagon. Inside it was dark and already filled with people who were sleeping. Was damn cold here, luckily I had a little blanket with me, the same Dan.

I felt almost asleep when 2 young guys with a girl entered and sit down directly behind us.

Pavel, Marian and Dan on a salt desert.
According to their pronunciation they were Americans. They could have been between 18 and 20 years old. These guys didn’t care at all that all the people around were sleeping, they talked and talked…not whispering, full volume. Gosh…they were really annoying. Dan was the first one to say something. He meant: “Hey guys, don’t you think people are trying to sleep?” They were obviously bored and Dan’s comment seemed to be a welcomed distraction for them. They answered something like “oh, really?” and “but we don’t”. The rest was some bullshit like “I can smell your panties, blah, blah. We decided to ignore them as discussing with them seemed obviously exactly what they wanted. After a while they really gave up and I was more then happy when one of them suggested to take a bottle of some alcohol and to drink it while smoking outside.

I was already more or a less sleeping when the train started moving finally.

Tomo from Japan, another member of our group.
I just wanted this train trip to be over, let's see how Oruro will be like.      

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Dan bought some new sunglasses, lo…
Dan bought some new sunglasses, l…
Me during our tour.
Me during our tour.
Marian and Dan on a train cemetary.
Marian and Dan on a train cemetary.
Wrack of a train.
Wrack of a train.
Me...
Me...
Dan.
Dan.
Souvenirs again...
Souvenirs again...
A salt museum.
A salt museum.
Pavel, Marian and Dan on a salt de…
Pavel, Marian and Dan on a salt d…
Tomo from Japan, another member of…
Tomo from Japan, another member o…
Dan.
Dan.
Fooling around.
Fooling around.
Pavel watching an English girl.
Pavel watching an English girl.
My friends can be sometimes pretty…
My friends can be sometimes prett…
Pavel and Michael from Bolivia.
Pavel and Michael from Bolivia.
Arriving at the Isla de los pesca…
Arriving at the "Isla de los pesc…
I feel so lonely, lonely...
I feel so lonely, lonely...
A big cactus.
A big cactus.
With Adriana from Bolivia, another…
With Adriana from Bolivia, anothe…
Our travelling gang.
Our travelling gang.
Michael from Bolivia, Adrianas bo…
Michael from Bolivia, Adriana's b…
Tomo presenting an Argentinian fla…
Tomo presenting an Argentinian fl…
A big contrats...a bottle of water…
A big contrats...a bottle of wate…
Tomo lying...
Tomo lying...
Playing with my camera...
Playing with my camera...
Always looking on the bright side …
Always looking on the bright side…
Marian...
Marian...
Moi...with Marians hat.
Moi...with Marian's hat.
Going back to our van.
Going back to our van.
Tomo trying if the water is salty.…
Tomo trying if the water is salty…
A hotel made of salt. They will ac…
A hotel made of salt. They will a…
Having some dinner.
Having some dinner.
With our friends from the tour.
With our friends from the tour.
With our friends from the tour.
With our friends from the tour.
Michael showing us a local instru…
Michael showing us a local "instr…
Pavel with the weird instrument.
Pavel with the weird instrument.
Uyuni
photo by: razorriome