The Salar de Uyuni covered with water
We hired a tour to take us from San Pedro de Tourismo to Uyuni in Bolivia, and the trip did not dissapoint although it certainly was a tough experience. We rode in a jeep from San Pedro to the border of Chile, where we had problems getting through because Em (and English guy) lost her sheet of paper to get out of the country so they had to call the airport and look for it manually which took forever... or about an hour - apparently the computer age has not arrived to the Chilean government. Anyway, after the unhelpful border police let us through the force of inertia, we got to the Bolivian border where Danilo or Emily lost the camera (we will never know who it was, sorry about that guys no pics for that reason, even though we are taking some with Danilo´s video camera, but they can´t be uploaded until 4 more months - we´ll get another camera soon).
After crossing into Bolivia, 8 strangers piled into a 4x4 jeep. There was Emily and Danilo, two cool Swedish girls (yay, Em got to use Swedish for the first time since she left Stockholm 2 years ago), a quiet Czech couple, Pertrina the annoying 61 year old Irish woman, and our fabulous Bolivian driver and tour guide Cristobal. On the first day of our tour we saw many lagunas - Laguna Verde, Laguna Blanca, and Laguna Colorada. During lunch we stopped at a thermal bath and did a bit of dipping. At this point we were over 4000 m in elevation and Em became deathly ill with altitude sickness. Em slept in the back of the jeep for the remainder of the day begging for death while everyone else enjoyed the beautiful landscape of the high high Andes and the geysers created by the volcanos.
Danilo saw a really large lake filled with flamingos and some llamas eating moss next to what they said was a reddish lake (colorblindess at its best). On the other front, after some coca tea, Em began to feel better and the next day of the tour was much more enjoyable for everyone. We left the hostal early (after getting very little sleep because of the altitude) and stopped at some rocks that were created during the last ice age - really cool rocks. We drove for what seemed like forever through the mountainous dessert without seeing anything but the ocassional pack of llamas or vicuñas. We stopped at another laguna with flamingoes to have lunch. Again we drove forever on the bumpiest rockiest ¨roads¨ever and stopped to check out an active volcano, it was billowing out smoke - very sweet.
Llamas and flamingos!
We finally arrived at the Salt Hotel. Seriously everything was made out of salt, the walls, the floors, tables, chairs, bed stands. After another night of bad sleep we woke up at 5 am to catch the sunrise. We piled into the jeep in the dark with our eyes still closed and drive onto the Salar de Uyuni. A salar is basically a huge lake but instead of water, there is salt. It looks like a big frozen lake with shinny snow on it, although there is an occassional layer of water covering it. The Salar is 1400 kms square (though that may be an exaggeration), and at some points 10 meters of depth. To end this long entry we´ll summarize the rest quickly: we hit an island of cactus, another salt hotel, people mining salt, a town reliant on salt production, and we finally got to Uyuni where we bid farewell to our group. There was nothing in Uyuni so we left as soon as possible, but not before fidning some American food (burger!) and getting on with our travel...