Published: March 30th 2008March 27th 2008
One of the lake we passed.
So after a couple of days in La Paz we were off to Uyuni for a 3 day tour of the Salt Flats.....
The trip down was an overnight bus (the bus was very good - but the road was very rough, so sleep was reasonably hard to come by). We arrived in Uyuni at about 7:30am and after having breakfast were ready to depart on our tour at 10:30. The tour group was six tourists, a driver and a cook all piled into a landcruiser wagon. Cosy but our 4wd drive was reasonably modern (when compared to others - 1994) and so we were pretty comfortable.
First we stopped at the train graveyard just outside town and took a few photos. and then we were off to the salt flats. Theses are the result of an acient salt lake that dried up thousands of years ago leaving the salt flats - thousands heactares as far as the eys can see. at first we were on dry salt and we stopped to look at a salt hotel (thats right made entirely from salt - except for the roof). We then moved on to an island in the salt flats
The train cemetary - young Jono would have loved this
covered with very large catus and ate our lunch off a salt table. After lunch we drove to the other side of the flats. This involved driving through water 1-2cms deep over the salt. This created increadable reflections the experience really is surreal - like driving on a giant mirror.
We were housed in a basic hostel in a local village for the first night. This allowed us to get friendly with the towns llama population....
The next day was driving past differnet mineral lakes. We saw lots of Flamingos and lots and lots of increadable scenery. We stopped for a short while at the famous stone tree which is part of a group of strangely formed and eroded rock formations. then that afternoon we went to the coloured lake which has red water due to microbes in the water. We stayed in basic accomodation nearby for our second night.
Day three started very early, with a trip to the thermal gysers for sunrise and then down to some hot springs for breakfast - though the water was alovely temperature - the morning was just too cold for us to brave getting changed and so we just
watched a few others take the plunge. After breakky it was off to the green lake and then to the Chilean border to drop off the half of our tour that was heading that way. We picked up some locals hitching a ride back to Uyuni at the same time.
It was about now that our mechanical problems started.... At first the driver calmly pulled over and opened the bonnet. We didn,t even realise that anything was really wrong until other cars started pulling up and then we started seeing steam coming from out front. At that piont we climed out and could see that there was just water going everywhere!! We had something seriously wrong with the radiator. Lots of additives were put into the raditor (including a tea bag) and after a while the raditor did seem to be holding water again, so we started off. We made about 10 minutes progress before we back in the smae situation - with water supplies starting to run low. With a bit more tea, abit more gunk and a bit more water we made it back to the hot springs where wefilled up everything we had with water, and
Big Nick Little Tiare
You just have to do it....
started off again. WE probaly made it about 5kms before we had to stop again - being about 5hrs or so from our destination this process was obviously not going to work - so our driver started on plan B. This involved pulling the entire radiator out of the car. There´snothing quite like being in the middle of a desert with your raditor beside your car. But full credit to our driver, he found the leak and performed some rather unorthodox repairs but after 2 and a half hours the raditor was back in, holding water and we were on our way. Apart from a few stops to look at the view on the way home it was basically an afternoon of driving to arrive back in Uyuni at about 7pm. We had elected to stay in town for the extra night and head back to La PAz on Thursday night.
The Salar tou7r was a really amazing experience - the scenery was so different and so surreal!!! an absoultely awesome three days (though we think three was enough) - even with the break down.
There are more photos below