Published: September 19th 2009July 3rd 2009
* Saw the endless white salt plains, odd little rock rabbits, islands that aren't surrounded by water and all sorts of wonders.
* Froze so f'ing badly that it made me feel sick!
The I'm a pussy when it comes to the cold version:
The bus from La Paz to Uyuni - god damn its cold! Below 0 cold. Ice on the windows cold. There were some tiny little heating pipes in the bus but they did nothing once the cold kicked in. I think I started shivering about half an hour into the bus ride and besides a small amount of time in beds for 2 nights of the tour I didn't ever stop. I had all my stuff on - thermal shirt, 2 Tshirts, jacket, scarf, beanie, gloves, thermal leggings, pants, thermal socks, llama socks, shoes and a thick blanket over the top and I was f'ing freezing. Got almost no sleep as its just too hard to sleep when you're that cold. At one point at about 2am in the morning the bus stopped and seemed to be having serious mechanical trouble and I could think of nothing worse than being stuck
in this place but we moved on again after a while, the whole night me dreaming of being anywhere but where I was.
In Uyuni we arrived early, before sun-up, and most everything was frozen. Its all desert so there is no snow but every trickle of water from a spilt coffee to what the dogs left on the lamp posts was ice. We were inundated by touts all offering the salt flat tours but after listening to a couple of people and following an Israeli guy I met to his "secret guide with the best price" as "Israeli's always get the best price" I found that this secret guy isn't secret at all, his prices were the same as all the others, AND he was willing to squeeze 7 in a 4wd which might sound nice but in reality just makes for 3 uncomfortable days for everyone. Heh in the end the tour I took was a better price than the Israeli dude anyway which gave me a good chuckle...
I found a cafe with a wicked fire and a million other gringos in it for breakfast and thawed. I met a couple of English guys I
had met earlier in Peru and they were doing the same. We were all so cold that fingers and feet just couldn't be felt, and one of the guys actually melted part of his pants standing next to the fire and never even knew or felt it as he was socold and numb.
Our tour had a good mix German, English, Spanish, Italian, myself and a Bolivian driver. By 10:30 we were off, after the tour group almost forgot one of the sleeping bags which would have left one of us freezing.
As for what we saw over the next 3 days the photos can do most of the talking. You see where they mine they salt (really just scooping up from the ground you walk on), a salt hotel built totally from salt (sounds more amazing than it is - just think mud brick but white), and vast nothingness'ess of white. The vast nothing is really the special part, especially just as the sun is setting and it looks like you are somewhere stuck on an ice plane. The horizon is perfectly flat and white, and the blue you see at sunset and sunrise over the salt
flatsis so perfect...
There is an island you visit in the middle that is rock covered with cacti thats interesting, and a lot of the other rocks you visit on the outskirts look more like slightly too solid coral, weathered probably just by wind though they look like they are weathered by water. Its easy to picture the whole zone as an inland sea once. The salt is apparently up to 8m thick in spots, so thats a hell of a lot of water evaporated to create that.
Its all surrounded by small mountains and you head off to the edges of some of them were there are small villages hidden around the place. We visited some for supplies or sometimes just to try and get us to buy some artisan style gifts from them though none of us were interested. We visited a volcano kind of... itsounded like we're really visit it close, but it ended up being a lookout quite a distance away which was a bit of a let down though after central america Im satisfied with my volcano experiences so was happy just to appreciate the barren beauty around us, volcano or not. It was
however close enough to see a little gas leaking out from it causing some excitement for some. Speaking of leaking gas, the geysers we saw at about 5:30am were pretty impressive. The first powerful one is artificial to be used to power turbines to create power for the local villages, but the others that don't spurt out their insides but instead leak gas are very impressive too. It wasmiuns 18* celcius when we were there and the watery mud like substances in their pools is above boiling point, averaging 120* celcius apparently, an incredible natural feat coonsidering the altitude we're at combined with how cold it is uphere for that much heat and pressure to still be causing it all.At minus 18*C I had a few moments of temporary insanity where the idea of the pain caused by 120* sounded about the same as what I was already feeling because of the cold and at least I would have been warm so I just wanted to jump in...
We also visited various lakes, most of them frozen over, but their colours are amazing from greens to reds to blues, one with a thermal pool of about 25* you can
swim in. Flamingos. sea gulls, other bird life, llamas and pecuñas (the thing like a llama but smaller, the name is something like that) can all be found throughout the region too in various areas, the sea gulls being a surprise to me living in the freezing high altitude conditions far from the ocean but they're all there.
As for the cold, the shivering never stopped. By the first night I had been shivering for around 30 hours I think, just unable to get warm, and I felt sick and couldn't eat. Unsure why I assumed food poisoning but it didn't feel right and my stomach felt physically sore. Anyway I couldn't eat. It took me a couple of hours under a few blankets with all clothes on and my sleeping bag to heat up and after that I got a good few hours sleep and felt considerably better when I woke up. When I gotout of bed to go and eat breakfast though, it of course cold again as we're staying in very basic huts with no heating or insulation with nights of around -15*c, I started feeling sick again. By now it may as well have been
food poisoning as I had all the side effects. Again though the physically store stomach. If I tensed my stomach I felt OK, but when I let it go, pain. It seems that I actually was shivering and tense for so long with the cold that I kinda of physically traumatised my stomach and stomach muscles, as if I can done a thousand situps to that point where you want to throw up but then it just stayed like that as I never got to relax those muscles. It messed withmy eating the rest of the trip and I had to skip half the meals, only eat a little the others, and none of that stayed in me long enough to do any good anyway..
The views, incredible. The experience, unforgetable. My group, awesome.The feeling of cold and sick, especially the cold, f'ing miserable! Never again will I put myself through that kind of cold without better preperation, such as ski jackets and pants and stuff. It really was just me, I always say I hate and feel the cold but never knew I would find it that bad... I was by far the most affected on our trip
though and seem to be a bit of a freak so don't let this scare you off going. I'm a bit of an anomoly it seems.
After we finished the tour some of us continued on to San Pedro de Atacama and I've never been so happy to be going somewhere warmer with less altitude!! The salt flats were incredible but I was very, very, very happy to leave them! My stomach by now was sore to even bend and I was finding eating very difficult with nothing staying and me energy real low so I needed some R&R time...
There are more photos below