Bolivia 5: Salar de Uyuni (The Salt Flats) - The Surreal Realm of Bolivia’s Southwest

Published: August 10th 2018
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Salar de Uyuni (The Salt Flats) - The Surreal Realm of Bolivia’s Southwest

You´ve probably seen the perspective photos.

Millions of years ago, there was a huge, salty lake in the southwest of Bolivia. It´s now totally dried up and has become Salar de Uyuni: the World’s largest salt flat.

Beautiful, salty, geometric patterns span over 4,000 miles; welcome to the surreal realm of Bolivia´s southwest.

The crew and I chose the 3 day trip (because, why wouldn't we, these landscapes here rock!). We would start in Uyuni and end in north Chile, in San Pedro de Atacama. Easy, peasy.

Just imagine....

• surreal desert landscapes
• pretty lagoons
• wild llamas and alpacas
• cute desert creatures
• beautiful pink and black flamingos
• huge snow-capped volcanoes
• a crazy, cactus covered island
• a train cemetery
• freezing cold nights (there was zero heating)
• ...and lots and lots of SALT and you have our 3 crazy, salty days in this out-of-this-world beautiful place.

It's the norm to take a 4WD tour with a guide and 6 other people in the car. The crew was 5, so Yohan (a young French chap) was put into our group.
Yohan told us the story of his recent time in the Bolivian amazon on the "Survival Tour" where he almost got his feet amputated. After almost 1000 bites, his red hot feet swelled up so much he couldn´t walk and he was rushed to hospital with a terrible staph (staphylococcus) infection and salmonella. He was a step away from necrosis. He was in La Paz hospital for 1 week and left with a huge hospital bill. Whats more, Yohan's travel companion got bit by a dog on day 1 (of his travels), got rabies, and was sent back home. Welcome Yohan, our bad luck charm.

After an exciting day 1 full of trains, lagoons, and perspective photos (see snaps), we stayed at a Salt Hotel. Yes, absolutely everything was salt.... the tables, the chairs, the beds, even the cement between the salt bricks was salt). Very cool!

On day 2, on our way to Laguna Colorada, the snow began to fall. And I mean, really, really fall. The red lagoon was a very pale shade of pink (sniff).

In true travelling style, things started to go badly (we all blamed Yohan). The snow-storm was so bad that
even in our 4WD, we couldn't go any further south. We had to drive to the nearest community 30 minutes away. Stopping to wipe the windscreen every so often because (of course) our windscreen wipers did not work.

So we unfortunately missed out on some cool stuff (boo), like the hot springs and the Salvador Dali desert, but the company did refund us a little money (yay)

But we saw the majority of the places on the agenda, and our guide said we were lucky to all be safe (we had been driving for 2 days and seen almost no houses).

The border to Chile was now closed due to the heavy snow. Our guide made some calls to his boss and we had numerous meetings. To return to Uyuni day 3 and wait it out, or drive (at 4am) to a different border in the far north (this would be a very, very long drive). Half the groups were split. But my crew picked the latter and we were up 3.30am, travelled in the pitch black, snow-storm in our 4WD.. then in a bus... but it was a successful crossing of a Bolivian-Chile border (easy, but
a long wait) and we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama in the evening. Long day, huh.

Since Yohan had joined the crew, we started having some serious bad luck. Andrew got pneumonia and the rest of the crew had dreadful colds and sore throats. Thanks, Yohan.

Additional photos below
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