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Published: July 25th 2010
Some entries are more special than others, and this one is a special one for us. I've been lucky to travel the world, seeing a lot of his wonders. At the same time, I know pretty well the places I dream to visit in the future, dog sledging in Greenland, diving Cocos, trekking Buthan while staying in Amans...and the list goes one. But Salar de Uyuni, the place had been for a while on my list...and this time, sharing it with Ma'ri...it's done! And trust me, this was an amazing few days. No great luxuries here...just pure earth wonders.
We set up on a bus leaving middle morning to Oruro from La Paz. The ride was around 3 hours across the Altiplano to reach the city of Oruro. From there we board the train to Uyuni...another ride of nearly 7 hours. Comfortable train, but the best part must have been the hundred of flamingos we spotted just outside of the city...and the herd of Lama at sunset. Ok, for this I wish I had another camera. It was simply magic, but the picture I have does not give all the credit to the emotion of the moment.
in Uyuni around 10pm. Time to reach our hotel and understand what means cold in Bolivia, it's winter time and the temperature drops to -20c degrees at night...but good news, we are properly equiped. Morning call and first a little tour of the city. I'm not putting any pictures of Uyuni as I've decided to try to limit the amount of pics uploaded here. City is very "bare"...a starting point to way better to come.
We chose the 3 days 2 nights tours. It's actually more a 48 hours tour. Our agent gave us 2 choices...950usd for a private 4x4, proper salt hotels for both nights...or 250usd for 2...6 people sharing a 4x4 and basic accomodation, including food. I previously read that on the budget choice, you may need to bring your own food to supplement the one included. We picked the budget option....first, food...very nice, very sufficient ( and I'm fuzzy), really perfect for the place. Accomodation...first night, we park in front of a slat hotel...well, I thought we didn't pay for a salt hotel, second, was asked if we wanted two single beds or a double bed....what, we have our own room...and a double bed! Nice! Ok,
on the second night, we got what we paid for, seems to be honest to me. For info, if it's minus 20c degrees outside, and there is no heater...well, you make you own bet on the temperature inside...all this at above 4000 meters altitude.
We were equiped! A bottle of pisco for each night helped us going through this amazing experience.
So...what do you see on these tours...a lot!
First stop, a short 3km outside of Uyuni is the train cemetery...a fun grown up playground, and our first sight of the fact that this is high season for Bolivia...what tourists...why do they bother coming at the same time as us...you know the drill!
Next, small stop in a little village where they process the salt, and where they sell the local artifact...salt processing...nice...shopping, no thank you!
Than...the show start just around lunch time. The Salar the Uyuni, and yes I truly think this place should be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. A sea of white. A sky bluer than blue...no words to qualify all these.
We first "play" on the salt for nealry an hour. Pics are "cliches", I do
not try to claim anything else, but this is a great place, and a really fun one! We ate our lunch in a Salt Hotel....cool, for lunch, lama, salad and quinoa...very surprised by our first meal. I forgot to write, we are sharing our tour with a young danish couple, and a very nice bolvian guy from La Paz and his daughter. Nice mix. More pics on the salt after the lunch and back on the road...road means here a track on the sea of white salt...magic...amazing...the choice is yours.
Next stop, Fish Island. An "island" in the middle of the salt sea (salt, but no water). A dry island, populated by Cardon cacti, most of them up to 6 meters up...and these little things only grow back maximum 3cm per year...you speak history here...these cacti have experienced the Inca! After this, it was time to reach our little surprise for the night, the Salt hotel.
Early wake up on second day...freezing morning....beautiful sunrise. Our second day would be a very special one for the area. We did get hit most of the day by really heavy sand storms. Not fun if you travel by bike, more than
ok if you are in the comfort of your car. The views may not have been as amazing, but the experience was prime...as we know this did not happen often, the locals would hope it never happened! We ended the day in Laguna Colorada. The place is normally beaming with flamingos...but flamingos and wind, sand storms, not a good mix...flamingos....not here....but hey, we had the vicunas. Vicunas, the same family as the lama...but with a wool worth...a little more. A men's scarf will easily fetch you at around 800usd...not the kind of thing you want to forget in a taxi behind you! These animals are so cute....but look, don't touch.
On our third morning, we were to hit Laguna Verde at the border of Chili. This is another 5am wake up. With an added experience (guess it's part of the package)...a tyre burst just at sunrise. For info, just before sunrise is the coldest time of the day...this time hitting easily below the 22c degrees...and we stay out of the car for an easy 40 minutes....ok, our driver Bruno was very nice...and the view...the view...the view! Sunrise would be paradise...with few degrees more.
First stop...after changing the tyre...geysers!
I've seen many things, but not those. And the good news, on the Bolivian side...nothing here is actually crowded....what a place...for just after sunrise. We saw few more lagunas on the way...one place more amazing than the next...I got more than 500 pics in less than 3 days...and I'm the guy who rather look with his eyes than through a lense (do you know many people who did a round the world without a camera?!?).
last stop, Laguna Verde, between volcanos, vicunas...just enjoy the pics, we will enjoy the memories. After this our driver dropped us at the Chilean border, but this is the next entry.
I know many have had the cahnce to do exactly the same tour as us. This is like a kind of initiation trip for many. You actually see a lot of very young people around, just outside of uni, or on a gap year. I don't mind to have to wait so long to come here, it did worth it...and for info, if you are on a budget, this place will not hurt much!
Get a good bottle of pisco with you...try to take your second half with you...because when it's
cold, it always better to be in love...and simply enjoy, you've got nothing better to do.
This trip is not over, the dream is not over...we try not to have a hangover...we left Bolivia on the 19th july, I write this on the 24th...the last few days were....you know...amazing....but for this, you'll have to wait...
Some dream their life, I live my dreams....the dreams are not over...not yet....
With love! We are coming back soon....
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