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Published: June 28th 2011
Day 139 – 142
The group is ushered onto the dirtiest bus we have ever seen and Em puts her coat down before sitting, and we are off to Uyuni. After a stop in Oruro we catch the 7hour train to Uyuni, and everyone is pleased to be off the bus that smells of wee, and onto a clean and comfortable train with films playing. This good cheer ends when the train halts in a place called Poopo (yes you read it right) and we are told that another train has derailed and that we will be waiting at least 7 hours. As darkness falls, Em asks if we are safe here (we feel slightly like rich sitting ducks), but eventually the train starts moving and as the desert chill sets in we all wrap up in blankets and try to sleep. Arriving at Uyuni at 5.30am we walk to our hostel, and we are told we have about 4 hours to rest and take showers etc..
The groups pile into the jeeps and we set off late to the salt flats, cursing as we could have had an extra hour in bed. Luckily Em and I are in
the lead jeep and have the most experienced driver and Sebastian to tell us what is happening. The others aren’t so fortunate... and have a bit of a moan about their drivers. We also have Natalie on board who is from Manchester and has good taste in music and so the i-pods come out and we drive to a Manchester indie soundtrack. Lunch is served at a coral island on the salt flats, and after dinner we all start taking our daft photos. It is great fun! The salt flats are flooded and we drive across the water to our salt hotel, which will be our home for the night. I spot people playing football and head outside to join in with the other tourists and local kids. However it is too dark and impossible to play at altitude and so we resort to flinging the kids round, who constantly want another go!
I wake up with a dodgy hip (football at altitude) and it is back in the jeep to drive across the desert to our next hotel – on the way we see the tree rock, some viscachas (big rabbit things), flamingos and lots of lagoons. Eventually
arrive at our accommodation which is in the middle of nowhere and is really cold- there are holes in the walls and windows and it feels like it is blowing a gale inside! I go off with Sebastian to try and collect some fire wood which isn’t easy in a desert... but the driver adds some petrol to our meagre findings and we soon have a roaring fire to keep us warm. With the temperature dropping to well below minus 15 we retreat to our sleeping bags (in all our clothes).
We leave at 5am in order to see the geysers and are greeted by a temperature of at least minus 15 plus a serious wind chill. However the geysers are well worth it and we also get a spectacular sunrise, cue us running out of the jeep to take photos then running back in before we freeze. We arrive at our breakfast spot where we have the option of getting into a hotspring, only problem is that there is nowhere inside to get changed, it is still minus 10 outside and there is no wind breaker around the spring. We decide to pass on this and have a
warm hot chocolate instead (I add whisky to mine to help with the cold).
Back in the jeep we head to the green lagoon which is very close to the border of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Then it’s a long drive back to Uyuni where we make a final stop at the train cemetery where there are some discarded British trains from 1800’s - we have some fun climbing and taking photos of them. After a quick pizza tea we crash into bed exhausted.
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