Uyuni and the Salt Flats tour.....

Published: March 10th 2012
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Taking the train instead of the bus from Oruro to Uyuni turned out to be a good decision. The ride was smooth, there was plenty of room for our legs and it even arrived on time! So, after getting out of the riot that was the bag return, we made our way to our pre-booked accommodation.

Whilst actually in the town of Uyuni, we didn’t really have much planned. This was not because we were boring or lazy, but purely because there really isn’t anything to do in this town other than go book a Salt Flats tour, eat and drink and take stupid pictures of each other doing ridiculous poses….therefore, that’s precisely what we did!

The tour that we booked out to the Salt Flats was to take 8 people total. This included both the guide and the driver, so basically we needed two more to fill the jeep up to complete our motley crew. Luckily for us, Troy had been in contact with his Scottish friend Dave that he had met back in Argentina, and he was currently on his way to Uyuni on his motorbike, and was keen to join us on this tour. As luck would have it, it turns out that Dave is an absolute legend and loves to take stupid pictures also, so we had another perfect new addition to the NRC. This left one spot that was taken by an Argentinian lad (Pablo)who spoke little to no English and who was about to embark on a trip that would probably deter him from ever wanting to visit England, Scotland or Oz in the near future!!

So, it was the day of the tour and we were all revved up and ready to hit the Salt Flats. The first stop on the itinerary was the train cemetery and a fantastic place to start with the stupid pictures. By this point in the trip, I had become quite obsessed with ‘jump’ pictures and this place was fantastic for trying a few out before the actual flats. After this brief stop off, we were on our way to the Salt Flats. This seemed a little early in the 3 day 2 night tour to be doing the thing that essentially you would go on this tour for, however since we had cracked open the beers in the van and been bellowing out cheesy pop songs from the 80’s for a while already, we were pumped to see this amazing landscape and to take the obligatory perspective snaps!

Once at the Salt Hotel, we were told that lunch was going to be ready very soon, so we wasted no time at all in getting into the spirit and getting the camera out. You will see from some of the photos what we produced, which to be honest was a lot harder than it seems due to not being able to see the screen when taking a shot due to the reflection of light from the floor on the salt….it was BLINDING! We also neglected to heed the warnings of the reflective sunrays, and all of us suffered varying degrees of sunburn!

After fooling around here for some time, we moved onto the area of the salt flats that was flooded by water, and although the driver wasn’t going to stop, we requested he pull over so we could have some more crazy pictures. I think already the driver and poor Pablo were starting to wonder what on earth they had let themselves in for, however Beto, the guide, was more than happy to see what we had cooked up. Once there, we were so glad that we stopped as funny pictures aside, this place was like nowhere any of us had ever seen before….it was like an alien planet, and extraordinarily beautiful. The rest of the day consisted mainly of driving to the town where we would be spending the night, but along the way, we did stop at strange little town where we able to stock up on snacks and take a few more pictures, this time of the local church.

That evening was awesome. There were a couple of other vans full of tourists who were doing the same trip as us but with different companies, who happened to be staying at the same Hostel for the night. Within one of these groups was Helens friends Harriott and Gareth that she had met previously, and together as one large group we had a real laugh with a few bottles of wine whilst playing Shithead, (the card game )whilst trying to figure out why the staff of the Hostel were so damn miserable and unnecessarily abrupt with everyone. We also managed to catch the Sunset over the horizon just before it hid completely, which again was yet another stunning sight.

The next day was another long one in terms of driving, but one that had many highlights. Although we had now seen the Salt Flats, we still had plenty to see within the National Park and so we were eager to see what else the trip had to offer us. Due to the bottle or two of wine of the previous evening, it took us a little longer to get into full on Karaoke mode in the van, although as soon as the first can of beer was opened, our mouths did too, and we were back to belting out some classics!

The day itself was unbelievable. We visited Rock Valley where there are hundreds of amazing rock formations which was pretty cool, but we had the added bonus of being the only people there with no one around for miles, which gave it an eerie feel, but also one of tranquillity and calm. Because of this calm, we even managed to get a glimpse of an eagle that was nonchalantly sitting on top of one of the rocks. From here we visited the Red lake, named due to the ‘red water’ caused by the reflection of the Red coloured mountains in this ultra-still lake. The place was beautiful and with thousands of Flamenco’s calmly going about their day there too, it was a pleasure just to sit and stare in silence at this wonderful little haven. From here, we went to another lake, this time ‘the green lake’ . Again this lake was named after the supposed colour of the water caused by the mountains reflection. Here we were told that we were an amazing 4,900 metres above sea level, and the wind and cold that hit us as we got out of the van seemed to verify this instantly.

After some more driving, we ended up at the hot springs. Of all the hot springs we have been to, these had to be the most picturesque. The place again was in the middle of nowhere with hardly anybody about, and the heat of the water along with the amazing vistas all around made it all but perfect. Perfection may have been reached if it wasn’t for one pleb using the area to practice playing the bongo’s….badly! Other than than…perfect! The last stop of the day was to the Geysers’ where once again, we were in awe of this amazing place. It didn’t take long however to turn this into another place for amusing photos. Immature? Maybe. However how can you pass up an opportunity such as this?!!

That evening was again spent with several bottles of wine and a pack of cards. This time though the party carried on way into the night. We had to cross several obstacles in order to keep on playing such as angry Germans who needed to be up at 4am (we had managed to wangle a 7.30am start!) as well as the lights/electric being turned off in the area we were playing in. Neither of these things mattered though when you have both head-torches and about a gallon of wine in you! When it was finally time to get some sleep (our group were all in the same room together) we had a difficult time. This was mainly due to us all being in stitches of laughter about the night we had just had as well as Troy’s hilarious and impromptu hand shadow show on the wall of the hostel room!

The next day consisted of a lot more driving, this time back towards Uyuni, with the occasional stop off at yet more amazing lakes. We also got to see the rock that looks like a tree. Here we did a spot of tree hugging, and yes, you guessed it, a few more stupid photos.

So, after this and yet more driving, we were finally back in Uyuni. The tour itself was again amazing, and I think although the main reason for going is certainly the Salt Flats, the 3 day tour is definitely recommended. If you like unbelievable scenery which changes every half an hour and you like to be in a place that is so vast that you rarely see anyone else on the dust trails (or roads as they call them here) then I would definitely suggest doing the 3 day tour. With landscape like this, in our opinion, you cannot fail to be amazed by this corner of the earth…..

As an aside, Donna and I were very lucky to have come on this trip with the guys that we were with, and this definitely helped the tour be so awesome, so we would like to say Thanks to Helen, Troy, Dave, Pablo, Beto and Freddy the driver, Cheers peeps, we had a blast!

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