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Published: October 6th 2012
Back on the road again felt good. We looked forward to new sites, experiences and surprises offered by traveling to outpost far and away. Uyuni is just the place, a weathered Wild West type town surviving on the edge of the world's largest salt plains, hemmed in by incredibly dry dusty deserts and surviving as the start for Toyota Land Cruiser trips across the arid Altiplano of Bolivia. Uyuni existed years past as a central railroad yard, delivering supplies and hauling out gold and silver from nearby mines. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stalked the area, robbing trains, raising havoc but eventually being cornered by the Bolivian army and killed. Surprisingly, the locals speak kindly of them, noting their Robin Hood ways and a bit proud their notoriety brought to the area. Nevertheless, we arrived in the late afternoon, immediately signed up for a three day tour including food, driver and room for $150 per person, checked into a basic hotel and then wondered outside to see the town and get dinner. There is only one main street, so Uyuni can be walked in a half an hour. Out in front of the small central market, we witnessed a whole
slaughtered cow being delivered in the back seat of a car. The bloody scene although gross, didn't depress our appetites. We found several small restaurants with grills outside barbecuing llama and beef steaks. Amei had the large slab of llama ribs and I went with for the T-bone. Delicious, filling and cheap, only $5 for the two of us.
The next morning Adelio, our fifty four year old safe and sober driver picked us up in his Land Cruiser along with four other foreigners. After greeting and introductions, our first stop was just outside Uyuni at the railroad graveyard. The old steam locomotives lay abandoned, lost in time and lacking the dignity I'm sure they once possessed. Now the trains are part playground, victims of vandals, recyclers and graffiti. From there it is only a short ride until your rolling over pure salt, the blindingly white remains of ancient lakes and evaporation. The salt stretches out to all horizons, surrounding site-lines in this surreal sea of salt. Houses are built out of salt blocks, our hostel was constructed almost entirely of it, including salt tables, salt rooms, salt floors and solid salt bases for our bed. Now
if they only had Margaritas.
After the night stay in the salt hostel, we left the Salt Plains and headed to the Altiplano, a lunar or Mars like landscape of craggy hills, ancient volcanoes, toxic lagoons, and dizzy inducing altitudes of 15,000 feet and above. For two days we bounce, slide, plod and climb our way through torturous terrain like no other. This is four wheel world, where Adelio respects what road there is, going slowly through wash outs, relentless rocky canyons, sandy steep accents, while avoiding dangerous drop-offs. The scenery mesmerizes, inducing wonder at natures use of yellows, reds and greens blanketing the landscape. Adding to the natural glory are roaming wild vicunas, squawking pink flamingos, roaring geysers, multicolored mud pots and all captured under the umbrella of crystal clear blue skies. After three days, our trip comes to a end at a lonely Bolivian border outpost where we obtain our exit stamps, exchange goodbyes to our group and hop on board a modern mini bus for the hour drive to Chile.
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