Salt Flats


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South America » Bolivia » Potosí Department » Uyuni
September 23rd 2011
Published: September 29th 2011
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Our first day in Uyuni we had a really lazy day as there isnt really much to do there except for the salt flats tours so we got up really late, went and had breakfast and then went shopping for Alpaca. Ben has been going on and on about buying some alpaca jumpers pretty much since we arrived in South America so I knew I was in for the long haul. We went into a little shop, with a little old lady and Ben and Steve tried on basically every jumper in the shop before settling on some very fancy numbers...Ben got a kind of orangey/red one and steve got a grey one with a little tie up bit. I got a hat, socks and gloves in preperation for the salt flats which had heard get as cold as minus 15 at night!! When we had all chosen the woman stated her price...Ben attempted to haggle...she thought he just hadnt understood the price...needless to say we didnt get any money off. After the shopping we had a bit of a wander around the town and had a beer in a bar called the "Extreme Fun Pub"...it wasnt that fun. After the bar the boys bought a football which they though would be good for the salt flats and then we went and had some dinner in a place which the guide had said had "the best pizza in Bolivia" and we decided claims such as this must be tested. The pizza was actually really nice...as was the massive slice of chocolate cake I had afterwards! We had to pick up our laundry at 8pm so we headed off and collected but the boys were still(!) hungry so we went back to the pizza place and the boys ordered another entire pizza each!

Next morning, we awoke quite early to prepare ourselves for the salt flats tour and went to breakfast at a little cafe over the road from our hostel. No car arrived to pick us up but a woman did come over and tell us to come to "the office" when we were ready and we would leave. We headed over to said office with all of our stuff only to be told that we were only allowed to take 2 bags between the three of us...we had not been informed of this fact previously...I was distinctly unimpressed with this news as it takes me ages to pack my bag each time. Eventually after much tooing and froing we were loaded into the van and we were off with our fellow salt faltters; an Irish girl called Aine and two Norweigen boys called Michael and Lars. Our driver was a quiet gaucho type called Raul and our guide was a rather excitable man called Lucio, who was quickly renamed "Floyd" due to his Pink Floyd hat.

Our first stop of the day was the "train graveyard" where all the old trains which used to come into Uyuni were basically dumped and renamed a tourist attraction. We had a bit of fun climbing around all the old rusting parts and then got back into the car for our next stop. We stopped in a small village where they collect the salt from the flats and then prepare it for sale to the Bolivian public. We saw a woman bagging up hundred of bags of salt but Ben and Steve were more interested in some abolsutely disgustingly hideous hats which were being sold on a stall outside...much to my dispair to hats were purchased and remained on said heads for the ENTIRE salt flats trip. During our time in the small village I started to feel a bit ill again and was worried my food poisoning was coming back.

After the little village we got back into the car and were driven to a hotel made of slat where we had lunch. I started to feel even more ill and had to make a dash round to the back of the hotel and unfortunately threw up (again!), Ben decided that I must have altitude sickness and got some pills from the Norweigens which were supposed to help. After lunch we got back into the car and started to drive towards the salt flats...with only one minor stop due to my illness. After a while we arrived at a kind of island with loads of cactus on it and everyone went for a walk around it, while I waited at the bottom of the hill like a larry as I was still feeling ill. When they returned from the walk Floyd said this is the place we could take all of our "funny pictures" and Ben was pretty much over the moon as this is the moment he had been waiting for! (He had a list of ideas planned 3 weeks ago!!) We unpacked his bag of "props" much to everyones amusement and we started our photo shoot. We had little llamas, lepricorns, snickers bars, toothpaste and oreos to name a few and everyone got some pretty good pictures in the end. I had started to feel a bit better after taking the altitude sickness pills but now steve had started to feel ill aswell!

We drove to our hotel for the night, where Steve condition worsened and he stayed in bed when he wasnt throwing up, while the rest of us had a bit of dinner, played a bit of shithead and then went to bed in the absolutely freeeeezing room. It was a very cold night.

Next morning, some of us woke up at 6am to see the sunrise over the salt flats, which was pretty amazing. Then we had a bit of breakfast and jumped back in the car for day two of our salt flats adventure. Although, adventure it unfortunately wasnt, we spent the entire day in the car being driven around lagoons, none of which were any more or less noteable than the one before and we all started to get pretty bored of sitting in the car. We started playing 21 questions to pass the time and were rudely interrupted by Floyd at one point to tell us a VERY un-PC joke which will not be repeated here...the punchline of which was met with blank stares and awkward mumbles and we swiftly reverted back to our game. Finally after a loong day in the car we arrived at our hotel for the night where we had dinner and played a bit more shithead. Just before we went to bed Floyd came and gave us all little hot water bottles to keep us warm for the night and told us we needed to be up at 4:30am the next morning!!! When we went to bed we decided it would be best for everyone if we just didnt set any alarms and waiting for Floyd to come and wake us up.

We were woken up at 5am by Floyd saying "Vamos amigos!" and we quickly got dressed and dragged ourselves into the car...it was freeeezing as the sun wasnt even nearly up yet. We went on our way to the geysers (which stunk of eggs) and lots of people jumped through them but then stunk of eggs afterwards. We took lots of "happy backpacker" pictures...which are pictures where everyone looks exceedingly happy or pictures where everyone jumps in the air for no apparent reason. After the geysers we were taken to some thermal springs and we all had the challenge of having to undress in the freezing cold and get into the springs without getting frostbite! I, in my haste to get into the springs and out of the cold decided to run, but took an almighty tumble on some slippery rocks at the entrance to the springs and landed with a very large and very unladylike splash in the middle of the pool.

The springs were sooo warm and so nice that we decided we were going to stay there for as long as possible and would simply have to be dragged out if we were to ever leave. After a while, Raul emerged through the steam looking for us...he didnt see us luckily and we thought we were safe until Floyd arrived a few minutes later and told us breakfast was ready and we needed to leave. Eventually we dragged ourselves out of the pool and had the challenge of trying to get changed by the side of the pool without losing our dignity and flashing ourselves to everyone in the pool. When we were dressed we headed inside and had our breakfast, then it was back in the car and onto...another lagoon!! We were then told that the rest of the day would be spent in the car driving all the way back to Uyuni...brilliant. We made some very unimpressive stops on the way back, one of which was to see some "mountains which look like a picture that Salvador Dali painted"...but theyre not the actual mountains, they just look slightly similar.

We stopped in a tiny village for lunch and Steve decided that he didnt need the football anymore so we found a small boy walking along the road for him to give it to...although the language barrier reared its ugly head again and Steve proceeded to confuse the poor boy by holding out the football to him and saying "I want this football" followed by "I need this football" and when that obviously failed to get the desired response, eventually resorted to a simple "for you" and the little boys face lit up, he was very happy with his new football.

Then it was back into the car, which by now was hated by all of us, for our final leg of the journey back to Uyuni. When we got back, we had a quick picture with Raul and Floyd (standard) and then headed back to the hostel, had showers and then went back to our favorite pizza place for more pizza. Steve and Aine got on a bus to La Paz and we were left with the Norweigens and we all had an early night.

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30th September 2011

Tour and Travel
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