Day 39 - Uyuni Salt Flats

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South America » Bolivia
November 12th 2018
Published: November 13th 2018
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Very early pick up at 05:10 for our transfer to the airport for the next stage of our journey, the desert stage. Our rep was Carlos who's English was so good, when I spoke to him last night, I thought he may have been English. Flight to Uyuni was at 07:10 and took just 45 minutes. We were a little worried about excess baggage as we were flying a smaller plane run by Amazonas and we had grown to three checked bags. I figured it'd be better to get it to two bags and we re-distributed our things to our carry on bags and in our coat pockets to get the weight down. Again fabulous scenery on a cloudless flight had me looking out the window instead of sleeping and I needed sleep. I've had no problems with the high altitude except the last two nights I've woken up early finding it hard to breathe with a very dry mouth. The likely problem is not enough water during the day. However felt fine during the day.
We were met by our new guide, Issac and his driver, Enzo and driven to a hotel in Uyuni to do whatever we wanted until 10:00, so a good one a half hours, which was great. We had a bathroom to use, tea or coffee and it gave us an opportunity to pack a day pack for today's activities. We had a quick walk down the street from the hotel but didn’t see much and just bought some water and went back to the hotel to wait. Issac was back at 10:00 and took us to our first site which was a Train Cemetery. These trains were left here after the railway line was abandoned after Bolivia lost the War of the Pacific with Chile back in 1879-1884. Since then a lot of the metal was taken from the trains by locals who would use it for other purposes. It was an unusual sight and has become a tourist attraction.

We then visited the small town of Colchani where they manufacture salt taken from the salt flats. Issac showed us how they produce the salt from the chunks taken from the flats and then dried and grinded down, then mixed with iodine to produce table salt. We then had some free time to look around the markets before heading off at 12:10 to look at the Salt Flats.

It is quite an amazing sight to see, the flats are 10,582 sq. kms and at the deepest point is 120 metres deep. The first location we visited is a series of springs where the water has broken through the salt. It bubbles to the surface like the hot springs you see in The North Island of New Zealand but this water is cold and salty. We then drove to the only restaurant facility on the flats which was built to support the Dakar car rally but we didn’t eat here.

We ate at Isla Incahuasi which isn’t the largest island on the flats but is the most visited because it is the only one with giant cacti. It is another amazing sight to behold and I can’t think of any other place in the world like it. Issac and Enzo laid out a picnic lunch for us on one of the tables made of salt and it was a welcomed meal as we hadn’t had a proper breakfast. At 13:43 we started our walk to the top to get a 360 degree view of the flats. It took about 30 minutes with stops along the way to take photos and you could get a good idea of how massive the flats are from the top. We then descended and went through a cave near the bottom and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting this island.

We left the island around 15:00 and started driving towards the Tunupa Volcano which we could see in the distance from the island. It was incredible seeing the volcano getting bigger and more colourful as we drove quickly across the salt flats. In fact the top of the volcano is like Rainbow mountain with it’s coloured stripes. Daisy was happy because she could see it without having to hike for 60 minutes to 5000 metres altitude.

It took around 30 minutes to reach the tiny town of Chantani. At the foothills of the volcano. Also, I imagined all these vehicles running all over the flats with tourists but in fact the cars stick to routes which are even laid out on the app I use and you can see the tracks. At Chantani we were taken through a small museum and sculpture park which was really cute with things made from rocks and cacti, but the amazing thing was the mummies still in situ in their graves which we were able to look at. We had seen these in the museum but these were actually still sitting there in their original positions. It was discovered by the owners of the park when they took it over.

We then arrived at 17:15 to Hotel de Sal Tayka which is a fantastic rustic hotel with views of the salt flats from the dining room. Our room is big and we have a view looking directly at the volcano. Issac said he would come back at 18:00 to take us back to the salt flats for sunset.

The sunset was amazing as we were driven to another area not far from the hotel where the salt is very clean and white ,as it hasn’t been coloured by spring water. This is the area you see the classic photos of Uyuni Salt Flats with the patterns in the salt. The strange thing was there were no other cars around as far as we could see. We had this all to ourselves which made it even more special. We finally left as the sun disappeared behind the mountain range and we were absolutely delighted with this day at Salar de Uyuni. Dinner was a set menu and pretty basic but adequate. Went to bed early as we were both exhausted after little sleep and a big day.

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