Friday, 12 December 2014

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

On the 3rd of December 2013, we left Potosi behind and caught a 10 hour bus to Tupiza. We arrived our destination at 4am in the morning and checked into a hotel to get a couple of hours of sleep before starting our 4 day tour of Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt flats). It wasn’t the best idea to start the tour with only 3 hours of sleep but we managed quite well to stay awake and witness incredible beauties of Bolivia.

Incredible Landscapes

We booked a 4 day tour starting from Tupiza ending in Uyuni with the Tupiza Tours. Many companies offer similar tours to the salt flats but it is important to pick a reputable one for safety issues. There have been some incidents caused by drunk drivers and we were told that 2 tourists died in an accident in September. I would highly recommend the Tupiza Tours if you are in doubt.

We loaded our gear into a 4x4 jeep driven by our friendly driver Fernando. We were a group of 8, Luka, Agathe, Bastien, Cecile from France, Mirren from England, Ria from the Netherlands, Alex and I. The first day we drove around 200 kilometres and witnessed some incredible scenery. Our cook, Gladis, managed to prepare some amazing meals in the middle of the desert. We were very happy with the tasty food and friendly service of our guides. At night, we stayed in a little refuge. The accommodation was basic (4 people in one room), and it served its purpose of having a good night sleep to recharge for the next day of adventures.

Alex at Laguna Colorada

On our second day, we discovered some amazing coloured lakes. We first visited the Lake Colorado which was red due to plankton. Hundreds of pink flamingos welcomed us. It was amazing to see the wildlife and incredible natural beauties. After leaving pink flamingos behind, we swam in a small natural hot spring pool in the middle of the desert. It was very relaxing and was exactly what we needed to get over the long drive. Our next stop was Laguna Verde which was a green lake due to arsenic in the water. Its colour was just amazing. We had lunch near the Laguna Verde and continued our adventure by visiting some geysers. After witnessing more sublime landscapes from our jeep, we arrived at the next camp site. Nights were fun. We had good food and great company. Our group bonded very well and felt like a family. 

Laguna Verde (Green Lake)

On the third day, we drove through some astonishing deserts. One of them was called the Desert of Dali, where we saw some extraordinary rock formations in the middle of the sand dunes. It was unbelievable to witness these massive rock carved in various shapes. The whole experience was out of this world. At some point, it felt like we were travelling on planet Mars. 

Rock formations at the Desert of Dali

That night, we checked into a guest house made of salt. It was a whole different sensation to be in a place made of pure salt. After dinner and some card games, we went to bed to prepare for the early departure to the salt flats to watch the sunrise.

The last day started very early. We were on the road to Salar de Uyuni at 5am. When we reached the biggest salt flats on Earth, we were joyful and impressed with its gigantic size. It felt like a white ocean. There was no beginning or end. The sun started to rise slowly and we observed some of the most beautiful colours on this planet. It was a true spectacle of light. A fun thing to do in the salt flats is to take surreal pictures by using the effects of perspective. It was hilarious to take some absurd group pictures with the help of our experienced drives, David and Fernando.

David preparing lunch

We had our last lunch with the group in a small town close to Uyuni. It was emotional. We collected some money and wrote a card to our crew to show our appreciation. They created a safe, friendly and enjoyable atmosphere for all of us and I really thank them from the bottom of my heart. After lunch, we drove to Uyuni and said goodbye to Fernando, David and Gladis. They were the best and it made a big difference to the tour.

Uyuni Salt Flats

We checked into a small hotel as we were not sure how to organise our trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile. Most of our group was leaving to La Paz in the evening. We didn’t really like the vibes in Uyuni. The people were very different than the rest of the Bolivians and they weren’t welcoming. So, we decided to leave as soon as possible. We managed to get our bus tickets to Calama in Chile for a 4am departure. 

After dinner, we said goodbye to our fellow travellers who were catching a bus back to La Paz. We knew that we would meet some of them again somewhere in South America but it was hard to say goodbye after sharing great moments of awe, friendship, and fun. One of the best parts of travelling is surely the people we meet along the way. Each one of them touches our hearts in some way and I really appreciate to get to know some incredible people on this journey.   

A big thank you to our travel family

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