We arrived in the very isolated town of Uyuni, which is 3670m above sea level, at 6 am last Sunday morning after no sleep and a very very bumpy 11 hr bus ride. At one point I thought the bus was going to topple over. It was like riding on the moon!! The bus stunk of people, the spring on my seat was broken so it wouldn´t stay back and the guy in front of me was nearly in my lap!! There was a local woman (cholitas), wearing the traditional pleated skirt, shawl and bowler hat sitting at the side of Jem with a little baby wrapped in a blanket. As the bus started she proceeded to place the baby in the aisle to sleep. On one of the breaks we had another lady accidently stood on the baby - thankfully she was ok!
It was absolutely freezing in Uyuni so we checked into Hotel Avenida and tried to get warm in bed with about six blankets. After a bit of sleep we had a wander round town and booked our 3 day trip to Salar de Uyuni with a lovely guy called Juan at Andes Salt Expeditions ($95 each).
Salar de Uyuni (see photo) is the world´s largest salt flat at 10,582km, it´s located not far from Uyuni, near the crest of the Andes at 3650m high. At the moment it´s very dry, good conditions for the 4WD but when it´s covered in water the salt flats reflect the sky which would be an amazing sight.
We had a fantastic three day tour, our group was brilliant and the scenery was stunning. We visited a train cemetery, just outside Uyuni, which was filled with old, rusting British steam trains, the Salar de Uyuni and took lots of silly photos, Cactus Isla del Pescador (fish Island - from the sky it´s the shape of a fish) filled with giant cactus and with great views of the salt flats. The first night we stayed in a hotel made of salt which was actually quite cosy and warm.
Outside the salt flats we visited caves (Cueva del Diablo and Gruta Galaxias), saw erupting volcanoes, watched llamas munching the green bushes, entered the National Reserve of Andean Fauna Eduardo Abaroa to see the beautiful rose Flamingos feeding in the lakes, explored all shapes and sizes of volcanic rock formations (Arbol de Piedra), saw Laguna Colorada (the coloured lake), a lovely red colour which reflects the mountains like a mirror and past Sol de Mañana. The next night we stayed at a much colder place but Jem managed to get the warmest room for our group so we were alright!! On the last day we got up at 5.45am, in the freezing cold, saw a gorgeous sunrise over the desert and visited the geysers and bubbling mud pools before going for a, very warming, dip in a hot spring. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes, museli, yogurt and cake we drove through the area called Salvador Dali, used as inspiration for one of his paintings, before arriving, close to the Chilean border, at the spectacular Laguna Verde (green lake) with it´s mountainous backdrop. It was here we said bye to Pete and Xavi who where travelling onto Chile and the rest of us settled back into the 4WD for the long drive back to Uyuni.
We arrived about 6ish, caught an amazing sunset, had a very welcoming hot shower (the first of a couple of days!!) and enjoyed a Minuteman pizza with Alex and Paul.