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Salt plains, silly photos and freaky coloured lagoons!


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After flying back from Rurrenabaque, we got ourselves on a overnight bus to Uyuni, the jumping off town for tours to the salt flats.  The first part of the bus ride was okay, but after about 4 hours, the road deteriorated to a very bumpy track, and sleep was very difficult. I still managed, Dave not so much.

We arrived in Uyuni about 4.30am, not that I realised that we were actually there.  I thought the driver was taking a very long rest, and it wasn´t till 6am that I realised we had reached our destination, but as the town was not happening yet, and it was about 5 degrees outside, the bus driver just let us sleep on the bus. Uyuni was a very unimpressive town, I nearly wished the bus driver had not let us off at all.

We booked a tour for the next day that would take us through the Salar de Uyuni, a massive salt plain, and through a national park which had multi-coloured lagoons, and then on to San Pedro de Atacama, in Chile. We originally wanted to take a tour that finished in Tupiza, in the south of Bolivia, and then catch a train to the Argentinian border. We were told though that it could not be gauranteed we would make Tupiza, as the roads may be flooded due to wet season, and the train was fully booked due to Bolivian holidaymakers.

The tour was in a Toyota landcruiser, with Don Juan our driver, Ivor our guide, and then four other passengers, an English couple, Lucy and Tim and two solo travellers, Robin, a Pom, and Anna, from Sweden. They were all great fun, and made the trip.

The first port of call for the trip was a ´train cemetary´ where the Bolivians have just dumped about 4 trains in the middle of the desert, and turned it into a tourist attraction.  The trains are quite old, and all rusted over.  I am sure there would be a better use for all that metal, but it made for an interesting, if odd, site.

We then went into the salt plain, which is an amazing landscape.  The ground is white for as far as can be seen, and then distantly meets the sky hundreds of kilometres away.  We took our first round of silly shots here, but got more inventive after lunch at the Fish Island. Fish Island was shaped like a fish, allegedly, and is just a big rock in the middle of the salt plain with cactus growing on it. We went for a walk on it while Ivor cooked lunch, and one of the cactus is 1,200 years old. It was looking the worse for wear.

After an hour of doing silly shots on the salt plain, made possible as there is no horizon, so perspective in photos goes out the window, we drove on to get to our accommodation for the night - a hotel made of salt. The walls were made of salt bricks, the floor covered in salt, and even our bed was salt blocks with fortunately, a normal mattress.  There was even a salt bar, which was really cool (I thought of you, Ang and Sean, it is nearly as good as your bar). After a dinner of lama and banana (which go well together, as well as rhyming) we stayed up drinking red wine rather late.

The next day we did lots of driving and visited the yellow lake (due to sulphur), a turquoise lake (salt and sky) and finished the day with a red lake (though it was more outback dirt red-brown) due to the microorganisms in the water.  At the first lake where we had lunch we saw lots of flamingos. So I guess you could call that a pink lake - or pink spotted at least.  We also visited the stone tree, a rock shaped like a tree due to wind erosion, and stopped off at another rock to see some bescutchas, which are rabbit-like animals but with a long tail. They live on the rock, and only eat this really hard green plant, which we could not even scrape off the rock, let alone chew.

On our last day we had to get up at 4am, to go and see the geysers (or geezers, as Ivor pronounced them, to our amusement) at their best.  The geysers were at 4,870masl, and were a field of steam and boiling mud, due to water hitting the cold rocks. It was a surreal site, especially as I was half asleep. 

We then went on to some hot springs, but as it was about 5 degrees, and the water only about 25 degrees, I decided not to get in.  After breakfast we  walked to the green lake.  The lake was not looking so green, apparently it needs to be windy to do so, but the fascinating thing is that there was no life in the lake, due to it being full of arsenic. So we did not get too close to it.  Apparently six months ago a French couple climbed the volcano behind the green lake without a guide, and on reaching the top, treated themselves with a swim in the lake at the top of the volcano. It too is full of arsenic and they died. Moral of the story per Ivor, always take a guide!

We then went on to the Bolivian/ Chilean border, where Dave and I transferred to a van to San Pedro, and the rest of our group went back to Uyuni. 

We were told by the lady at the tour agency that she would reserve us a seat on the bus to Salta the following day after the end of our tour, and it would be all good. Dave was highly doubtful about this plan, and did not trust her to make the booking. Rightly so, as we found out on arrival in San Pedro that there was no bus to Salta, Argentina the next day (Wednesday), in fact there was no bus till Friday.  So we have an unexpected stay in San Pedro de Atacama.

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More photos can be seen here.

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