Salar de Uyuni day 4: The Salt flats!
Today we finally visited the great salt flats of Bolivia. We visited an “island” in the middle of the white plains. We saw 1203 year old cacti, and admired sculptures in the salt museum.
And of course, we took some funny pictures on the Salar de uyuni. With depth being so difficult to estimate on this giant white sheet of salt, our pictures look like they have been photo shopped!
At four o’clock this morning the alarm went off. A quick breakfast and then on we went, into the jeep and on our way to the salt flats!
We had one hour to get to Isla Pescado, a rocky island with large green cacti in the middle of the white salt flats.
Fifteen minutes after having left behind the salt hotels of Puerto Chuvica, the jeep drove off the dirt road and onto the Salar de Uyuni.
It was still too early and too dark to enjoy the vastness of the world’s biggest salt deposits. Only the jeep’s headlights were able to uncover some of the white salt surface.
These lines of salt were formed in tile-like shapes after heavy rain fell, flooded the area, and then evaporated, thus leaving behind this unique pattern of salt lines.
The rain also causes the Salar de Uyuni to be so flat. Over the entire 10.000 square kilometers of salt crust, the maximum height difference is only one meter.
This is because when rain floods the area, it absorbs the top layer of salt. When the water evaporates, it retreats to the lowest point in the area and eventually leaves the absorbed salt there, raising the salt crust and leveling the Salar de Uyuni.
In fact, the area is so flat that satellites use it to calibrate their distance measurement instruments.
We were all standing out in the cold, welcoming the first rays of sun. It was cloudy, so the sunrise wasn’t as clear as it could be, but I did get to “hold the sun” for a picture.
I was sleepy and cold, and happy to get back into the jeep to drive to the island for a quick visit and breakfast after the sunrise.
The island really was the only reminder that the salt flats used to be a prehistoric lake. With white salt stretching as far as the eye could see, this one remnant of an underwater rock formation in the middle of the white, flat surroundings, was an unusual sight.
Isla Pescado has a little walking trail that we followed up to the top. There were many giant cacti scattered around the island, one of which had been 12 meters high and had lived to become 1203 years old. He unfortunately died in 2007 and has since fallen in decay. A small sign next to his remains commemorates his long life.
After we got down from the walking trail, we enjoyed a homemade cake for our last breakfast. Miguel Angel, our cook, had made one last night at the salt hostel. Amazing!
Now it was time to move on, but one of the jeeps that had accompanied us over the last two days was having car trouble.
We helped them out by pushing the jeep until their engine started and they followed us a little deeper into the salt flats. It was time for the funny pictures!
Anyone who has ever gone to the salt flats must have taken a few of these shots. Because of the flatness of the area, it’s easy to distort pictures and create funny scenes.
The guides usually bring a few items. A spoon is popular for eating your fellow tourist friends. Our guide Hernan had taken a giant plastic ant. But it was hard to get the focus right, so that didn’t really turn out well.
Another one we came up with was the angel and devil on the shoulder, giving advice. Great fun. It pays to prepare for these photos before you leave on the tour. There are many great ideas all over the internet.
Half an hour there was enough to run out of funny ideas for pictures, and we went on to the next stop for the day: the salt museum.
This museum is actually a former salt hotel, located in the middle of the Salar de Uyuni. It became very popular and eventually had to be closed down due to severe pollution and sanitary issues. It was then converted into a museum.
And an impressive one. There is a whole section with really nice salt sculptures, apart from the sitting area, with its tables and salt chairs.
In order to get in, I had to buy something small at the museum store. Nothing big, a snickers candy bar or some gum will do.
The salt museum was our last stop on the salt flats. As we got back into the jeep and drove away, the white hexagonal “salt tiles” were once again traded in for a dirt road.
But we still had one last stop before getting dropped off in the town of Uyuni. It was a train cemetery. Located 3km outside of Uyuni, these rusty old trains were being slowly destroyed by the elements.
An interesting last stop on our four day Salar de Uyuni tour.
Our goodbye had been inevitable and came right after our last lunch in Uyuni. The jeep went back to Tupiza, and Hernan and Miguel Angel along with it. A few hugs, a final picture, and it was over.
Uyuni didn’t seem very interesting to me, so I booked a bus to Potosi at 19:00.
After four days riding in a 4×4 on the Salar de Uyuni, it felt good to use my legs and walk again, as I explored Uyuni for a few hours.
I have to admit that I was pretty tired after those four days. It had been hard to sleep well and the days had been long. Now I only had to take one bus before I could spend a day recovering in a hostel.
I had no complaints whatsoever. Hernan had been a good, funny guide. And an excellent driver. Miguel Angel had cooked us nice meals during the four days on the Salar de Uyuni. Valle Hermoso had organized a great tour.
And now the Salar de Uyuni tour was over. I thoroughly enjoyed spending four days in a jeep. The Salt flats are no doubt one of the best attractions Bolivia has to offer.
And I can recommend it to anyone!
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