Salar de Uyuni
I’m not sure how to really describe this place other than thinking that it should be called the 8th Wonder of the World. Uyuni is a unique place here in Bolivia that is home to many different excursions. Our first adventure was really just our journey to Uyuni. Located in Potosi, in the southwest of Bolivia, it took us a 12 hour bus ride in order to get there. Since we were leaving on Friday at 6 pm, Paula, Jocelyn, and I asked Javier to take us to the bus station the Thursday before. When we got there, I was pretty overwhelmed with the bus station. If you have any experience with China, Jocelyn says that the bus terminal reminded her a lot of Shanghai’s train/public transportation stations. As we frantically looked for the Uyuni bus, we finally found it located right next to the exit of the terminal. After waiting for 20 minutes just for a worker to show up to the booth, we purchased our tickets in cama (bed) seats in the bus. We also found out that there were very limited seats on our bus and we were once again, frantic as we waiting for Juliet and Danny to show up so that we could purchase our tickets so that our entire group could get on our bus. Honestly, if Javier weren’t there, we would not have been able to go. He was so key to getting us our seats it’s unbelievable.
The next day, since Graciela is in Argentina for a week, the three of us went to Anna’s house for lunch, and then we visited the AHA Bolivia office. From here, we left for the bus terminal at around 5:15 pm for our 6pm bus. We got on our bus and so began our 12 hour bus ride. When we got off the bus in Uyuni a little after 6 am, I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever been so cold. At around 25̊F, I was freezing cold. Thank god I bought and was wearing my chompa and cholito otherwise I would have been much colder. So we went to Uyuni without anything booked lol, and thankfully, there are tons of tours around that want people to book their company. So this one guy offered us a tour for 400 Bs, around $55 give or take, and when he mentioned a breakfast place with heat, we eagerly went with him.
After booking our tour, we went shopping because we had a couple hours to kill. I bought wool socks and unknowingly bought a poncho. Ok, I thought it was a blanket, and I really regretted this purchase at first, but later on, it became the greatest thing I have ever bought in my entire life. After some shopping, at 10:30 am, we began our tour.
The first place we went to was the Train Graveyard. Though this place was not breathtaking really, it was cool to see so many trains all over. They were all old, rusty trains that used to be used for salt mining I assume. After climbing all over these rust buckets, yes not the most sanitary thing I know, we continued our tour.
The second place we went to was Colchani, really nothing special so I will just continue on.
The third place we went to was the actual Salar de Uyuni. Now, I have seen tons of pictures of this place on social media and all over the internet, but seeing it in person was completely different. Spanning over 10,000 km², this large salt flat was probably one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. Many people know it because it often shows a direct reflection of whatever is on top of it, but that is only during the rainy season, BUT that doesn’t mean it wasn’t as amazing. After taking many pictures here, we ate lunch and continued to our next stop.
Our fourth stop was a cactus island located in the middle of the salt flat. It was basically a very large rock with many cactus growing on top of it, but still very cool.
Our fifth stop of the day was located at the base of a volcano where we could see tons of flamingoes. Here, we, of course, took more pictures, and then made our way to the hostel we were staying at. Interestingly enough, the hostel was made completely out of salt. Even the ground in each of the room was covered in salt (not exactly the most comfortable thing to step on, but still cool). It was also decently warm inside which was awesome because the high of the day was probably around 40 degrees. After dinner, Danny, Onno, Hailey, Karen, and I along with this other couple who was staying in the hostel went out to look at the stars. Though it was, once again, freezing cold, the stars were amazing. After this, it was about 9:30 pm and we all went to sleep lol.
The next day, we woke up at 5:45 am in order to watch the sunrise. Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard to wake up, but the hard part was having to stand in the cold while we waited for the sun to come up. Once it did and I got a couple pictures, Juliet and I sprinted back into the car. After some breakfast, all of us, except for Juliet, decided to hike up the mountain. So I guess I didn’t realize how big a role altitude plays when doing physical activity because we began our hike at around 4000 m or so and we had to hike up another 1700 m. Well, this was so hard I can’t even begin to explain. I was so exhausted by the end of it, but the view was definitely worth it. After we got back, maybe 3 hours later, we ate lunch and continued on our way.
Our first stop was another location on the flat where the salt made different patterns in the ground. Really cool, but it was kind of like what we had already seen.
The next stop was the location where people actually cut bricks out of the salt. There were tons of blocks around made completely out of salt, and it was weird because it was like that scene in Frozen where the men are cutting bricks directly out of the ice, the salt looked exactly the same.
The third stop was called Ojos del Salar. There were tons of small pools of water in the salt and due to pressure, the water was constantly bubbling. Some of the group was brave enough to take of their socks and shoes and walk in the water, but to be honest, I was cold enough that I was not willing to do it. But it was cool to watch lol.
Our final stop were the salt mounds. When you think about it, you’re probably thinking of large mounds of salt, well unfortunately, this was slightly disappointing because the mounds were maybe half my size lol. Kind of a disappointing way to end our tour, but on our way back to Uyuni, we saw these animals that I think were called vincuñas which were kind of like a cross between a deer and a gazelle, and we got to see ostriches!
Overall, this trip was amazing, but the only downside is that I had a fever on our bus ride back lol. Oh well!