The Salar de Uyuni - very impressive !!!
29.11.2008 - 29.11.2008 23 °C
It seems most folk who come to Bolivia and Uyuni in particular come to see the salt plains and I have to say they were incredibly impressive !!
We set out from Uyuni with Victor in 2 4WD's - and after stopping off at the local market to get some food for lunch we headed to the Cementerio de Trenes ( train graveyard) which was more interesting than I thought. The Aussie boys were in their element - took me all my time to climb up onto one of the things for a photograph ( you should've seen the faisco trying to get back down LOL !!)
Wasnt much of a drive before the landscape started to change dramatically ( see my photos - words wont really do it justice !!). Stopped off at a local family's house on the edge of the salt lakes to see how they manage, prepare and pack the salt - and bought the obligatory gifts from the children selling their wares in the back yard. Not sure anyone is going to want a Llama made from salt though, but it was the lightest thing on offer !!! Umm, who's got a birthday coming up in January ??
The Salt plains are over 3600m above sea level ( nothing is low in Bolivia LOL) and stretch for over 1200sq km - far bigger than I'd expected. So, even though there were a few other 4WD's kicking about with backpackers we more or less felt like we had the whole area to ourselves.
We stopped off at one of the 'Salt Hotels' in the middle of the plains - even although all the guide books say they're illegal structures and shouldnt really be frequented (I think theyre actually in the process of moving them both to the edges of the plains - worst toilets Ive come across yet; couldnt even contemplate staying there !!) Whilst we were there one of the Aussies fell into a salt pool outside the hotel, in full view of a million backpackers ( well, okay maybe about 20 of them !!). In typical Aussie fashion all he was bothered about was whether or not someone had captured the moment on film !! His clothes were attached to the roofs of the 4WD to dry out and we were soon off.
We stopped frequently for loads of silly photos and just to take in the amazing surreal views - actually it was so glarey that none of us could actually see anything when we took photos anyway ; Im quiet chuffed that most of mines came out.
Had a great picnic lunch at Isla IncaHuasi ( along with every other tourist group in the area - rows and rows of 4WD's) which Victor and the drivers prepared, then we had a trek around the island and its huge cactus plants before heading off to the north shore and the village of Coquesa, which sits underneath the dormant volcano known as Volcan Tunapa ( we drove up towards it but none of us wanted to trek the further 4 hours to its summit, looked good in the photos though !!).
I stupidly got out to take photos of 3 stray Flamingo's ( most of them are breed near a different island, these ones were young and lost) and as a result think I got bitten yet again by a mass of mosquitos - you should see the mess of my legs. half flea bite snad half mossie bites.
Our final delight of the day was a visist to the Chulpa mummies - mummfied remains of a family in a cave which is supposed to pre date the Inca's. Because of the Altiplano's altitude and atmosphere the mummies are incredibly well preserved - some still have skin and clothes. Agai,like the Catacombs, I found it a bit creepy and couldnt bring myself to photograph them. Was like being in a horror movie. I was even more shocked when Yvonne said her guide book stated that the mummies are brought out of the cave and dressed up once a year by the villagers during festival time. I dont even want to know if thats true or not !!
We had a long but fast drive back to Uyuni and finished the day off with a fantastic pizza at Minuteman Pizza, the only really decent restaurant of any note in Uyuni run by a husband/wife team from Boston/Bolivia. Full of backpackers and easily the best Pizza Ive had in ages - just perfect !!! Anyone staying in Uyuni has to eat there.