South America Travel Tips

Wonderful Uyuni: 3 days in 4*4 (Part 2)

This time, the 3.30am wake up time was totally worth it. Our goal was to get to the Uyuni salt flats before sunrise. And in fairness I had no clue it could be that beautiful.

Our “salt hostel” was about 2hrs drive from the entrance of the Uyuni Salar, so by 4.30am we were all packed and ready to go.

As soon as we left, the majority of the guys on the back seats fell asleep – but I couldn’t and didn’t want to. This time I wasn’t the official translator – my obvious “job” was instead to keep Juan Carlos awake while driving in the dark in the middle of the Bolivian desert!

I actually had a great time and didn’t think too much about the lack of sleep. I was so excited but also I had no exact idea of what was going to happen…

Uyuni Salar ~ The water

The sun was starting to colour the sky a little. Yet, we couldn’t see much. And we were right on time to get to the salar at sunrise.

Then, the unbelievable.

We drive through a road in the middle of a lake it seems. We can definitely see another 3 or 4 Toyota in front of us driving carefully, as the road has also some holes full of water.

At some stage, the road ends.

Seriously, I think we had arrived.

But no, after some talking between the drivers… we start driving into the water… WHAAAAAAAT?

Seriously, I had no idea how deep the water was. I believe this was already part of the surprise!

Also, I had no clue at all that we were already driving on SALT – the water was just the result of the heavy rains of the week before.

So, we… parked in the middle of the water, lol. The photo has a weird light (my magic camera…): it was still pretty dark.

And so here we go… waiting for sunrise.

Uyuni Salar ~ The island

After this emotional sunrise (in fairness, it was freezing and I was all wet and salty, but I didn’t care), we hopped on the jeep and drove through the salar.

This time, we finally drove on incredibly dry, white, solid salt. Chemistry and geometry were already showing off their amazing creations: hexagons.

Miles and miles of driving into the unknown, and then… an island appears in the horizon.

An island full of cactus (another WHAAAAAAT?), in the middle of a flat, white, salt desert…

So, I hiked it to the very top and enjoyed an amazing 360 view of the salt flats. You might notice that in some photos it looks like an ocean of water – nope, it’s salt! Ridiculous!

Uyuni Salar ~ The white

Time to have a quick breakfast at the island (it was only 8am, I thought it was like noon…) and then drive into the… white.

For miles we could only see white.

And the sun was now rising high. Keeping your eyes open for more than 10 seconds was really hard. And hard was the salt, just incredible.

The biggest salar in the world, the Uyuni salt flat is 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi, the whole Ireland is just 8 times bigger) at an altitude of 3,656 meters… unbelievable.

We even had time to do some “digging”.

We approached an area that had some holes in the solid salt, and our driver started to “fish” something from under the water (yes, there is a LOT of water under the solid salt… wow!).

Here is the result of Juan Carlos effort:

Yes, beautiful salt crystals.

I still have a little one with me in the suitcase, I wonder if it’ll make it ’till the end. When you come visit me next time, ask for it and I’ll let you know!

Well, the day was already too much really. I had seen wonderful, incredible, impossible things.

So… why not giving a quick look at the Hotel de Sal (yes, a hotel built of salt bricks), as well as the Dakar monument (it seems Dakar has been around here for the last 3 years… wow, rallying in the salt desert!!!)?

The day was almost over, and the salar was definitely over.

We drove another while to reach our final destination, Uyuni (the town), where our 3 days would have come to an end.

What a pity, but it had to finish at some stage 🙂

Before saying goodbye we quickly visited the Uyuni Train Cemetery, where trains have been left there, forgotten, to die.

Nothing special, really, mostly after visiting one of the most incredible locations of the whole world.

The biggest, unique, unbelievable Uyuni salar!

And these guys made the 3 days just perfect:

Overall, it was a tour well worth the (big) investment.

Something that I will not forget, and something I’d recommend you to do one day.

Somewhere where I spent almost 4 days with no internet, no phone connection, no technology. I’d say, for the first time in almost 20 years. I was anxious to know how things were going at home, the news, my emails, my friends, my business, the world – it was pretty tough indeed. But one of those times when an “internet detox” is actually worth it.

Forgot to say – I was now officially in Bolivia… and the tour of Bolivia was about to start right after. I knew Uyuni town was not really nice (confirmed), so I took the first bus available to Tupiza.

And boy, you don’t know yet, but I took a big toll there.

Hasta luego amigos!