The ride to Uyuni was fantastic. A newly paved road that winds down through the mountains and it didn't rain for once. (Well it did, but only a little.) It did however start tipping it down as I arrived in Uyuni. I found the rest of the gang in their hotel.
They were staying in a hotel that was a lot more expensive than I was willing to pay, so I went down the street and found myself a single room in Hotel Avenida for 40BOB a night ($5). The room didn't have any power points, but a girl can't have everything.
- When wandering through town I saw this nice Dakar statue carved out of salt
- Unfortunately it didn't last long!
Earlier that day before I arrived, the guys had attempted to ride to the salt flats. They told me that the road was muddy and slippery, and that they had ended up turning around before they got to the salt flats because the road conditions were so bad and the weather was looking ominous.
I didn't like the sound of that! If those four experienced, much braver riders than I, couldn't make it to the salt flats on their bikes, then I would have no chance.
They told me that they weren't going to bother going at all. If the weather was good in the morning, Ryan and Mark were going to attempt the dirt road to Chile, and Arun and Alan were heading back to Potosi.
I was not going to be dissuaded. Everything I had seen and heard about the salt flats was good, and I didn't want to not see the one thing that had convinced me to go through Bolivia in the first place! I decided to take a 4x4 tour in the morning and go see the salt flats come hell or high water.
It really is a pity that none of the gang other than me ended up seeing either the mines or the salt flats. It's no wonder the Alaskans have nothing at all good to say about Bolivia!
I ended up on a tour with a group of Bolivians from Santa Cruz, two lifelong friends and their children. These were the only other really nice Bolivians I met in Bolivia.
- My tour group. All the girls were called Ana in some form or another.
First we went to a train graveyard.
- The Europeans used to use trains to move crops. Now the trains don't go anywhere.
- The Dakar was coming through town very soon - unlike this train!
- Inside the engine of an old train
- Tracks to nowhere
- An abandoned train
Then we drove to the Salt Flats themselves. The road really was not nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. Although there were a few sections like this:
- Very muddy!
I think I could have made it on my bike without much trouble, and there were many many times I wished I had Cricket with me for the photos. Given the information I had beforehand, I still think I made the right decision.
The Salt Flats were magical. You could not tell where the sky ended and the ground began.
- The little white mountains are piles of salt
- Salty sky
- Another group having lunch in the sky
- One of the many 4x4s taking touring the salt flats
- A house made of salt
- Our driver preparing lunch
- Close up of the salt - it was all in patterns like honeycomb!
I really missed having Phil and his excellent photography skills. I tried to get my new Bolivian friends to take good, creative, in focus pictures of me, with varying degrees of success. It didn't help that my camera has died, so all pictures are now being taken with my phone.
- The best of many, many attempts at a jumping picture
- There are tiny Bolivians in my hat!
- I found a Canadian flag outside of the "Salt Hotel" (It wasn't really a hotel, just a falling down building)
- Salt Yoga in the sky
- Chilling out on a pile of salt
After our tour of the Salar, the Bolivians wanted to go see the “real” salt hotel. It's not part of the tour, because the upscale hotel does not want hordes of tourists wandering around their posh premises, but one of the ladies knew the owner and wanted to see it. She convinced our driver to take us, despite him being incredibly reluctant. She negotiated a tour with the manager. I am so pleased she did, because it was really special.
- At the entrance to a REAL salt hotel
- Everything in this fancy hotel is made of salt
- The walls, the floors, even the art!
- The two friends who have been friends for many years
- New friends, sitting in salt chairs
- The ceiling in one of the bedrooms
- A bed made of salt
I was very happy that I had stayed to see the salt flats, and I was also pleased to have decided to stay in Uyuni for another night, because as I stepped into the hostel it started to rain with lightning and thunder, and then it started to hail! I thought it would stop, but for the rest of the day and evening the skies stayed open.
The people who worked at the hostel were shovelling hail out of the drains so all the water had somewhere to go!
Any remaining ideas I was flirting with of riding the dirt to Chile were firmly erased by the intense storm, and the next day I headed directly to Argentina by the paved route. I had had enough of rainy, cold Bolivia!