Our bucket list of places to see and things to experience was built back in our cosy home in Leicestershire. With Sarah in the dining room and me in the lounge, we both got to work plotting where we each wanted to go on our year of travelling. The plan was to join up as many of the dots as possible between the the two 'wishlists'. The Salt Flats in Bolivia was easy, it was on both of our lists. So know sacrifices or discussions were needed. On reflection, we think we were heavily influenced by a Top Gear episode but nevertheless it made the cut!
After an eventful time catching the bus from La Paz to Uyuni (dodging numerous protesters and road blocks), it made the 10hour overnight journey a doddle.
After Tacos for breakfast and a brief catch up with friends from our Salkantay Trek - we caught our tour at 10am. After the briefing, we were assigned our 4x4 and our group (which turned out to be an awesome one!) and we were off, first stop the Train Cemetery. The Bolivian Salt Flats is world's largest salt flat in the World, at just less than 11,000 square kilometres, which meets the crest of the Andes Mountain range. The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes and Andes Mountain range and is thought to contain 50% to 70% of the world's lithium.
Over 100 years ago and acting as a main supply line between Bolivia and Chile, there is remains of a fleet of trains that used to transports minerals and resources up and down it. A combination of the ageing trains, cost and practicality of fixing them and a changing political system, has left these skeletons of the past deserted and now a popular tourist attraction. Incredible to see as they have rusted out on this harsh terrain. We then made our way to Cochangi, a small village built on salt mines and tourism. We visited one of the small factories and were given a demonstration on how the salt is turned into the salt we get on the table. The next location on our first day was infamous Salt Hotel and start of the Dakar Rally in Bolivia. Built in the early 1990s and offering tourists a taste of the salt flats, it soon became redundant as visitors wanted to explore further across the flats. Still it is a great spot for a picnic and have a nose around, as it is left relatively untouched.
After a great lunch which became the norm with our tour company Perla de Bolivia, we headed out into the Salt Flats. After crawling out of Pringle cans, battling with Dinosaurs and creating 'Honey I shrunk my wife' shots it was time to drive out to Isla Incahuasi. Difficult to believe that this area was once submerged under water, but seeing the Island covered in petrified coral is a great reminder. It also houses some of the only life around, with tall cactus standing between 10-20m high, making them upto 1,000 years old!
Our first day ended with a glorious sunset, Bolivian red wine and crisps. We just sat back and admired to colours! The Salt Flats tour, like most in S. America, is full of early mornings. Necessary though, as we needed to cover alot of distance, across a very bumpy surface. We had a Toyota Land Cruiser for our Safari in Tanzania and they use the same here, they're obviously built very well!
This was obviously our first salt flats, but this trip gave us alot of other 'firsts'. We visited our first active volcano (Volcane Ollague), saw our first Flamingo in Laguna Cachi (in the wild and up close), first Llama sausage and Quinoa beer (both recommended). The scenery on this day was much different to the first, offering some beautiful views of the lagoons (Laguna Canapa and Hedionda) and mountains. Day 3 didn't disappoint with firsts either. We took our first (early) morning hot spring and also felt the heat of Geyser for the first time and saw a Red Lagoon (Laguna Colorada), an effect from the iron in the water. After a very long wait at the border, we were finally into Chile and saw the end of our brief visit in Bolivia. It would have been great to spend a bit more time here and if it wasn't for the trouble, we would have. Just gives us something to come back for! Total cost = £250 (inc. Transfer from La Paz to Uyuni, entrance in to the different parks and transfer on to San Pedro)
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