We decided to splurge and spend the extra money on a tourist bus to Uyuni. The price difference was 120 bols or about $18. It was the best 20 bucks I have ever spent. The contrast between the local bus we took from La Paz to Rurennabaque and the tourist bus was extreme. Read about my bus trip to the jungle here. On the local bus we had big, nearly fully reclining seats. It was clean. It smelled like regularness. We were served dinner and then breakfast. We had movies. We had pillows and blankets. I had a great sleep for being on a bus. The 20 hour ride flew by. This was the way to travel!!! We arrived in Uyuni right on time and ready to start the tour.
I was excited for the tour of Salar de Uyuni. I had seen amazing pictures of the pure white salt desert and the bright blue sky. It was one of the main things I wanted to see in Bolivia. So far Bolivia had left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, but after the great tourist bus, I had high expectations for the salt flats.
The salt flats are dry for about 10 months out of the year, and covered in water during the wet season. During the dry season you can get some amazing pictures because of the lack of perspective. With nothing but flat ground and sky as far as you can see, any which way you look, there is nothing to judge the distance of things against. In pictures, you can look like you are standing on top of a wine bottle that appears 10 times the size of you, or you can appear to be squashing an SUV the size of a tiny toy truck with your fingers. Some of the members of our tour had bought some props like little army men, a plastic helicopter and finger puppets in anticipation of the photo opps,
Six of us set off for the full three day tour. We were going to see the salt flats, coloured lagoons, flamingos, and active volcano and beautiful scenery. Our guide was named Waldo and although he spoke almost no English, he was always happy and smiling. When he spoke to us in Spanish, he spoke slowly and clearly so even I could understand. People like that are rare in Bolivia. Our jeep was in good condition, Waldo was not drunk and therefore I had no anxiety that I would be stolen during the tour. Finally, a brochure that didn’t lie to me!!!
Our first stop was the famed salt flat. Only 2 weeks before we had arrived the salt desert was bone dry. Now wet season was in full swing, and the salt was under 6 inches of water, giving it an appearance of sand. We stopped in the middle of the desert, with miles of salt, sky and nothingness for as far as you could see. I rolled up my pants and jumped out of the jeep. It was pretty chilly outside and I expected the water to be ice cold. I was pleasantly surprised when my feet touched the bath like water. The landscape cannot be described in words. The sky was reflected perfectly in the water below, creating a surreal mirror image. The sky seemed endless, as if we were walking into infinity. It was beautiful, and I cannot do it justice to even trying to describe it. You need to go!!
We walked for awhile, watching the clouds change and marvelled at the mirror image reflected in the water. Sticking out above the water were occasional piles of salt, built up like huge ant hills. Of course, I needed to taste it… it looked almost fake; I had to be sure we were really standing in a giant salt desert. I kicked over a pile and picked up a chunk of the white stuff. I brought it to my mouth and stuck out my tongue. Sure, enough it was deliciously salty!
The next day brought all kinds of new wonders. As we were headed to see some lagoons, my gaze hardly left the landscape. Throughout the day we passed through the moon, mars, mountains and vast nothingness. The scenery changed constantly. From a maze of beautifully random rock formations, to bright red soil, to a valley of rocks and craters, to the Andes in the backdrop, to absolutely nothing besides the ground and the sky; it seemed like we were jumping from planet to planet, not driving around rural Bolivia.
The greatest thing about the third world is the lack of safety precautions. In Canada, the mouth of the volcano would have been roped off, so you could look, but not get close enough to fall in. In Bolivia, there are no such ropes. Waldo told us to be careful not to fall in. We would not be the first tourists to tumble into the volcano and die a hot fiery magma death. I loved it. I hate anything that is roped off. I got as close as I dared and tried to look inside the mouth of the volcano. All I got was a face full of steam.
We drove back down to the hot springs and hung out there for awhile. After that we headed back to Uyuni. The drive back was uneventful as I slept most of the way. Me and before dawn don’t get along too well.
Back in Uyuni we had a few hours to kill before we jumped on a bus to Villazon, the Bolivian - Argentinean border town. There was no tourist bus going this way, so we were at the mercy of another local bus. After this amazing trip, I was barely even worried. Bolivia was looking up after all!!!!!
Or so I thought……….
Up next, the adventure of getting the hell out of Bolivia!!!!
Join me as I TRAVEL MY LIFE AWAY!!!!!