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Thursday 22nd April 2010

Uyuni Salt Flats

The next day we caught a bus to Uyuni which is where the tours of the salt flats leave from. After a long and slow bus trip we arrived in Uyuni at about 6:30pm and checked into a cheap hotel. We walked the streets looking for a tour company but there was so many so it wasn’t an easy decision. We had heard a few nightmare stories about broken down cars and drunken guides but eventually we settled on Neuva Ventura which we got a good feel about.

Our tour group consisted of two Danish girls Sarah and Karen and a Belgian couple, Bart and Birdy who were on their honey moon. Our tour guide was called Edgar and he seemed like a bit of a joker although he couldn’t speak any English. Our wheels for the next 3 days was a decent late model Toyota Landcruiser 4WD which appeared to be in good condition.

First stop on the tour was a salt processing plant which wasn’t too interesting really. After another quick stop at a hotel made entirely of salt we hit the salt flats. They are quite a spectacular sight. We were driving on an ancient lake that was now bone dry so there was long flat white plains in every direction and the sky was one of the bluest I had ever seen. Our lunch stop was at fish island and consisted of llama steaks, veg and quinoa (similar to rice) and was delicious. We climbed to the top of the island and took a million photos of the amazing landscapes.

Next we busted out the cameras and toys we had bought along with us to get some funny photos. Because the salt flats are so flat and there are no obstacles on the horizon, you can take photos that screw with sizes and perspective. Funny stuff, we got some good ones!

We drove for a few more hours and eventually reached the end of the salt flats where the terrain and vegetation changed dramatically. We continued on to the town of San Juan and arrived just in time to witness a truly spectacular sunset.

Our accommodation for the night was a little hotel built of salt bricks. Dinner consisted of delicious pizza and soup and was washed down with a few cervezas. We played cards and had plenty of laughs with the crew from our tour. They are a good group!

Day 2 commenced with a freezing 5am wakeup call and us piling into the Landcruiser and hitting the road. We spent a fair portion of the day in the car but saw some amazing sights including a lagoon filled with pink flamingos, the stone forest and the green lake. The green lake is filled with minerals that give it an amazing green colour. Very cool. We had a few car problems but Edgar jacked up one side and appeared to fix the problem.

On the way back to the accommodation we stopped at some thermal hot springs and went for a swim. Very relaxing indeed. We also stopped at some geysers which were cool too.

Dinner was pretty good and came with a bottle of red wine as it is our last night with the tour group. I ducked down the street and bought another bottle of wine and Clarkey and I played cards with the Danish birds. Good times.

We spent most of the last day in the car apart from stops at the red lake which was awesome, some rock formations which we climbed and a small town for lunch. At the lunch stop we played soccer with a local kid and ended up giving him the ball which we bought in Brasil. It served us well!

We got a flat tyre on the last stretch to Uyuni but Edgar fixed it without any problems. Arrived back in Uyuni at about 5pm, showered up and went out for a feed of MinuteMan Pizza with the Danes. We tried to kick on a bit but the crazy lady at the hotel wouldn’t let us out claiming that there was a midnight curfew!

Uyuni is a bit of a dusty crap hole so we were not keen to hang around any longer than necessary. We lined up at the train station at 11am to buy a ticket but the ticket man was playing soccer on a nearby field and didn’t show up for about an hour. Our train didn’t leave until 2:50am the following morning so we killed time on the internet and had a walk around the markets.

The next 24 hours was a bit of a transport nightmare. Our train to Villazon which is on the Argentinean border broke down and arrived 3 hours late. We then booked a bus from the Bolivian side of the border but when we crossed the border into Argentina we realized that we had been scammed and had to buy another ticket. After about 30 minutes on the bus it broke down and we all had to pile out and wait for anther bus to show up. We eventually arrived totally exhausted in Salta at about 1am. We got a cab to quite a nice hotel that was in the Lonely Planet as we were wrecked and needed a decent bed.

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