Uyuni, Bolivia: the salt flats and railway

We walked to the central square and caught a minibus to the old terminal. As soon as we got there, we purchased a ticket from one of the ladies and hopped straight onto the bus. The ride took about 3 hours, again through mountainous scenery and desert with a few lama eating on the hills.

At Uyuni, we jumped off the bus, where we were immediately crowded by people selling Salar de Uyuni tours. I had already booked mine online as I wanted to make sure I got the date that I planned to be there. I paid $38 online through Kanoo tours but it would have been cheaper to get a tour in Uyuni from one of the agencies (150 bolivianos).

I walked to my hostel, which was about 3 blocks around. I checked in with the hostel, where I initially booked a room with 2 double beds as this was the cheapest I could find online. However, in the end they gave me a single room with my own bathroom. It was slightly hard to communicate as they only spoke Spanish and no England.

Once I  had dropped of my bag, I went in search of a place to print my day tour and bus ticket. This wasn’t as easy as I first thought. First, the hostel couldn’t print anything so the next thing was to find a internet café. Success, found one. However, the girl didn’t know how to print something from my email to their print. After about 10 minutes of fiddling, I managed to figure it out. Good!

After, I wanted the town, which was basically a small place aimed at tourists as people only go there to go to Salar de Uyuni. There was not much there apart from expensive restaurants, souvenir shops, agencies and a market.

It was mid-afternoon and I was feeling hungry so I treated myself to one of the expensive restaurants (not that I had much choice). I looked at several menus but they all seemed very similar. I sat in a quiet restaurant, where I order Mexican food: tortillas with vegetable bolognaise, guacamole and chips alongside a mango juice. It was filling and delicious.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening, I went back to the hostel to practise my Spanish, sort out my photos and decide what I needed for the next day, before falling asleep to a film.

The next day, I got up around 8 o’clock so that I could get some breakfast and be at the tour agency at 9. I had to back my bag up as I was taking a night bus that night.

With my backpack on my back, I walked to the shop, where they told me I didn’t need to be there until 10.15. I would prefer to be early than late and that the time the email told me to be there. I dropped off my bag and wandered the town, buying some mangos from the market. I chilled in the square until I needed to be back at the shop.

When I reached there, I sat on their sofa until a person from across the road collected me. I just kind of got dumped so I the nearest tour guide and she thought I was with her. Whether I was or not, I climbed into the back of the 4X4. My group consisted of two French (mother and son), a Bolivian woman, an English girl, the guide and the driver.

First we headed out of the town to the train cemetery, where there is a track and rusty, abandoned trains. This is where Bolivia use to import and export good from Chile but now this doesn’t happen. It was pretty cool to see, taking some snaps of the area.

We drove back through the town to the town of Colchani, passing incredible mountainous, desert with lamas filling the space. It took around 30 minutes to get here on a main road. The town of Colchani is a tiny town, where tourists go to get to the Salar de Uyuni. It’s the only town in Bolivia that doesn’t pay tax.

With a load of other 4X4s, we hopped off and followed our guide around the back of the stall to tell and show us how the salt is gathered and made. There were small bags to buy as souvenirs, which helps the local people but I just didn’t know what to do with a bag of salt. There were many souvenir stall around, where one could buy postcards, jumpers, mats, bags and loads more.

Back in the vehicle, we carried on a bumpy road over looking the Salt Flats. As we were getting closer and closer, I just could believe my eyes; white on the ground reflecting the sky. It was like  a dream; it was incredible. I can’t believe I was actually here. We drove slowly on to the Salt Flats, away from other cars so we could have our own space. We stopped by some blocks of salt, where we hopped off and took many snaps. The car drove a little further to set up lunch whilst we were mesmerised by the view as well as thinking of different poses to do.

We walked towards the 4×4, where a picnic table and benches had been set up. We sat around the table eating what was offered: quinoa, cheese salad, lama meat, banana and water. It was perfect with the reflections of the mountains on the Salar de Uyuni. I never thought I would be able to experience this. Once we were all finished with our bellies full, we dawdled towards the huge volcano while the lunch things were put away.

They came and collected us from our spot and took us near the salt hotel. It was the first one ever build but it’s not functioning as a hotel now. Here, our guide took series of perspective photos as it had the perfect light and conditions. She took group and single ones using props such as sunglasses, my GoPro, Hat. She laid on the wet ground while we swapped poses. It was so much fun and the photos came out really well.

We visited the salt hotel, where there were a few status of different thing made out of ice. We didn’t stay long here; just a toilet break. We got back into the 4×4 to carry on driving aimlessly. For the rest of the afternoon, we drove and walked, took some snaps and admired the view.

Four out of the five of us needed to get back to catch a night bus to La Paz. The guide told me earlier not to worry but I knew she wanted to stay out till sunset, which would mean I would miss my bus. Luckily, there were others including the Bolivian, who told her we needed to get back.

At about 4.30pm, we left the salt flats and drove back to Uyuni to drop four of us off. We went to find something cheap to eat, where we ended up in a chicken fast food place; I had frites only plus a traditional Bolivian drink of dried peach immersed in water. It was okay but had a little bit of a funny taste. After, I collected my bag from the agencies and then caught up with the others at the bus station.

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