50 shades of the desert – Bolivia Days 8 – 10
Having arrived at Uyuni at like 7am, we ate left over pizza and headed to the main area of the city to find ourselves a salt flats trip! Much better to get the trip there as you can negotiate better there and then. We paid 1000bs but you could definitely get it a little cheaper.
They don’t start until typically 10.30am so after we had booked, we had a bit of time to get some wifi and take a look at the local market. Huge bags of fruit and veg, potatoes and then handy items for around the house. Our tour guide in La Paz had said that Supermarkets have never really taken off in Bolivia so that made it really clear why all these stalls are necessary. Top tip: bargaining is common practice in South America but in Bolivia, bargaining about food is seriously frowned upon!
Despite the 10.30 start time for the tour we spent a while faffing around as people got cash, the tour guides organised themselves and food etc for our trip. We travelled in convoy with another Land Rover which you’ll learn was key to this trip haha! First on the tour was the Train Graveyard, pretty spooky old trains in the middle of the desert – a desert which is 45,000 square kms, surrounded by mountains.
We also saw some great piles of salt that is used for building and then the lake which is currently frozen/ dried over – you could see bubbles coming up through the water though. After lunch we spent ages taking those cool perspective photos with the amazing flats and the gorgeous blue skies! Such good fun, hilarious to watch from afar too.
The next stop was the Inca Island covered in cactus! They were amazing, it takes 10 years for one to grow just 1m so you can imagine if they were all massive they were also very old! As the sun set, we stopped in the middle of the desert to take some photos, I was loving life on my camera (Nikon photos to come at a later date). We then headed to a salt hotel, for dinner and bed.
Despite my lengthy bus sleep that night I was feeling pretty exhausted from the altitude (were currently at around 3000m above sea level out here, which is another 1000m higher than Cusco!). It’s a weird feeling, sometimes my legs tingle, you get out of breath very easily and my nose has been a bit bleedy (gross I know, but it’s the facts). The tour guide yesterday told us that it would take 7 years for a woman who moves to say La Paz to acclimatise locally to then have a baby as they can’t get pregnant in the altitude; how crazy is that?!
So day two was adventure and a half (as I write this particular section I’m snuggled down in the most basic of rooms with a shit load of blankets and all my clothes on bar my coat). Having experienced a Land Rover break down the previous day, which I haven’t mentioned, we woke up to find the replacement truck gone and the previous broken one back (it was really obvious as one of the wing mirrors was cracked ha).
Seems like nothing? All was well until 15 minutes into our journey our Land Rover broke down AGAIN hahah 10 of us (+ the tour guide and two drivers) sat in the middle of the desert for 2 hours playing cards on plastic stools! Another few cars came past so at one point there was about 6 Bolivian guys checking out the wheel of or car haha (haha so cultch). We eventually got a replacement car but it meant we were now 2 hours behind on the sites we were to see during the tour…
Despite all this we remained optimistic and had lunch hah – we hadn’t even done anything but play Mafia. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the desert, seeing and visiting volcanos and lakes. We saw coral rocks that used to be under the sea, lakes that had turned to salt, lakes that were blue, some that were stinky and even some flamingos!! We flew across the desert in the Land Rover (that wasn’t going to break) and reached heights of 4200m above sea level.
Unfortunately we got to the red lake too late and it had frozen over – beautiful in it’s own way but not what we were expecting.
After that our evening had consisted of a few beers, food, cards and some unbelievable stars.
We’re literally in the middle of the desert, Rach and I hadn’t even seen anything like it – amazing. Estrella beunitos! Top tip, have that stat gazer app on your phone so you can see which stars and constellations are which!
ANOTHER 5am start haha and we headed off in the dark to see the sunrise, some geizers and hot springs. Managed to get some sweet photos of everything on my camera despite it being really dark.
As we’d packed super light so had no towel (and it was bloody freezing) we didn’t get in the hot springs but they looked pretty cool. We saw another part of the desert made from lava rocks. Then another lake which was meant to be green haha but similar to yesterday’s red lake, the vivid colours you see in the brochures ha!
We made a final stop on the way back to Uyuni at Laguna Sagrada, literally the second best thing we’d seen on the tour! We climbed up the lava rocks for unreal views across a lake and chilled out there too!
Before we board the night bus this evening we’ve had some street food in Uyuni. Firstly a delicious chorizo bun and then a traditional Bolivian delicacy called a Pastel de Queso accompanied by Api; a warm cup of red boiled corn and a delicious melted cheese inside the pastry! Love street food, can’t wait to spend the day in La Paz finding more!