A Travellerspoint blog

Salar de Uyuni

Bolivia

The first part of our journey to Uyuni was a 3 and a half hour bus from la paz to Oruro. We had a few hours to kill in the small town of oruro before getting the train to Uyuni. We took a taxi to the center of town and hoped to find somewhere nice for lunch and maybe get some wifi. Oruro is such a dump, it was sunday so most places were closed and there was no chance of a nice place to eat. We were starving so we settled on the first open place we found open which was a local fast food place. Being the only tourists in there, we hid away in the corner with all our bags and had chips and cake for lunch!
As we left the restraunt it started to rain so we got a taxi to the train station. The train departed at 7pm and arrived in uyuni at 2am. We had booked the most expensive tickets (about 150 bolivians) and it was very comfortable. I wish we could have travelled more by train rather than bus.Fortunately we managed to spot flamingoes on the lake just before sunset.we tried to sleep but there was a very loud violent movie filmed in Cape Town that kept us wake. luckily we thought ahead and booked accomodation because when we arrived at 3am in the tiny town of Uyuni it was freezing and obviously everything was shut. The town is so overpriced but we had a room with hot water and a heater so we were happy we could climb straight into a warm bed.

The plan was to get to uyuni, book a 3 day tour to see the salt flats and the flamingoes and then end the tour in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile But it all changed dues to external factors out of our control......
The rain over the past few days was so heavy that the roads were completely flooded and it was too dangerous to cross the newly formed lake on the salt flats. We began asking around for prices of tours and some places were selling tickets and other companies were saying it wasn't possible. We met a Swiss couple who had just returned after one day because their driver was cautious and they said they heard that 2 cars had overturned and people had died. We weren't sure if that was true but it still scared me. Then we met other tourists who said they had heard people got stuck and had to sleep in the jeeps while stranded in the lake for the night. The other problem was that the road to chile was closed and so was the boarder,so after hearing all the horror stories we decided to laugh it off.
We were still able to do a one day tour to the salt flats which was great and definitely worth the trip all the way there. We had a driver and 4 Chilean people on our tour who couldn't speak a word of English but our travel Spanish got us by and and it was a great day. On the way we stopped at the train cemetery. It's very random but had become a big tourist attraction with lots of photo opps. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly due to the mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned thereby producing the train cemetery.

After the cemetery we headed out to see the salf flats.Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers. It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, and is at an elevation of 3,656 meters above mean sea level.The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50 to 70% of the world's lithium reserves,which is in the process of being extracted. The large area, clear skies and the exceptional flatness of the surface make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites.
Along with everyone else, We took millions of corny photos and had a fun day.

Because of the rain our only option out of Bolivia was to go to Villazón which is a town in southern Bolivia, on the border with Argentina. The bus is supposed to be 6 hrs but due to diverted routes it took 12hrs. Before getting on the bus we had dinner with an Aussie guy who had done the trip in reverse and he told us the bus trip was so bumpy and horrible but we got on at 8pm and didn't expect it to be that bad. It was the most scared I have been the whole 8 months... There was no actual road out of the salt flats and we drove through the night along a narrow one way path through the mountains in the pitch black. The bus was packed and there was no leg room. The driver kept stopping and getting out and often it felt like we were going to tip over, I was petrified so didn't sleep a wink. There was no toilet on the bus so when we stopped at 2am at some random town i was desperate! We tried to hold the iPad still along the bumpy road and watched 2 episodes of breaking bad which killed some time. When we arrived at the boarder I was so grateful not to be spending the night in the bus in the middle of nowhere and was so happy to be alive !!
The boarder crossing was a joke. We had to que outside in the freezing cold for 2 hrs, no one spoke and there wasn't a smiley face in sight.
Once we were finally on the Argentinian side we shared a cab with a German couple to the bus terminal and then from there we got on another 7hr bus to salta! It was the longest 24hr journey ever but we were happy to be in Argentina and couldn't wait for warmer weather and steak!

Train cemetery
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Salt flats
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Random in uyuni...
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Best couple in town, everything matching
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Posted by karenandbyron 16:38 Archived in Bolivia

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