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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

Salar de Uyuni the Salt Flats tour

BOLIVIA | Friday, 30 May 2008 | Views [3258] | Comments [2]

Uyuni and the Salt Lakes of Bolivia is one of the freakiest places I have ever seen in my life. The landscape changes so much from luminous green and pink potassium filled volcanic lakes to islands filled with giant cacti on the middle of a salt flat that stretches to the horizon and beyond. It is an absolutely fantastic place and I had a great time visiting it on my three day tour.
The day began with a shopping tip to get the essential hat, scarf, gloves, thermal undies and sun glasses that it became apparent I would desperately need when I got off the bus at 6.30am into below freezing temperatures with the morning sun burning my retinas.
I had barely had time to thaw when I and two English blokes I was stalking around town signed up for a tour to set off that day at 10.30am, fortunately it was a great tour company (latitudes) and all the people in our six man jeep got on like a house on fire.
The first day took us across the salt mines and onto the Salar de Uyuni, the huge great big whopping salt lake that is beyond comprehension. We had lunch at the cactus island where huge giant cactus have sprouted from a rock in the middle of the salt lake. The whole thing is truly bizarre but we had great fun making the obligatory perspective skewed pics of ourselves cuddling life size beer bottles on the salt flats. That night we stayed in a lovely hotel constructed entirely from salt -  the walls, the tables, the chairs, even the beds.
It was lit by candle light and really really beautiful. As we got stuck into our tea and biscuits and load of children from the village barged in dressed up in  their bowler hats and traditional knits and started legging it around the place banging a drum before dragging us up to dance and stealing our cameras to takes photos of each other.
After a cold night's sleep we were up at dawn, being fed up on warm fluffy pancakes and hot coffee before setting off in the jeep across the desert landscape to the remote lagoons and weird rock formations. Sadly there was no toilet anywhere this day so our helpful guide took great delight in informing us that we had to go 'au natural', or behind a rock.
That night we stayed in a very basic hostel 4400meters up as the temperature dropped to 15 below freezing outside. We were in a six bed dorm with the beds so close to each other that we all got the goggles. It was so cold that we had to sleep in all our clothes, thermal layers and hat and gloves to boot. Not at all impressed when Carmelo our guide woke us at 5.45am the following morning and ordered us all out of bed and onto the jeep.
We were so cold that even the blanket we wrapped ourselves up on couldn´t keep out the cold. Watching the sun rise over the geyser field made up for it though (almost). As the temperature was just getting up to zero the floor beneath us was sprouting sulphur flavoured steam with little bubbles of boiling water beneath our feet. The vapour was nice and toasty contrasted with the freezing cold morning air but the stench of rotten eggs was so bad that you couldn't stay in it for too long.
From there we went on to the thermal springs. Now call me a wimp but the thought of stripping off into a bikini to plunge into a tepid warm bath with 20 other people as the thermometer hovered around zero was not too appealing. I kept my clothes firmly on, reasoning that the lack of changing facilities coupled with the extreme cold temperatures and shortage of time to truly enjoy the experience was reason enough to wimp out. O had a nice hot chocolate and sponge cake for breakfast instead.
From there it was pretty much full steam ahead to the finish line. We dropped two of the lads off at the border of Chile and then stopped for lunch at a wee village eating savoury rice in the corner of a tiny shop. The table cloth added a touch of elegance to the proceedings.
From there it was a race back to Uyuni to catch the overnight bus back to La Paz, thermals still on.

Tags: bolivia, cactus island, chile, jeep tours, salar de uyuni, salr hotel, salt flat, salt lake, thermal springs, uyuni

Comments

1

salt

  suzanne Dec 1, 2008 2:35 AM

2

The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt water lake and without a shadow of a doubt, the lake is the pride of the South American nation of Bolivia. Besides, the lake is also ranked as one of the most, if not the most stunning places in the entire continent of South America.

  Sandra Oct 27, 2010 7:50 PM

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