[This is part 2 of the 4-part Salt Flats series. Click here for part 1, “That time I got stranded in the Bolivian desert”]
My Salar de Uyuni Disaster
We had ten minutes until every jeep in town left for the salt flats. That meant that we had ten minutes to find enough seats.
I flung myself around Uyuni to find an ATM. After about eight minutes, I miraculously found one that accepted my card. I ran back to the driver and threw my money at him. Rack City.
I want to point out here that my driver asked for fifty bucks for a three-day tour. A quick Google search, however, will reveal just how much the famous operators rip-off tourists. If you pre-book a tour online, every company on the first page of Google (including Banjo Tours, Kanoo Tours, and Red Planet Expedition as recommended by TripAdvisor) will charge you anywhere between $200USD and $1600USD for the same tour I paid $50 for. Always book when you’re there, people!
We loaded our stuff on to the jeep. “Finally, the madness is over!”, I said. But something always goes wrong when I say that.
Everything seemed normal enough at first. We drove out of Uyuni and into the desert.
But then I noticed two other cars coming towards us. Our driver put his foot down. “They’re chasing us”, he said.
It was the strikers again. They were trying to cut us off from entering the salt flats. So, I guess I went from trying desperately to get into Uyuni to desperately trying to get out within two hours. Life is really funny and humorous tehe.
The chase lasted around half an hour before we managed to lose them. One of the most bizarre experiences of my life. But this was still not as bizarre as what happened next!
BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: DAY 1
Our first stop was Colchani, a very tiny village where the salt is made.
The main attraction here was a house made entirely of salt. They like to call it a museum, but it’s more like a tiny little house with two rooms.
Perhaps the strangest part of this ordeal was the Kamasutra statues. No, I’m not joking. Literally, we were greeted inside by statues of creatures in sex positions. Absolutely done with all this s***, I whipped out my salty Pringles.
Here are said statues for your viewing displeasure:
Then it was time to make our way to the salt flats.
On the way, we took a super-fast lunch break in a salty tent. La comida was surprisingly tasty! Meat-eaters were given a plate of salad and Llama/Alpaca, whilst vegetarians were given quinoa.
Now it was finally time for the main attraction: the Salt Flats!
After a long-ass day in the desert, I suddenly found myself engulfed by a flat white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. An evocative and eerie site. Nothing will prepare you for the feeling you get when you’re standing in a never-ending sea of white. After my nightmare in the desert, this felt like a wonderful dream.
I visited during the dry season, when the ground hardens and polygonal patterns of salt rise from the ground. At certain times of the year, nearby lakes overflow and a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a stunning reflection of the sky. You’ve probably seen the pictures. This probably sounds like the more appealing option, but due to the lack of rain, we were able to drive to places that wouldn’t have been accessible in the rainy season (such as Isla Incahuasi).
Certainly not my usual Christmas surroundings!
BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: Isla Incahuasi
We also stopped off at Isla Incahuasi. This is an island covered in Trichocereus cacti, surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of salt. It’s a surprisingly lonely, otherworldly place.
Edit: I have since learned that just after my visit, the flats were used as the battlefield location for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. More importantly, it was used for “La La La” by Naughty Boy Featuring Sam Smith. FYI.
For Part 3, “The Best Time to Visit the Salar de Uyuni: Never”, click here.