We took the overnight bus to Uyuni from La Paz. After our previous our overnight bus to Puno we knew that things might fry chilly and they did. VERY CHILLY. The bus company thoughtfully supplied blankets and we were better prepared with jackets and thermals but still it was remarkably cold.
We arrived in Uyuni early in the morning and right of the bus we were mobbed by various tour operators. They all offer the same package so we opted for one offering an extra breakfast that morning and 4 liters of water each. We met our fellow jeep mates-3 English ladies of the partying-backpacker persuasion, and a guy from the Czech Republic who was more of the independent trekking/climbing kind. We left Uyuni in a red Toyota Land Cruiser and headed off into the salaar or salt flat. But first a stop at the railroad graveyard.
The vast emptiness of the salaar is really quite amazing. We drove for hours with nothing but white salt flats stretching to the horizon. Our driver and guide, a slightly taciturn fellow named Moises, entertained us with a video of his brass band playing what seemed to be the same song, over and over. He seemed quite proud and also dangerously engrossed in the video which played on the suprisingly fancy sound system - he would occasionally drift to the right or left as he watched the video instead of the road. Luckily, he volunteered to let us choose the music for most of the trip. The mountains in the distance seem to float above the plain as we drove along. We stopped for lunch at the Isla Pescado which is covered with huge cactus. The stop also gave us the chance to experiment with perspective photos.
We left Fish Island after lunch and continued across the salar to our night´s accomdation - a salt hotel on the edge of the flats. The rooms were suprisingly nice and we settled in for hot tea and dinner of chicken and veggies with our tour companions. The next day we set out early leaving the salt flats behind and heading into some of the most desolate, wild, and inaccesible parts of southern Bolivia, although to be honest in reminded Annie and I a lot of Colorado (minus the volcanos, colored lakes, and flamingoes). We travelled for hours at a go with occasional 15 minutes stops to admire colored lagoons - a white one, a red one, a grey one, a blue one. The white lagoon was particularly impressive as its frozen, salty waters perfectly reflected the sky and mountains around it. Also, there were flamingos. The flamingos are of three species (our tourist pamphlet proudly proclaimed) including the rarest, James flamingos. Really, only a highly trained expert could tell them apart. We also stopped at the ´rock tree´a huge wind carved triangle of stone standing on its pointy end. On our third and final day we drove WWWAAAAYYYY south to admire a green lagoon which turned out to no longer be green - a recent earthquake had shaken things up and turned its waters a shade of brown. Along the way we stopped to admire a roaring geyser and on our return route we soaked in a lovely hotsprings, or Agua Termales. I frequently call these Aguas Terminales, which Annie finds funny as Aguas Termales = hot springs and Aguas Terminales = end waters, or bus station waters.
I should also mention our frequent flat tires - two the first day and one each day after that. Luckily there are many tour jeeps that travel along together and our driver was able to borrow a spare from another jeep (all four times). We were never stuck for more than a few minutes as Moises (our driver) was able to make the change quickly - he improved his time with each flat - unlike another group who arrived hours late to our second nights hostel after being stuck on the side of the road without a spare. We also had to stop for emergency gas which I had to pay for, a loan of 100 bolivianos to make sure we made it back to Uyuni and which was quickly repayed. We arrived back in town at 5 PM on the third day and picked up our bus tickets for Sucre (we had made arrangements with our tour agency to purchase them in advance) and were glad we did as everyone informed us of an eminent Taxi driver strike/protest which would close the main roads into and out of Uyuni starting at midnight the night of our return. Luckily, our tickets were for 10 PM! We enjoyed a suprisingly good pizza in town at Minuteman Pizza, made by a Bostonian transplant, and then made our way to the bus station to prepare for our overnight journed to Sucre. All and all, our Uyuni adventure was memorable but cemented in our minds our dislike for organized tours and preference for solo travelling and off-the-beaten-track experiences. Three days is just too long to spend locked in a Jeep with British party girls.