The lead up to my South American trip didn’t leave much time for planning, from Honolulu I scored a cheap flight to Miami and from there I flew to Bolivia to meet a friend and start ticking of my Latin American bucket-list. Beginning with one of my top items the Uyuni salt flats.
Once in Uyuni we set off to find ourselves a tour, the cheapest we could find. We ended up on a three day, two nights tour with six of us in the car and one lovely Bolivian tour guide. The first day was the day I had been hanging out for, after a quick stop at the antique train cemetery, around three kilometres outside Uyuni. It is as it sounds, a heap of old abandoned trains, left there when the mining industry collapsed in the 40’s, which made for some quirky photos in itself.
Then it was onto the real spectacle, Salar de Uyuni or the worlds largest salt flats, covering over 10,000 square kilometres . The salt desert was once part of a prehistoric lake, and once it dried out it left behind two modern lakes and two salt deserts, a truely unbelievable natural site.
The salt flats are huge and spread as far as the eye can see, which leaves plenty of room for one to take copious amounts of ridiculous perspective photos. We alone spent over two hours playing on the flats, we were overshadowed by dinosaurs, stood on apples, drank from giant beers and the masterpiece- appeared from a giant Pringles container. The salt flats are unbelievable, so flat that mountains 250 kilometres away appear as though they were just in front, something I had been searching photos of since the day I thought up the idea of visiting South America.
There certainly could of been a lot more time spent there, but it was on across the endless flats to the Fish Island. This island that appears in the middle of the flats gets its name from its distant shape, said to look like a fish, something we did not witness. This huge island is covered in cactai that we were told grow one centremetre a year, which leaves for some very old cactai. As the island was once submerged by water the surface is made from coral deposits. An Island made of cactai and coral definitely an unusual sight, one that gave fantastic panoramic views of the open salt flats from the top.
After a night in a hostel made completely of salt it was on through the salt desert and onto see the next highlight. Arriving at Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve we were greeted by Laguna Colorada the colour was phenomenal, such a rich deep red it is hard to believe it was in fact water and to top this off, flamingoes, something else I was hanging out to see. The national park is home to four different species which all range in colour due to the water they consume and the minerals it contains.
After our final night in the desert we awoke before the sun and set off to catch the sol de Mañana, here we reached our highest point for the trip at almost five thousand metres above sea level where we would watch the sun rise as the active volcano produced bubbling mud and steam streams around us. At a crisp minus 15 degrees with a little snow, it was undoubtedly the coldest I have ever been but one hundred percent worth it.
From here it was a drive to the thermal springs, even with temperatures of 40 degrees I could not be coxed into talking my many layers off and entering. Once more we were on our way, with one last quick stop in the Dali desert aptly named due to the surreal stone sculptures said to mimic the artists work. A quick glance at lake Verde and we had reached the chilian boarder. Our trip through the desert was complete and number one of my South American bucket list ticked. An absolutely mind blowing few days and the perfect opening of what is to come in this adventure.