Day 108 : Uyuni

The main reason to visit Uyuni is to take an excursion out onto the salt flats and this is what we did today. In two jeeps we were taken from the hotel and first to a few artisan shops where we could buy textiles and also salt carvings. There was one shop with some large carvings and here we also saw some small guitars, the backing made from an armadillo shell. Try getting that back into New Zealand. Nearby were the houses and factories where the salt taken from the flats is refined, there were large piles of salt in many places. A few beaten up old trucks were parked around the place and we saw more on the flats, maybe the older vehicles are more suited to the salty environment or maybe there isn’t much money is salt these days.

One of the beaten up old trucks
One of the beaten up old trucks

Stuffed armadillos
Stuffed armadillos

We next stopped out on the salt plain at a place where the salt is harvested. There were not many people out working on this day and we saw only a couple of trucks being loaded with the salt. It has been a while since there was any rain in the area and this place was the only one where we saw water on the surface.

It seems that everyone that comes to this place spends time taking perspective photos where the featureless landscape allows tricks to be played with distance and size. We were no different and we had bought a few props with us to assist in our photo taking: a small Christmas tree, a plastic flower pinched from the hotel, a Pringles can and various other things. We spent an hour or so taking photos and I spent a lot of the time lying on the wet, sharp ice (with a waterproof bag giving some protection) taking photo with the camera as close to the ground as possible.

Checking out the photo opportunities
Checking out the photo opportunities

Left hanging at Christmas
Left hanging at Christmas

Santa on the tree
Santa on the tree

Christmas on the salt flats
Christmas on the salt flats

Keryn on a flower
Keryn on a flower

There are many islands in the middle of the plain and we drove on for nearly an hour to reach one where we could wander around. We had lunch and then were set free to have a look and climb to the top of the hill to take in the views. It was hot, bright and at nearly 4000m so we took the walking slow and steady. The island was covered in very slow growing cactus and there were small birds flying around but most of the wildlife chose to stay hidden. From the lookout point at the top of the hill we watched jeeps driving across the plain and then saw three hardy people cycling to the island – it would take so long to cross the plain on a bike we figured they must be camping for the night.

The island cactus
The island cactus

The three cyclists
The three cyclists

The heat was enough that the views were obscured somewhat by heat haze, the distant mountains registering as shades of blue and reflected in the haze to make strange oval shapes. Below we could see people making photos, having lunch and arriving or leaving; all looking like toys in the vast white.

Toy cars
Toy cars

The road to nowhere
The road to nowhere

Our new group member Lucy
Our new group member Lucy

Strange blue mountains
Strange blue mountains

We headed back towards Uyuni and stopped to take more photos. The place where we stopped had holes in the salt where the water could be seen just a few centimetres below the surface. While stepping back from one of the jeeps Lucy managed to sink into one hole up to her shin, cutting her toe in the process of extracting her foot. We were all more careful after that. Danny dressed in the swimsuit again and a series of photos were taken that will be burned into our retinas for a long time yet.

The salt
The salt

The girls came up with this idea
The girls came up with this idea

Rhys with his wallahs
Rhys with his wallahs

We continued and stopped next at a salt hotel, constructed out of salt bricks. The hotel was closed a few years back because of hygiene issues so it is no longer possible to stay overnight but they still sell drinks and snacks so we stopped for a while and hid from the sun. Outside a platform was covered in flags and it looked good with the low sun behind.

Outside the salt hotel
Outside the salt hotel

Rhys suggested that for sunset we head back to the salt harvest area so we could get reflection shots and this is what we did. We watched the sunset, brilliant oranges mixing with the blue and white of the salt flat. We got some nice silhouette shots and had a good time.

Mark and the sunset
Mark and the sunset

Angie and the sunset
Angie and the sunset

Sunset over the salt flats
Sunset over the salt flats

Returning to the hotel there were now two more trucks, a Dragoman (Encounter) truck and a large Oasis truck, so dinner was a much more crowded affair. Again we had pizza and again I thought it was really good. We also bought extra pizza’s to have as an on-the-go lunch the following day and we made sure we tried the chocolate cake and biscuits as well.

We’ve been hiding Kumuka stickers on other companies trucks whenever we get the chance and Danny got to hide a few more this night. We went to bed quite early on what with a repack required and also the usual excuse of an early start the following morning.

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