We organised our tour to start from Tupiza instead of Uyuni because we heard that it was better seeing it from this end because you had 3 days getting to it seeing some fabulous scenery, rock formations, rivers, lagoons and wildlife first and then the salt flats on the last day. However there was a load of rain and the salt flats were too flooded to do the normal route so we ended up doing a revised route and unfortunately missing the Isla del pescado which is smack in the middle of the slat flats with loads of cactus.
Anyway as I mentioned before we went with June and Victor from Seattle and their 2 cute tiny dogs Miko and Packo. We booked our tour through Torre Tours and for 4 days/3 nights all inclusive the price was 1000 bolivianos per person. The only other thing we had to pay was the entrance into the National Park which was an extra 150 bolivianos each.
Our very comfortable Toyota/Lexus hybrid 4x4 was ready and waiting for us at around 7am on the first morning.
Our driver was Gonzalo and was a very good driver and had done the trip many many times and really knew the roads. He was really impressive on the tricky parts and drove really well. We never got stuck or broke down or had any problems at all and seemed very considerate. Our cook who came with us too was called Rubin and he was very nice too. He spoke a little more English than Gonzalo but that wasn’t a lot either!!!! But the dinners were good and we had plenty of it aswell as little snacks in between meals too.
Our first stop was Quebrada de Paleta which was loads of red rock formations sticking up out of the ground like needles. Some great scenery on the first day.
A few hours later we make it to San Vincente which is where Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid were killed and buried. The tiny museum is actually quite good and has some really interesting things in it. Butch’s saddle and various guns used to gun them down owned by the army. Some wanted photos and death certificates were there too. Just up the road was the actual building where they were surrounded by the Bolivian army. Apparently it was a eatery and is where they had their last meal. then just up the road a little further (we were really struggling to catch our breath here because the altitude was quite high here!) was the cemetery which his grave in. There is some confusion about the whereabouts of the Sun Dance Kid because the authorities were only after Butch and so he was the only one positively identified. There is another body buried there but it is an unknown male because there was no real way of saying if it was him or not.
We came across a really tricky part of the track on this day and all had to get out just incase!! There were lots of parts of the road that was really close to the edge or that there was a big gaping hole in the middle ‘fixed’ with a bit of corrugated iron!! Anyway with careful driving we managed to get across safely!! All the time we were being watched by a few llamas which are really colourful with their tags on their ears!
The first nights’ accommodation was in a tiny village and was very basic but it had everything we needed- flushing toilet, sink, lots of blankets on the beds. When we first got there we went playing football and basket ball and then the 2 dogs came out to play too!! The people in these parts are really funny about having their photo taken- they think that the actual photo is taking part of their soul away so quite a few of them run and hide when ever there is a camera around. But a few were ok with having it taken, even if they did have a snotty nose!!
It was here that we met the other Jeep which included Madelene, Vicky, Rob, Adam and Luke. All from England except Luke who was American.
Earlier in the day we saw them get stuck in the mud and they did a great effort getting themselves out of it!!
The next day was along one!! We saw loads of lagoons and loads of Flamingos too. Lagoon Celeste, Hedionda, Kollpa and at the end of these lagoons were the thermal baths where we dipped our feet for a while.
A little further on were the lagoons Blanco and Verde. The verde (green) lagoon is green because of the arsonic which is naturally found here!!
After here we made our way upto 5000m to the Geisers. They were so smelly!!!!! Sulphur stinks!! There were loads of blow holes and it was really windy too.
Our camp for the night was just below the Geisers in a purpose built hamlet for tourists called Huaylljara.
Next morning the Lagoon Colorada was pretty impressive and pink and had so many flamingos!!!
A short ride from here was Arbol de Piedra which was loads of stones carved by the wind into very weird shapes, but very impressive none the less.
The valley of rocks was where we had lunch. Similar to Arbol de Piedra but on a much bigger scale. Some of the formations looked like turtles, seahorses, faces and one of them is named the Queens seat! There was also one that resembled a Condor but looked more like a wave so Darren surfed it!!
We drove through some small villages too and the children werereally friendly especially when they realised we had sweets for them!!
We drove through Uyuni (this was the revised route due to the heavy rains) and onto a tiny place only 5 km from the flats called Colchani. It had been raining for quite a while and everything was so muddy and dirty! Here everything was made out of salt. Everything!! Headboards on the beds, chairs, tables, window sills, bricks, everything!!!!
But when we got there the other Jeep had been told that they couldn’t go on the flats because they could get stuck due to the rain again!!!! But Gonzalo reassured us and sure enough the next morning we have an early start to see the ‘sun’ rise over the salt flats.
Our early morning wake up was at 0430 to leave by 0500. It had stopped raining but was still cloudy to the sun rise wasn’t really spectacular!
As we tentatively started to drive on the salt we realised that it was probably about 15cm in the deepest part of rain water. But we drove slowly and steadily and then stopped when the rain was less deep to take some more photos and we could actually get out of the jeep!! So we had the props to take funny photos for a while and messed about with the camera for a bit.
Then we went to the salt hotel which is stranded on its own in the middle of the flats. Again everything is made out of salt, even some statues in the middle of the hotel. The lonely planet says not to stay here because of the water system and sewage network or lack of it. But we had breakfast here and after that the weather had improved a bit. All of a sudden it looked like we were on the ‘Truman show’!! all you could see was white clouds and a bit of blue sky peeping through and with the film of water ontop of the salt it looked like we were all walking on water!!!
On our way back we get ontop of the jeep which was quite fun.
Here are a few other nice photos which I thought I'd just put in!!
Our last stop is a strange place called the train cemetery. Loads of old rusty graffiti trains, twisted old metal everywhere! But there were hundreds of tourists here and it was such a weird tourist attraction. Some photos did turn out well though. So we head back to Uyuni and have a well deserved shower- there wasn’t an option to have one the whole time we were on the tour!!
So that was the end of the Salt Flats. We get on a bus straight from Uyuni (which is not really a nice place) and head straight to Potosi.