We get up at 5.00 am and leave the Salt Hotel to drive out on to the salt flats just as the night sky, almost imperceptibly, starts to change colour.
After driving for about an hour across the white expanse we stop and get out of the jeep to watch dawn break. In the space of 20 minutes the sky changes colour through all shades of blue and indigo to bright pink until the sun actually peeps above the horizon. Only then do we get to appreciate the vastness of this place.
The pure white salt flats cover and area of some 11,000 sq. kms all ringed by mountains in the far distance. The salt is pure white but is tinged pink in the early morning light. Apparently it is 2 metres thick and sits on a sea of salt water. We just stand and marvel at this amazing sight and listen to complete silence, one of the few places in the world where this is still possible.
We head of deeper into the Salar to Isla del Pescado a small hill/oasis where we and several other jeeps all stop whilst our respective cooks prepare breakfast. Whilst the cooks are about their business we climb up to the top of the hill for spectacular 360 degree views of the Salar. The hill is around 200m high and, I am not sure but was probably once a coral sea mount. Now it is covered with giant cacti, some apparently 500 years old.
After breakfast we head off in splendid isolation into the salt flats. We drive for an hour or so across the perfect white plains seeing no one else. We eventually stop to take some of the photographs which are de rigueur on a trip Uyuni.
Most of the photos on the blog were taken by Alfredo who must have done this hundreds of time before. Some were more successful than others but judge for yourself.
We continue on our journey to the edge of the Salar, stopping at a small museum. As we get out of the jeep we meet a couple of cyclists cycling across the Salar from end to end which seems a bit crazy but then we remember our Belgian explorer friend that we kept bumping into around the continent who actually walked from end to end! (I wonder how he is getting on kayaking around Lake Titicaca.)
We finally reach the edge of the salt flats around midday and head back to civilisation in the form of. Uyuni town. As we drive into the dry dusty town we immediately think that we made the right decision to use Tupiza as our base.This place is a DUMP! The first thing we notice is that the entire town is surrounded by piles of litter blowing through the town and surrounding land. Why do the people allow their town to get into such a state?
We drop Liboria off at a small hostel so she can prepare lunch whilst Alfredo takes us off to the “Cementario del Tren”, the train graveyard.
On the outskirts of the town this dusty place houses countless derelict trains dating back to whenever trains were first used here. A must for any train enthusiast.
The trains are in a pretty sorry state but are fascinating nonetheless. Apparently one of the trains bears the bullet holes inflicted by Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, try as we might we couldn’t find a trace!
After our final lunch our tour officially ends but we are hitching a lift back to Tupiza with Alfredo and Liboria. The drive is long, taking around 6 hours. We are happy but exhausted and REALLY looking forward to a hot shower! I can only imagine how tired Alfredo must be feeling having driven all that way with virtually no roads to speak of or indeed, any signposts. I have the greatest admiration for the guy.
In all one of the most amazing four days we have spent in all our years travelling.