The trains were now just rust and metal, but it was an interesting sight seeing a long line of old trains line up in the desert one after another. We climbed on top of a few of them using our expert climbing skills(!), and took a few good shots of the place. It was a pretty interesting site, seeing old rusty trains out in the desert.
After an hour or so, we left to start our 3-day 4×4 off-road tour of the natural wonders of Bolivia, featuring the famous Salar de Uyuni (natural white salt flats) and numerous other natural formations and reserves. All this was located between 3,700-5,000m altitude. We were going to be in for an exhausting time, but hopefully it was going to be well worth it. We’d experienced high altitude before during the Inca Trail and Macchu Pichu, and it was tough going sometimes with the air so thin, so we were pretty much expecting it to be the same. But factor in the cold temperature over the next few days (we were told it was the coldest we’d get, with temperatures at night getting down to -15 degrees!), and it was looking like a challenge.
After leaving the dryness of the locomotive cemetery, the landscape changed very quickly around ten minutes into the ride, where the surface turned white! It was pretty hard to believe, but sure enough, it was salt (we had a little taste!). It crumbled slightly when you walked on it, but it was pretty solid stuff, and it was cool to see. The salt crystals form such that they create hexagonal shapes in the ground, leading to some spectacular viewing. We tried to capture the shapes on video as best we could, but seeing it for real was nice.
We first came across a salt restaurant, where we had lunch, and then a few salt houses with statues in the front made from…you guessed it, salt! And all this was on the outer edge of the salt flats. This was only the start of all the salt to come!
Next up, we headed into the centre of the flats, where the salt becomes an amazing bright white colour, and there’s nothing you can see but a bright white surface all the way into the horizon. It was amazing to see. And because everything in the background is white, depth perception can start to get tricky. Which makes for some interesting pictures! We had been told about this, and luckily brought along some props for some interesting pictures and videos. It was good fun.
We ended the day’s antics by taking this video..the camera man did good!
It was truly an amazing place. Like nothing we’ve ever come across before, and a very surreal experience. The sun was out, which made the whole place shine right into the distance too. It was a great place to visit and experience.
Before we finished the day and came out the other side of the salt flats, we came across a place called Incahuasi Island, a kind of mini-mountain like structure in the salt flats, with gigantic cacti all over the ‘island’. These guys were big! We took a hike to the top of the island and got some good panoramic views of the salt flats too. It was a nice way to end our tour of the flats.
We headed onwards to our place of accommodation (obviously completely made of salt, including the tables, chairs and the beds!). After dinner, we headed outside for a view of the sky, which was so clear. A clear night sky, with an amazing view of the Milky Way. The first time either of us had seen it. Another amazing image to add to the day!
All in all, we loved the salt flats. It was a great place to visit as it was so different to anything we know. We’ll have fond memories of this place!