Salar De Uyuni Tour Day 3

Shitting hell, it was a lot colder today than it had been. Actually the whole trip had been warmer than the last time I did this tour. Last time I remember wearing all of my clothes to bed and burying myself under layers of blankets to avoid freezing to death. This time I was in shorts and a long sleeve and I was throwing blankets off me so I didn’t boil to death. Not this morning though, once we’d come back in from gawping at the absolutely epic sky last night I retrieved all of my blankets off the floor and dramatically shivered until I was warm enough to sleep again. The tour company had also provided us with fleece lined sleeping bags and they’ve been an absolute game changer.

Stone forest. You can just about make out Adrian for scale.

We had breakfast and loaded up and we were on the road again by 7.30am. We left the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa not long afterwards, Bernaba had to hand our tickets in to get an exit stamp, then they were returned to us. I wish I was that person who hoarded this kind of shit to put it all in a scrapbook but yeah, I’m not. I’m the kind of person who will attempt to hoard shit for scrapbooking purposes, end up with piles of paper in no particular order, then just end up chucking it all away because who’s got time for that in between all that Facebook doomscrolling you’ve got to do?

Arbol de Piedra in front of the volcano that spat it out, Cerro Silala.

First stop after we left the reserve was the Arbol de Piedra, which means stone tree. The thing with this is, yeah it’s cool as a tourist attraction in its own right, I do love an interesting rock formation, but it’s at the head of a huge stone army, an invasion of interesting rocks, and what makes it even more interesting is that fact (or at least Bernaba presented it as a fact) that they were all vomited out by the volcano over yonder, Cerro Silala, a metric fuck tonne of years ago. He didn’t know how many years ago, he thinks “before Jesus”, but I can’t find any more information after a cursory search online.

Barnaba patiently took this “holding up the rock” photo with the face of a man who has taken this photo a thousand times.

Last night after we’d had a bit of an argument about Barnaba’s plans to take us all the way to Uyuni today he’d asked us if we’d had enough of flamingos. There are two routes once you leave the park; the eastern route takes you past a load of cool rocks whilst the western road goes past more lakes. I thought we’d agreed to the eastern route and, in fact, we’d chosen La Torre over Tupiza Tours because that was the route they said they took. Obviously none of that happened and off we fucked to look at more lakes. It did mean we got to see the Arbol de Piedra, we’d have missed that on the alternative route, but guys, you really do get over gawping at random bodies of water.

Borax edging Laguna Kara. You can’t really see it but it’s full of feathers.

We went to Laguna Kara which was a lake with some flamingos and a cool mountain backdrop. There were a few flamingos carcasses dotted around and Bernaba was harvesting the pink feathers and the down. The lake was fringed with borax which held a lot of feathers and he was picking the pink feathers out of that too. He said they were for medicine but he didn’t elaborate. Cool. Now antibac your hands, buddy. Also, you know the white stuff is borax and not salt on account of the presence of lanky pink birds. They’re not fond of salt but they don’t mind a bit of borax.

Laguna Cachi. Flamingos. Lake. Mountains.

Then we went to Laguna Cachi which was a lake with some flamingos and a cool mountain backdrop. We got some nice reflection photos and marvelled at the yellow lake next to it. That was cool, we’d not seen a yellow lake yet. We were told that sulphur gave it that colour which rings true given that most of the mountains you can put in your eyeholes around here are volcanos in various stages of dormant.

Cool looking yellow lake. I had a little pee just next to it thus adding to the yellow.

Laguna Chulluncani was just a huge expanse of borax with no flamingos and a cool mountain backdrop, then we were taken to a lake he called Laguna Negra but was named Laguna Turquin on the map. This was quite good to be fair, it was indeed a black lake but it had these huge… yeah nah I don’t have a fucking clue what they are. Rocks? Algae? No clue but they’re incredibly striking. It kind of looks like a skin disease. We walked down the steep hill towards the lake before remembering that we now had to walk up said hill at altitude, then Porfi told us next stop was lunch.

Laguna Negra. Not sure what the patterns are. You can get a cream for that, mate.

We’d been having lunch indoors in random buildings. Not restaurants, Porfi was doing all the cooking, but we had tables and chairs. Today though we were driven to a quite random chunk of rock for lunch. I was a bit worried it’d be too cold and windy to eat outside but this wasn’t Barnaba’s first rodeo. He backed the car up and the big formation sheltered us from the wind. There were several strategically placed stones to sit on and it was actually a really pleasant experience. Porfi outdid herself this time though. All it was was meat, potatoes and vegetables baked in a tray but bugger me backwards, it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had the pleasure of applying to my facehole. It was divine. What the fuck is she doing to the food to make it taste to good?

I’ve had lunch in worse places.

After lunch we drove past large expanses of quinoa crop. Whilst it’s a hipster food back home which we don’t generally eat because it’s not something you can just pick up in Aldi, it’s an everyday staple here in Bolivia. I don’t know why we don’t eat more of it, it’s really good for you. I guess that’s exactly why we don’t eat more of it. Who wants health food when you can have chicken wings and chips delivered to your door? Because fuck you, arteries.

This is quinoa. I’d be interest to learn more about how it’s planted, grown, harvested and processed. Maybe some enterprising farmer in the future will run tours.

We crossed the Salar de Chiguana which was shimmering in the heat, creating mirages. I say heat, we weren’t going to sweat to death or anything but we’d certainly warmed up since the morning and the sun was belting down. The train track we crossed was still in use, trains take cargo between Bolivia and Chile along here. Not long after the salt flat is the village of San Juan which was deserted. All the villages we’ve driven through have been deserted. This place had a lovely little plaza with loads of benches, I’ve just no idea who sits on them. Barnaba assured us that plenty of people lived here. He knocked on the door of the shop, a woman let us in and we stocked up on beer and some coca leaves.

Salar de Chiguana. Apparently three weeks ago there was a lot of water here and it was difficult to drive on.

It was around 3.30pm when we rolled into Villa Candelaria and checked into the Hotel del Sal Samarikuna. I like this for the novelty value. There are plenty of salt hotels around these days, this one was less salty than the one I stayed at in Chuvica all those years ago but it had sufficient salt to appease the relentless tourist in me. They had these quite beautiful salt columns, the tables and stools were made of salt, the floor in the lobby was crushed salt, and there was salt brick cladding inside. I refrained from licking the walls but Tarrant gave them a good tonguing.

The stools are about as comfortable as they look but they do provide cushions.

We had showers, some tea and biscuits, then Bernaba drove us out to watch the fiery skyball fuck off for the evening over the Salar de Uyuni. There was a couple of centimetres of water on the salt, it’s the rainy season so it does happen, but it meant we could take some epic reflection photos. We cracked a beer each and struck some poses favouring the classic jump shots that are compulsory when you’re on your holidays. I’m shit at jumping, I don’t know why I suggested it, but they do look very cool. One for the wall when we finally have walls again. Obviously jumping in water causes big splashes so we all came away covered in enough salt to season your chips for a week. I’m not sure my shoes will ever not be salty ever again.

So today started off tedious with way more lakes than I wanted to put in my eyeholes but it definitely finished on a high. The sky turned pink and purple casting a pastel hue on the salt flats. We got some great photos, drank some wine with Porfi and Barnaba over a gorgeous lasagne (which Tarrant couldn’t eat because clearly no one told Porfi she can’t have dairy despite it being stated on the form we filled out), then got to bed as early as we could. We had to be on the road by 4.30 tomorrow which didn’t bode well for any of my basic motor functions.

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”

Huayllajara to Villa Candelaria, Potosí Department, Bolivia

Stayed at: Hotel del Sal Samarikuna, Villa Candelaria

Hotel del Sal Samarikuna. 24 hour electricity, Bs10 for a shower, bring your own bog roll. You can see the Salar from the front door.

Useful shit to know…

  • The shop in San Juan has a toilet you can use for Bs2.
  • The shop in Villa Candelaria is located at -20.660998, -67.610618 but it’s not marked as a shop so good luck.
  • You have to knock on the door to gain entry like all shops in these tiny places.
  • Hot showers at the salt hotel cost Bs10.
  • They did, however, have 24 hour electricity which made us feel a bit fancy.
  • None of us had signal here either on Entel or Tiga.

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