The last leg of our journey with Bolivia Hop was from Copacabana to La Paz. I have to mention the details of this journey, you’ll understand why. An hour into the bus ride we had to get off and get on a boat to the mainland in the dark. Meanwhile the bus was also making its way over to the mainland via a raft! One of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. It felt as if we were being evacuated or something, getting a boat in the dark while watching the bus with all our valuables in it floating over Lake Titicaca on a wooden raft. Surreal! Once getting back on the bus they put a movie on for us to watch as well as giving us a portion of popcorn each to eat. This was a non required extra which I think was a small detail appreciated by all.
We left Copacabana at 6pm arriving into La Paz at our hostel ‘The Adventure Brew Hostel’ ( http://www.theadventurebrewhostel.com/the-hotel) at 10:30pm. Neither of us slept great that night as we weren’t prepared for how cold La Paz gets a night. The signs of snow as we arrived the night before should have been a clear warning.
We booked our tour to Salar de Uyuni by going to the bus station the next morning and finding a bus company that looked half decent. We decided on ‘Cruz del Norte’ which was leaving at 8:30pm arriving in Uyuni at 5am the next morning. It roughly cost us £12 each and the journey was pleasant but cold, but that was nothing compared to the cold waiting for us when we stepped off the bus.
On the bus we met an English girl who was doing a three day tour with the company Red Planet Expedition ( http://redplanetexpedition.com/). We decided to firstly catch some breakfast with her and then head over to the Red Planet offices to see how much they were charging for a day tour to the Salt Flats. We managed to book a day tour with them for £50 each which was about £20 cheaper than advertised online.
We left at 11am with two American girls, our guide and our driver in a 4×4 which firstly took us to the Train Cemetery not far from the town. Uyuni was used as a transportation station, wth the railroad built to carry mineral due to its ideal local between several major cities. Some of the abandoned trains can be dated back to the early 20th century and left to rust because of industry decline and conflicts with neighbouring countries. The train shells sit there slowly being eroded every day by the salt and winds having been stripped by locals of all of their useful parts.
The rest of the day was spent driving across the Salt Flats (which is apparently the size of Holland!) and stopping off for several photo opportunities as well as visiting the Salt Hotel and being shown how they make the rough, freshly collected salt into the table salt we use everyday. We bought a small bag for something like two Bolivianos to use whilst cooking. Our salt bag lasted us until the end of our three weeks in New Zealand where we forgot it, leaving it in the van. We were both gutted.
Our guide was so helpful when it came to taking these classic shots below and gave us plenty of time to take in the breathtaking views. However, the best was yet to come. As it was the birthday of one of the American girls, we were taken to the only part of the Salt Flats that had surface water in the dry season. This was extra special as it means packing more sights into the day and a little extra distance for the driver. We felt so grateful for this because the months of December to February the Salt Flats are covered in a layer of reflective water but the rest of the year the tours only experience it without so we really did have our cake and eat it! A salty cake at that!
Towards the end of the day after our personal photo shoot we visited the park Isla Incahuasi which is right in the middle of the Salt Flats and is a Coral Reef island with hundreds of Cacti towering into one of the bluest of blue skies I’ve ever seen. It costs the enter the park but only like £3 and you get a free toilet pass included in this! The joys! We walked up and round the island where you have a 360 degree view of the Salt Flats which is still unbelievable to me now when I look back at these photos. I’ve visited glaciers before and stood once where a mass of moving ice has once been but never have I stood next to some Coral Reef above land. I find it so interesting but also hard to believe that this area was once submerged by the sea!
Our last stop of the most amazing day was driving to the edge of the Salt Flats to see the sunset. It was so colourful and such a beautiful way to end our day. The sunsets in Bolivia have been consistently stunning but the cameras just don’t do them justice. Once the sun goes down, my does it get cold. It was quickly hat and gloves time again.
We really had the most incredible unique, interesting and fun packed day visiting the Bolivian Salt Flats. It was one of the best days of our trip so far and we are so glad we endured the cold and uncomfortable bus journeys to and from and extremely grateful to Red Planet for going above and beyond to ensure we had be best day.