I was not really sad to see the back of Uyuni. There really is not much here other than it being a dusty frontier town. Still even Uyuni has some charm, just not enough to keep anyone here for more than a night it seems.
We ended up getting a tour of the Slat flats and altiplano landscape from Cordillera Traveller. At first it looked like we made the right choice and despite a few hiccups, I doubt we’d find anything much better if we looked again. They picked us up in a Toyota Landrover with Luis Roberto our driver and guide. 6 of us comfortably crammed into the vehicle. Luckily we had a couple from Portugal who wanted the back seat. They really didn’t need the space as they sat as close to each other as possible ignoring the extra space they had. The three amigos had the middle seats and a girl from Belgium was in the front seat.
First stop was the train graveyard.Other than lots of old trains and graffiti, there wasn’t much to see. Still it was great location for photos and you could spend hours looking for photo ideas and opportunities here. Its worthwhile noting the Bolivians are excited that the Dakar rally is going through Bolivia next year and even the graffiti reflects this. we then drove onto a small village of Colchani, for crafts and the salt museum, although the museum had a giant llama craved from salt and that was it appears to be the only exhibit as the rest of the museum was a craft shop.
We then headed onto the Salar (Salt flat). Now the Salar is no different to any other salt flat in the world, except this one is the biggest and at several spots very hard to see the edges and would impossible if it were not for the mountains. we went to the first Salt Hotel built on the salt flat and now illegal to stay at as it was ecologically unsound. Everything in the hotel was built from salt blocks.
We moved on to the main attraction of the salar…… Incahuasi Island. The island is roughly in the middle of the salar and covered in cordones (cactus). Luckily the island has facilities like a cafe and toilet but also a fee. We stopped here for a nice lunch of vegateables, quinoa and some kind of meat (steak or llama, not really sure).
We took some funny photos using perspective and the endless salt flats, got generally hot and then did our best to find shade, before we departed for out overnight stay. We arrived at out salt hotel, the floor literally just loose salt lying around. the beds were large salt blocks with a mattress on top. The tables and chairs were salt blocks. The bathroom though was conventional. Jane and I went and had a shower, when we heard a lady scream “Diez Bolivianos” quickly followed by the water being turned off. I had rinsed off and was able to dry myself and get dressed. Jane however had shampoo running into her eyes. I had to go find the Evil Salt Hotel Lady and pay her the 10 bolivianos so Jane could finish her shower. The thing was, there are no signs, we had no idea who we had to pay to have a shower.
Dinner was equally as frustrating as the Evil Salt Hotel Lady yelled at people for sitting in the wrong seats. As it turns out you have to sit at the table for your 4WD. This hotel had vehicles going in both directions and from 2 companies staying there. Again no way of knowing this until you got yelled at. Dinner was ok, except our portuguese couple were vegetarian. So out came chicken and potatoes…. In the end our guide managed to get some eggs fried up for them (which strict vegetarians wouldn’t eat, but these guys did eat eggs!). We got a bottle of win for dinner also, but when i asked for water, I had to pay for it. Seems kind of weird to not supply water for dinner.
We stayed up quite late chatting to the other groups some of which had come from where we were heading. On the salt flats there could have been around 50 4WD’s zooming around, going to and from Uyuni or Tupiza or Chile. If there was ever a true tourist trail this is it.