The next phase of our trip through South America would take us to the Bolivian Salt Flats, then on to Chile and the Atacama Desert which we’ll recap in a subsequent post. A three-and-a-half-hour drive took us from the dusty mining town of Potosi to Uyuni. This town is the starting point for a lot of the tours to the flats. We stayed at Hotel Samay Wasi, a very simple no frills establishment. At this point all you want is a clean room, hot water and good Wi-Fi. There’s not a whole lot to do in this town although there are some very descent hotels and hostels and a few good restaurants. Dinner with the group, a good night’s sleep and we’re ready for our 4×4 adventure.
Our first stop as we left Uyuni was the Train cemetery. These remnants of old trains are scattered about, abandoned in the 1940’s when the mining in the area dried up and there was no incentive to carry on. This is a free attraction where you need to spend no more than thirty to forty minutes, it’s just something to do as you’re leaving town. Some like it, others think it’s a waste of time. For me, it’s a fascinating piece of history.
On leaving the train cemetery, we began to get an idea of the vastness of the surrounding area. We spotted some vicunas along the way as we headed to a local community in Colchani to check out their salt production. They use the salt to make bricks for construction of houses, art and craft carvings and also refined table salt for packaging.
It’s time to get back on the trail. The terrain changes especially after the rainy season so there’s no real defined trail, you could get lost very easily here but somehow, our drivers know exactly where to go. The Dakar monument and Flag island was a fun stop. Trudy and I brought flags from our respective countries to add to the ever-growing display.
Located next to the Plaza de Banderas is a hostel made almost entirely of salt. We had to go inside and check it out.
Our next stop would be for lunch at Isla Incahuasi, a rocky and cactus filled island. It seemed so out of place in this barren area, it’s as if some giant hand had placed it there. Lunch was surprisingly good considering where we were. Our drivers prepared a nice spread with steak, quinoa, potatoes, salad and fruits. We took a hike of the island afterwards and enjoyed being among the large cacti.
After lunch, we continued our drive further into the flats to find the perfect spot where we would have some fun with perspective photos and video.
To cap off our day of fun, we thought about staying for sunset which would’ve been spectacular but was advised against it as we were still several hours away from our lodging.
Our accommodation for the evening was the very rustic Jukil Community Lodge, a salt hotel in Santiago de Agencha. With quaint little cottages, we referred to it as Hobbiton. It was bitterly cold, but the sunset was amazing.
It’s such a privilege to be able to travel to such out of the world places and as we left the salt flats, the beauty and what we would experience next could only be described as magical. Follow us as we traverse the Atacama in our next post.