Day 3 - Salar de Uyuni - The Great Salt flats
Oct 7, 2009
|The night didn’t turn out to be as cold as we expected. Partly because we are over cautious and put on many layers of clothing on top of a lovely warm sleeping bag and two blankets. I had 6 layers on while Marcus had 3. I think the night probably did drop to sub-zero but it wasn’t as cold as the -8C to -15C suggested by the tour guide. The outdoor was pretty cold though as this morning we saw the stream outside the hotel was completely frozen but indoor temperature probably was no colder than -5C. In fact, Marcus found it so warm with all the layers he had to take his fleece off in the middle of the night.
The morning started with a knock at the door at around 5am and everyone swiftly get dressed and got into the jeep. It was absolutely freezing cold! I had all my 6 layers on, 2 pairs of trousers, gloves, hats etc and was still shivering. The sun rose shortly after we started driving off and gradually warm up the inside of the Jeep.
The first stop was to look at a geyser and some mud pot and hot spring pool. The geyser was nowhere as impressive as the ones we saw in Yellowstone in USA. It was mainly a smelly steam of mist coming out in the middle of nowhere instead of the ‘upside-down’ waterfall we saw before.
Next to the geyser was some bubbling mud pot and hot spring. It was pretty to look at with all the mist in the cold. Marcus opted to stay in the car as it was so cold outside. I quickly took a few pictures and then ran back to the jeep shivering. The ground was still partially covered with ice and with the wind-chill it feels like this is what it may feel like in Mars.
After the short stop to see the mud pot we drove another 20 minutes or so and arrived at the hot spring. I have been looking forward to that all morning as the temperature was so cold. The hot spring was actually the most natural one we have been so far on our trip. The location was very scenic, it is right next to a big lake surrounded by mountains. The pool itself was pretty natural with minimum human constructions. The hardest part of the experience was to strip outdoor in the freezing cold before jumping into the hot spring. But once we were in it, the effort was definitely worth it. The hot spring was amazing at just the right temperature and there were sighs of relief by everyone after jumping in.
We probably bathed in the hot spring for about 20 minutes or so before getting dressed (also in the freezing cold) and went into the nearby building to have breakfast. The breakfast was very nice with museli and yoghurt.
After breakfast, we headed towards some green/turquiose colored lake. We were curious to see whether there are any flamingoes there but apparently the water was too acidic (??? MG pls confirm) for the flamingoes to inhabit there…
The lake was quite pretty but it was too cold to stay out of the jeep for longer than 3 minutes. The rest of the day was pretty eventless as we head back to Uyuni driving on various desert and dirt road motorways. The journey was rather bumpy and Marcus wasn’t enjoying it too much while I thought it was pretty alright and time flied by as I was listening to some Spanish language tape.
The highlight of the day was probably when we approach Uyuni… At the last ‘corner shop’ stop, we found out that Uyuni has been ‘blocked’. Our driver didn’t think that we will have any troubles getting into town as he chose a detour. However, we still bump into the blockade on our way in.
Apparently the incident was triggered by some dispute between a trade union and the government. Bolivia were to export its minerals aboard and it has chosen to use the Chile route as the country is landlocked. However, as the Bolivia lorry drivers in Uyuni didn’t get the contract for this lucrative business, they were highly discontent with the government. And, in an attempt to overturn the previous decision, they have decided to held the city Uyuni hostage by blocking all incoming and out coming traffic. We can see where they are coming from but do not agree their action as being the most civilized.
As a result, we were sitting in the middle of a desert for the next one and a half hour waiting for the union and the government to come to a conclusion. Just as the sun was setting and we were panicking about having to spend another night in the middle of the dessert, and this time, in a Jeep. Fortunately, the lorry union decided that the Jeep has to stay out of the city but the passengers are allowed to go into Uyuni via one of their buses.
At around 7pm, we have finally arrived back in Uyuni. The hotel we are staying tonight is quite nice with hot shower and our own double room. It’s nice to have washed off all the dust from the desert finally.