After 4 days squashed in a jeep through some of the most remote and oddest looking scenery this side of Aurora Borealis, we have returned from outer space to the comfort of our hotel room with CNN. Yes we have survived the Uyuni salt flat tour. Perhaps the most spectacular scenery on the planet and without doubt one of the best things I have ever done. In fact I would call it unboliviable.
It's a world of blueness and whiteness, of extreme cold and extreme brightness and a challenge to any cameraman looking to do a white balance. Active volcanos, Islands in a sea of salt, red coloured lakes, noisy geysers, and basically the setting of the movie Dune. There is also over 10 billion tons of salt some of which has been used to make a hotel. Yes we did indeed opt for the salt hotel option and yes the bed, walls, roof, table were made out of soduim chloride aka salt. (quite tasty actually)
Quote of the trip went to Jen a swiss guy on our tour. That thing out there is the size of fucking Switzerland. Actually it´s half the size of Belgium but who´s being pedantic. It also hovers at 3600 metres and aside from a few giant cactuses more than a 100o years old there aint a tree in sight. For statistic nerds the salt pan is the world´s largest at 12,000 square kilometres and has a depth of 8 metres. Living up here are Vicuña´s, Vizcachas (a rabbit type animal with a silly smile and a curly tail), three species of Flamingos( what the hell are they doing here), no trees, a few pumas( like I care), loads of llamas and even more 2 footed upright animals clutching digital cameras and often seen taking bizarre photos of themselves. Yes it´s a photgraphers dream and any tourist worth their salt couldn´t resist.
The other bizarre thing about the place is the incredible shrinking machine which we decided to take full advantage of The other rea problem is getting stuck in a water bottle. Unforunately i used up all three wishes to ge tout of the damn thing
Our group ended up being 4 aussies, and 2 whinging poms one of which was very funny and did really good magic tricks and the other being the bane of our experience making 4 days in the jeep more uncomfortable than they needed to be. So to the sounds of The Final countdown, Flashdance and The walk of life we cruised through the land that time forgot. Among the many highlights perhaps the best was the Isla de Pescadores ( Island of fish) which was a very bizarre oasis amongst the sea of salt. Studded over it was over 4000 very strange look cactuses, some of which appeared to be applauding when we landed. The Incas used to stop here on their way to wherever they were going and after visiting it´s not hard to understand how they created their very bizarre view of the world. We also managed to get to the world´s strangest hot springs. At 4800 metres it was very cold and very high but under the water it was just what the doctor ordered. Great for resting those jeep shaken limbs.
Once we arrived back in Tupiza ( co-incidentally the scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid´s final stand), we found ourselves blockaded. Very regularly here in Bolivia it seems to be the thing to whack a pile of stones across the road and stop all traffic in and out of town. We arrived at the blockade about 8.30 at night and under the cover of darkness, with our headlights off attempted the sneak back into town. By now we really did feel like Butch and Sundance as we all had to keep quiet while our driver off roaded thru streams, football fields, farms, and sidewalks around the blockade of angry protesters. We made it thru luckily as the Bolivians have a nasty habit of throwing sharp stones at anyone trying to get around the blockade. So here we are in wild west country and the blockade is still on. All the shops are shut and the roads are closed. At the moment we´re not panicking as we still have 12 days to fast track it to Santiago for our flight to Easter Island. (although we do have about 2500 km of travel thru Argentina to get there). Blockades can last months here too. Lucky we´ve got CNN I say.