A rather unexpected twist to our snowboarding trip was ending up in the Altiplano of Bolivia.
A lack of snow drove us north to other adventures, our three day trip across these high empty spaces to enter Bolivia was spectacular. We saw lagunas of various colours, volcanoes, flamingo’s and much more. The border office was based in a hut next to the abandoned bus, 4x4s streaming along the gravel dirt, there’s no road as such here at all.
Driving through the flat plains ringed by mountains and volcanoes, it is easy to forget that the altitude reached 5000m before we even climbed up any peak. The first night we slept at a quaint hostel in the middle of nowhere at 4600m. Drinking red wine to acclimatise was not the best idea. They had Diablo from Chile which is good wine though! It got pretty cold at night with the hostel being this high up, those without decent sleeping bags and just a few blankets suffered a bit. It also was at the height where you have to keep reminding yourself why your short of breath. When getting to sleep your breathing is just that disconcerting bit faster than it should be!
We reached a salt hotel for night two, the structure was made completely of rock salt, cut into bricks then cemented with a shiny salt crystal substance. It was a new and hopefully more sustainable hotel, the older ones were built on the actual salt falts and the waste water was a big issue, polluting the area. This one was perched on an embankment near San Juan with stunning views over the salt flats of Uyuni. The walls sparkled with salt, however it took a bit of logical thinking to work out why the en-suite bathrooms were not made of salt! Water+salt=salty water if your wondering!
The final day of the crossing was spent entirely on the vast salt flat. This piture below shows dawn on the worlds largest salt flat, a sea of solid salt stretching as far as the eye could see. The immense flatness combined with thin air provided the ideal spot for breaking land speed records too!
We then headed via the island of cacti to Uyuni town. We stopped in a train cemetery with a history of abandoned old steam trains. A very photographic spot and interesting to clamber about on the old steel trucks. Due to the dry air they were all in good-ish shape still, interestingly many were British built with made in England stamped on various parts.
Uyuni town is a dull place servicing the hordes of tourists. We had to wait about for about 5 hours for the next bus out. However there were enough tourists waiting together that we managed to charter our own bus out. It seemed that this was not entirely legal as the police boarded the bus and demanded to see some paperwork. It took a lot of chat to get us free to leave, but finally we did. It seemed the compromise with the police was to pick up everyone on the way for free. So much for our own chartered bus! Next stop was the worlds highest city – Potosi.