When last we left off, we had just finished exploring the majestic Lake Titicaca. From there, Ted and I snagged a bus into La Paz, Bolivia’s pseudo-capital city (Sucre is the official capitol but La Paz is apparently the administrative capitol). From La Paz it was just a short, smooth, "oh wait the bathrooms don't work on this thing??" 11 hour bus ride to Uyuni, way out in the middle of nowhere.
Uyuni was originally founded as a trading post in 1890 and is now home to around 10,000 people. I’ve never felt like I was more at the edge of the world than when I was in Uyuni, the last stop on our journey before entering the vast, unending salt flats.
But, the travel gods continued to smile upon us, because we were paired up with a group of students from Bogota who turned out to be wonderful travel companions.
However, the indigenous Bolivians weren’t particularly fond of the intrusion and ended up continuously sabotaging the trains. By the 1940s the mineral mining industry had all but collapsed, and coupled with the indigenous attacks, the trains quickly became abandoned.
While at the hotel, the drivers of other tour groups told our driver that the way ahead was closed, due to the high rainfall on the flats. Since the salt ground is not very absorbent, the rain just sits on top, making it difficult to drive through at times. They suggested just staying around this side of the flats, rather than venturing on. Quinton laughed and floored it, just as ready to continue the adventure as we were.
As I mentioned earlier, the other drivers had suggested not going out this way, and because of this, we were the only car around for miles and miles. The rainwater on top of the salt flats had transformed the landscape into a giant, earthly mirror, perfectly reflecting the clouds, mountains, and the volcano, looming in the distance.
It was breathtaking, to say the least. Never before have I been in a place so awe-inspiring. But enough cheesiness, here’s some pics.
The cave does an excellent job of keeping the temperature and humidity regulated, so the mummies are just there, out in the open, not under glass or any type of barrier, and an old man sits and watches them every day and provides short tours for anyone interested.
But if you have your wits about you, and are aware of your surroundings, I have never once felt unsafe in this continent. There are so many spectactular things to see here, so many wonderful people, and all for a fraction of the cost of European or US travel. So, if you’ve got an urge to explore, I highly recommend coming down here. As the Colombian mantra says, “The only danger, is wanting to stay.”
Next time we’ll be back with Colombian posts and I’ll cover this year’s Carnaval! See you then!
[ You can see the full gallery of Uyuni pictures here ]