salt flat tour – Day 4 – sunrise over the salt flats

The nice thing about the salt hotel was also that they actually had a fire place and lit a fire, so we had a rather nice and pleasant evening. Also, still no peanut soup. Even though the evening was nice, it was a short one. Because, we were informed, we’d surely want to see the sunrise the next morning over the salt flats. Right? Right. Ok, the best place to do so is in the middle, on the island incahuasi, meaning a good hours drive, so we’ll leave at 5am.. I surely had an urge to reconsider the entire sunrise idea. But the things you do while on vacation…

The next morning we got out into the bitter cold and drove to the island. About 20minutes into the salar our guide turned OFF THE LIGHTS of his car and drove in the pitch black. Slight unease spread across our group.. It took us a while to understand that he was using the barely perceptible mountain outlines in the distance to orient himself, as there are no real roads. Still, we couldn’t help but imagine what would happen if all cars did this.. or maybe they do. He reassured us that while collisions do happen in the salar, they’re never at night and the drivers are never sober.. I’m not sure that was very reassuring.

Once we reached the island, we paid our entrance fee and started climbing up the little mountain. Our guide said we had plenty of time to get to the top.. But what does he know? We tried rushing up the hill and quickly realized that the altitude was still quite high. 3700m high. We reached the top out of breath and then the wait set in.. Turns out our guide was right after all and we waited for the sunrise some thirty minutes. In the freezing cold. But it was all worth it once the sun came out. After that we slowly started our way back down and arrived at the bottom to a nice breakfast with home made cake! So nice.

After breakfast, the guide told us to “just walk” and he’d catch up with us after sorting out breakfast. He refused our offers to help. So we spread out. I bet he did not expect all five of us to split in different directions. But that’s what happened. You could probably walk for days on that straight white surface without ever getting everywhere. A fact that was confirmed a little later, in the car when we drove some thirty minutes without any change in scenery. Just whiteness all around us. He did manage to find us all, by the way, in case someone was worried.

And then things ended very quickly. After a short stop at the “museum” which is a bit of a must-skip and a souvenir market, we were back in civilization. The big train cemetery next to Uyuni was a bit of a disappointment to us: No shop to by beers here, guys! It’s also quite overrun, something we had become unused to over the last few days, when 10 people made a huge crowd. On the way into town we did end up seeing a few cool mirages though!

Arriving in Uyuni we were really happy to have chosen Tupiza as a starting point. Not only is the town smaller, it also seems much more inviting and welcoming than Uyuni. We had a last lunch together, after which our driver helped us sort out our transport to Chile.. Or almost. Snow! Again! In a very rushed decision we decided to give up on getting to Atacama and instead catch the bus to Sucre that was leaving in 5 minutes. Even though we could’ve chosen a detour to still reach Atacama the next day, the snow meant that a lot of the attractions were going to be closed. So the Atacama desert is the first big destination I decided to skip. But I’m still occasionally checking for deals on flights to Atacama… Maybe just Maybe I’ll make it there yet.

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