|Monday 14th July 2014
Uyuni Salt Flats and Uyuni then Potosi, Bolivia
Up early at the Salt Hotel to a beautiful fine sunny day, not nearly as cold as yesterday - only about 10C, so almost a heatwave really. We drove through dry, pretty desolate looking country and a few small towns. There was agriculture happening in these places and we were told that they grow quinoa in the rainy season from December to April although it looks bone dry at present. We stopped for a break just before we went on to the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt lake in the world. It is 3,836 metres above sea level here. We then drove on a road onto the salt lake which has a crust strong enough to take vehicles. It is a surreal place and we stopped to take photos way out in the middle where the mountain ranges are far away and everything seems to be suspended in air. We continued driving to Isla Incahausi, in the middle of the salt lake, where we stopped for a picnic lunch in the warmish sunshine. There are ancient cacti, some 1,000 years old, growing on this island as well as llamas and other fauna. We were told by the guide about the island's history and after lunch continued on to the first salt hotel that was built on the lake (illegally) many years ago. it is now a museum and shop for selling souvenirs (as you might expect). At lunch time, our leader had told us that although we had planned to stay the night in Uyuni, there was a blockade of the town planned for tomorrow and it had been decided that we would take an evening bus (4 hours) to Potosi, which was our next stop anyway. The protest was because the local community wants a bus station for the town. We drove the rest of the way across the salt lake and dropped our bags at the hotel we had originally been booked into in the town of Uyuni, a very unprepossessing dusty town. We then were driven from the town out to the "train graveyard" where there were all sorts of steam trains in various stages of decay, from the 1800s and 1900s. It was fascinating but sad really as if they had not been so neglected could have been an even better tourist attraction than they were. Back to the hotel for a pizza dinner then onto the bus (which collected us from the hotel and then drove round to collect the other passengers from the bus stop) for the 4 hour trip to Potosi, high in the mountains and the site of the largest and richest silver mine in the history of the world. We arrived there around 11:00pm and were transferred to our hotel which was warm and cosy. To bed around 12:30am. A very satisfying but long day.