Salar de Uyuni Tour -The Salar, Isla de Pescado and Hotel de Sal

Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, located in Bolivia. The salt is over 10 meters thick in the center. It’s one of the attractions to visit int he south of Bolivia and usually it’s a 3 day/2 nights tour by 4×4 jeep.

After a tiring 12 hour bus ride from La Paz, I reached Uyuni early morning, around 6:00a.m. It was very very cold. Fortunately they had given us a blanket in the bus and the seats were fully reclining seats such that we could sleep during the entire voyage. I felt bad for some people though, as the bus also sold standing tickets. So a few people had to actually stand or sit in the middle lane the entire 12 hours. I guess it’s the local way for stand-by passengers.

I had booked the 3 days/2 nights tour to the Salar de Uyuni in Lapaz itself and had managed to get a decent price for it – 550 Bolivianos from PachaMama Travels in Bolivia. It was in more expensive in Uyuni itself. Usually, the travel books and all suggest buying the tours in the cities where they are, as there are better deals. So the guide from Lipez expedition came to pick me up at the bus station and brought me to his agency while trying to sell his tour to other tourists who just arrived to Uyuni. 

They told me that the package included only a Spanish Speaking guide and if I wanted English speaking guide, it’ll be $30 additional per day. I guess, hitting two birds with the same stone, I can learn some spanish and at the same time save some money. In fact, in our group that was in our jeep, only 1 person (Francois from France) spoke and understood decent Spanish. The rest of us – Pauline from France, Tom and Myrah from Australia and Scott from Canada and myself spoke and understood bits and pieces. Our driver, guide, cook and mechanic was all the same person – Victor !

Victor set up the 4×4 jeep with all our luggage, gasoline tanks, gas for cooking, food etc.. for our 3 days out in the salt desert and we departed around noon for the Salar. First stop was the Train Cemetery in Uyuni. I posted the pictures from that in another blog post.

Duct Tape Fixes Everything !!

After the train cemetry, we headed for the Salar de Uyuni. Victor was the fastest driver I think out of everyone. He was speeding (well, we don’t know.. as his speedometer did not work and it always showed 3 km/hour), but we were among the first car ahead out of the many jeeps by different tour companies.. As we were driving though, he asked us if we smelled gas. We did. We stopped the jeep and checked and we were having a Gas Leak in the main gas tube to the engine !!! Not even 2 hours into the tour… Well, I guess Victor is a fan of McGyver. He took another tube from another something in the engine and replaced the leaking tube, but it still leaked. He tried to seal it with Electrical tape, but still leaked, then Scott proposed Duct Tape. He said, he always carry duct tape on all his trips and sure did the Duct Tape come in very handy. It did seal the Gas Leak and worked for us fine for the entire 3 days of the Trip. We drove all around the salt desert with duct tape making sure that the gas goes to the engine 🙂

While Victor was fixing the jeep, we took the opportunity play with perpective and take some unique funny Salar de Uyuni pictures featuring us. I have previously posted these pics in another blog post.

After fixing the jeep, we headed to a small salt village to see how the local harvest the salt from the Salar and produce salt for most of Bolivia, then we headed to the Isla de Pescado. It’s an island on the Salar de Uyuni and it’s filled with hundreds of giant cactuses. Some of these cactuses are over 1000 years old !!! Imagine all the history that they should have witnessed. We had a very late lunch there – 3:00p.m, because of the break down and all and we chilled out for a while till the afternoon, to head to our night sleeping place – an Hotel de Sal. On our way, We stopped by to check out sunset on the Salar and I think it was the longest ever shadow I ever produced in my entire life 🙂

The Hotel de Sal was unique. It was a hotel totally made totally of salt.. walls, beds tables, chairs.. everything made of huge blocks of salt harvested from the Salar. Amazing experience. I had previously heard of hotels made of ice/snow blocks, but that was the first time for me too, to experience a salt hotel. Funny at dinner, if we needed more salt, we could just scrape a bit of our table or chair for some sprinkles 🙂

 

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