El Salar

We decided to take off on a Sunday. We do this often and never learn the lesson – nothing is open. In Uyuni, even the gas station is closed. Chris told us some long-winded explanation about how they always run out on Saturday, but it sounded more like a well-recognized excuse to just take Sunday off. Also, if they did have gas, we were guaranteed the ole’ double-charge for foreign plates.

We were also told that the gas station in Colchani *never* had gas and that they were connected to “the mafia” and bootlegged everything to Chile. We drove the 30 km north to Colchani anyway – and bought gas on a Sunday at the local price. We saw no mafia.

Turn west here and you enter the Salar. Everyone we’ve met has told us to avoid this trip on our own. Of course, we had to go.

This time of year, the trip starts with a quick splash through some standing water near the edge. Nothing too bad – 6 cm at most for a few hundred meters. After that, you’re on the white stuff.

After ten minutes on the salt, we stopped to take it in. Here on the periphery, there are salt-workers shoveling it up into piles and then onto trucks. A few salt hotels are available for the curious.  We had told Bode that this was one of the few places in the world where you could eat the ground, so he was eager for a taste. Needs pepper.

We drove a bit further out, and although your can go as fast as you want and make your own tracks, you still have to watch out for pozos.  The flats are littered with these little holes that are 10 cm across and up to 1 meter deep. They are filled with cold water – and if you dig down, giant salt crystals. We snagged a few for later.

We drove west for at least another hour. Totally flat and white. You have to keep reminding yourself it’s not snow. You can try to follow existing tire tracks or make your own. We had the GPS for help – but our model doesn’t really do anything if there are no roads – still, it’s always good for a compass. We made it to Isla Inca Wasi /Isla Pescado in late afternoon and were really surprised at all the tourists. This really is a huge tourist attraction. Maybe 100 tourists or more and at least 20 vehicles.

We had a seat on a salt bench and had a few Salta’s at a salt table. We helped a few other visitors with their goofy perspective photos of them holding each other in their hands. It was cold and the weather was pretty crappy, so we decided our goofy photos could wait until tomorrow.

By 5 pm or so, the temperature plummeted even further and everyone had left the island except the few folks that run a little snack shack. Angela walked in on them smoking pot and dancing while cleaning the restrooms. They said it was the best way to keep warm. Can’t argue with that – not in Spanish, anyway.

5 thoughts on “El Salar

  • July 13, 2011 at 8:07 AM
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    I see future gowesty calendar photos up there.

  • July 13, 2011 at 8:43 AM
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    Glad to see you’re still doing cartwheels everywhere you go. Have you taught Bode to do one yet?

  • July 13, 2011 at 10:58 AM
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    Wow. Amazing as always. And for the record, I think that “goofy photo” idea was great. I hope you took advantage of that expansive terrain to make your own bodeswell goofy photo. What a difference a year makes too. Almost a year ago, we were deciding if we wanted to “splurge” on a cabina with a/c and seeing monkeys almost daily, and now you’re in the middle of nowhere with not a single tree in sight and all bundled up seeking warmth. Love it!

  • July 13, 2011 at 6:46 PM
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    We meet in LaPaz Baja, advice, as soon as possible wash the salt of the underneath of the Bus or soon you will have a giant rust bucket. I have been out on the Salt Flats many times and it is a body killer.

  • July 14, 2011 at 5:18 AM
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    Jason, when will we see the new seats?

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