Having left Colchani, we continue driving for quite a while until we started to see white in the horizon – a clue that the desert wasn’t far.
Before we knew it we had officially arrived in Salar de Uyuni – the worlds biggest salt plain. It really is crazy looking around, all there is is white – as far as the eye can see.
We first stopped off at absolutely huge salt structure which, for the last five years has marked the starting point of the famous Dakar Rally. Of course, we couldn’t resist stopping and taking a group photo.
We were pretty much on the outskirts of the desert at this point, and before we ventured on in properly it was decided that we would all stop for lunch.
Just across from the Dakar Rally statue stands a large but slightly decaying building completely made of salt. Laura explained that this was the first salt hotel in the world – Hotel Playa Blanca. The hotel is no longer functioning, however it now operates as a perfect lunch spot for travellers venturing into the desert. It was super interesting to wander around admiring the salt walls, salt statues and the variety of art hanging from the walls. It’s easy to forget that everything you are looking at is completely made from the desert outside.
We walked into a circular dining room where Gonzalo had set up the cutest table for lunch. We dined on llama steaks, quinoa, vegetables and tomato salad. Whilst the llama not have been my thing, lunch was delicious although – ridiculously – it could’ve done with a bit more salt!
Having had lunch and downed about a litre of Coca-Cola each (it acts as an altitude anti sickness remedy) we wandered back to the car, stopping off at a super cool display of world flags before driving off deep into the desert.
Salar de Uyuni is the worlds largest salt flat, at 10,582 km², it sits at an elevation of 11,995 feet above sea level. The salt flat was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few metres of salt crust which have an extraordinary flatness with average elevation variation within 1 m over the entirety of the desert. I mean – it’s flat. FLAT.
The crust serves as a source of salt and covers up the lakes of brine underneath which are exceptionally rich in lithium. The crust extends all the way into the horizon covered by quilted, polygonal patterns of salt rising from the ground.
Laura walked us around the flats showing us holes in the crust and the pools of brine the lie beneath. It was amazing.
The fact that the salt flats extend so far into the horizon and are completely flat lends themselves to be the perfect canvas for some fun photographs. We spent absolutely ages running around the flats , using props, jumping about and getting the funniest perspective snaps we could. I’ll let the photos do the talking…
Having spent some time messing around on the salt flats we hopped back into the car and drove further through the planes to the cactus island.
Isla Incahuasi meaning ‘Inca House’ is a hilly, rocky outcrop of land which was a former island when the salt desert was part of the giant prehistoric lake. Nowadays it comes as quite a surprise to see such an island in the middle of nowhere! The island is covered in gigantic cacti and houses the remains of unusual and fragile coral structures and deposits which often consist of fossils and algae – a stark reminder of what this area used to be. For small fee you can hike around the island getting spectacular views out across the salt desert and, when you’re done, there is a bar at the bottom selling chilled beer and of course there is always a good puppy to make friends with.
Having spent some time on the island,the sun was starting to set so we wandered back to the cars and hit the road, erm, I mean salt.
We stopped off in a most secluded spot to watch the sun fade and the night begin, it was stunning.
We then had quite a long drive in front of us to accommodation for the evening most of us, admittedly had a bit of a nap in the car.
We soon arrived at our accommodation for the evening which was another hotel completely made out of salt. Elle and I shared a room it must be said both of us could not wait to get a good nights sleep.
Of course, giving all the activities during the day, we had a good appetite and we were well ready to sit down for a traditional Bolivian meal before bed. We started off with a home-made vegetable soup followed by a traditional Bolivian stew of beef, sausages, sweet onions, peppers, potato, tomato and egg – ‘Pique Macho’. It really was delicious. After a couple of drinks we all turned in for the night ready for our early wake up call the next morning!
What an amazing day!