“One of the greatest things you have in life is that no one has the authority to tell you what you want to be. You’re the one who’ll decide what you want to be. Respect yourself and respect the integrity of others as well. The greatest thing you have is your self image, a positive opinion of yourself. You must never let anyone take it from you.” – Jaime Escalante
(a Bolivian educator who inspired the movie, Stand and Deliver)
Going to Bolivia was the last addition to my list of countries to visit on my South America & Antarctica trip. It was in 2015 when I started planning this trip and then at that same time too a friend of mine posted amazing photos of Salar de Uyuni he just visited that time, and it literally dropped my jaw! I told myself after seeing that, that I MUST squeeze Bolivia in no matter what. The only spot I saw in my planned itinerary was to squeeze it in between my Peru and Brazil trip, geographically it’s logical, but time-wise, not really. So I had to do Bolivia for 3 days only, in which I regretted soon after because La Paz is so interesting that my 2 days plan there were not enough.
See my separate entry for La Paz, HERE.
Salar de Uyuni is world’s largest salt flat with a an area of 10,000square KILOmeter in an altitude of 3,600m! Glad the altitude does not affect me anymore at this point. It is that flat that other countries use this to calibrate their space satellites. The good thing about being flat is that you can be creative with optical illusions in your photos.
It hurts me during the planning that I cannot do the 3-4day trip that will start in Uyuni and end in Atacama Desert (Chile) because I only have 1 day for Uyuni. Uyuni is the gateway cityfor Salar de Uyuni (obviously haha!). It’s possible to do a day trip coming from La Paz if you will fly in and out. There are overnight buses but I went for the most convenient option because on how strenuous the schedule I have for Bolivia already. I booked my flights to Amaszonas, I was hesitant to book here because of bad reviews that they tend to cancel flights often, but lucky for me, it didn’t happen, phew! :P
I’ve arranged my day-trip though with my hostel in La Paz, Loki Hostel. They booked me to Red Planet Expedition tour operator which has a good review so it saved me from all the hassles of finding a reputable tour operator in Uyuni, also they arranged for my airport pick-up. They can also book for my flights but since I booked it myself already, I saved myself some cash to spend. I arrived the airport at 8am, so the taxi dropped me to the office of Red Planet to wait for 10am, the time the tour starts.
I planned to walk around Uyuni since I have 2 hours to wait, but then the thing I am dreading to happen happened again – it started to rain. Real hard.
The lady at Red Planet office assured me that this is a rain or shine tour and that the rain is a good thing because this is when the salt flats will give a mirror effect, as long as it will stop raining when we visit. So again, I was crossing my fingers that my misadventures in Peru will not happen to me again or else I will start to think I really am a jinx, lol!
Our group left the office at 10am, we are 6 in the SUV, 2 couples (from Sweden and Australia), Dale (young guy from Japan) and me. So Dale and I are both fifth-wheeling with the 2 couples, lol! Problem started when none of us wanted to sit at the backseat of the SUV haha! I have motion sickness like Lisa (the Swedish girl), but the rest of them just didn’t want to haha! No one can sit beside the driver but the guide only, uh-oh. Anyway, we all agreed to change places from time to time and if Lisa and I starts to feel throwing up, then we will just stop, lol! Good thing, we all get along really well, so changing places didn’t happen anymore ;)
Our first stop was the Train Wreck Cemetery where you can see wrecks of old British trains dating back 19th and 20th century. Uyuni used to be an important hub in South America connecting nearby cities. It was abandoned completely after the conflict between these countries. It was still drizzling, so I didn’t really know why we stayed here for quite a long time instead of moving to the next stop, when we reached the next stop which is at Colchani, it’s just about time for lunch.
Colchani is a small town in Uyuni where you can find salt-making facilities owned by local salt-makers, it is good to buy salt here to help the locals making a living. Although, you can buy other items here catered for tourists like souvenirs and locally-weaved clothes, etc.
There is also a Salt Museum here that of course made of salt just like the hotels around it. We had our lunch inside one hote accommodation and even our table and chairs were made of salt! I even chipped off one part of the wall and tasted it just to check if it’s really made of salt. And yes, it was haha!
After a sumptuous lunch, the drizzling stopped and sun showed up! Just in time to go to the much-awaited part of this tour – the Salar de Uyuni!
When we got there, we stopped by halfway to this restaurant (or I think it’s a hotel too) where there were flags from all around the world pegged in just outside the restaurant. I think these flags were brought by the foreign visitors. Unfortunately, I did not find Philippines flag. So shout-out to my Filipino friends out there, please bring one flag to put there if ever you will visit this place!
There were dry parts but the best part is where there is still water because it gives you the mirror effect! It was so surreal that you feel you are inside a dream or how I imagined heaven when I was little. You are surrounded by thick clouds above and below because of its reflection. The best part is the weather was so good this time! I was so happy that I told my group that finally, Bolivia unlike Peru proved to me I wasn’t so jinx after all, but another misadventure had happened on our way back – our SUV broke down >.<
It started when we visited the Inca Huasi Island. This is the island right in the middle of the salt flats. The weather was very good that we were able to visit this, usually when it’s rainy season, it’s more difficult to get there. This island is again another surreal place. It is an island with lots of giant cacti! It’s almost like in a children’s fantasy books.
There is a separate entrance fee for this that is not included in what you paid for the tour. We learnt that it’s only 1 family who lives here and use the fees collection to maintain the place. But if you don’t want to hike a bit on top to see, well, more giant cacti, you can just stay at the reception area (ticket and food store) and have some break. We bought a local beer and when we realised we have been chatting quite long already, that’s when we realised that our driver and guide were trying to fix our broken SUV! :O
It got fixed however when we were at the middle of our way back, it broke down again. And this is the part that we panicked already because it’s getting dark, we don’t have signal even our driver and guide, and the 3 of us (Australian couple) will have a flight to catch at 8pm! I was too worried because I also have a flight to catch the next day from La Paz to Rio de Janeiro.
Our only chance really was to get help from other SUVs passing that same way. 1 or 2 SUVs just ignored us, perhaps they knew they cannot help as when they drag our SUV will just slow them down. Some SUVs from afar perhaps thought we were just playing when we were trying to hail them. Our guide walked very far looking for phone signals, until he finally contacted his office and on their way to get us.
But the bad news was it will take around 1 hour for them to get us where we were and in this case we will definitely miss our flight already. And then one SUV stopped finally and offered to drag us until we see our “rescue team”, thank God!
Apparently, the “rescue team” missed us, because they thought we stayed where we were so our guide had to tell them to just go back right to the “entry point” where the good guys dropped us. Good thing Uyuni is just a small town that I think everyone knows everyone. Our guide called the airport and told them to wait for us as we will only be arriving around 730pm or latest 8pm. They were kind enough to assure that they will wait for us as long as we don’t have any check-in luggage, which we didn’t have.
Still lucky, because as soon as he dropped us to the airport the whole airport seems to be aware of it that we literally swoosh our way in until we get to the boarding gate which just finished boarding all passengers. It’s just a small airport but then again we were still lucky they let us check-in and board that late! Phew! >.<
And so I made it to La Paz, still “white and salty” from the tour, I went straight to my hostel’s roof top bar restaurant for my late dinner. And it was sooo packed! Packed with both tourists and young locals having a party, I felt out of place not because I am still dirty but because almost everyone were already drunk haha! If I only had more time I’d stay, but I am more excited to leave this place now because I know on my next destination I will be meeting my husband whom I have not seen for over a month already! I miss him terribly and this is the only reason I hate travelling solo or without him.
Btw, I have a separate entry about my opinion of women travelling solo without their husbands, you can find it at my Buenos Aires trip, HERE.
To second on what I wrote on my blog entry above, I am happy that I am blessed to have a supportive husband who allows me to do things that makes me happy and trustworthy at the same time that I do not worry if we are away with each other for a long time. He respects my decisions and let me achieve what I want to achieve for myself and vice versa. One of the greatest things you have in life is that no one has the authority to tell you what you want to be. You’re the one who’ll decide what you want to be. Respect yourself and respect the integrity of others as well…
You must never let anyone take it from you. And isn’t a wonderful feeling too to miss each other and when you finally meet again you have so much stories to share? And that’s what made me so super excited in meeting him after this trip :)