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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Bolivia - 16 December, 2001



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Hotel Kutimuy, Uyuni S20º27.873' W066º49.531' 3,668 m
Salar de Uyuni . . . .
Finish San Juan, Altiplano S20º54.066' W067º45.890' 3,664 m 175 km (by Landcruiser)

Leg 1 Total:

6,845 km


771 km

Grand Total:

7,616 km


Weather: Mostly clear, sunny, very hot and windy.  Cool/cold at night.



Today we begin our three day trip through the altiplano of southern Bolivia to San Pedro in Chile.  We will be taking Landcruisers to cross this remote and barren area.  We head off a bit after 10 AM after we loaded up the 4WDs.  We had six to a car, plus one guide.  After driving out of Uyuni, we head towards the huge salt flat of Salar de Uyuni.  It is only a short drive until we get to the salt processing facility - it is a basic affair where the salt is dried and packed in kilo bags.


Then it is onto the salt flat itself.  They have about 10 billion tonnes of salt here in this 12,000 km² area that includes about 30 islands.  At one point this entire area was covered with water, but it has since dried up leaving the salt deposits.  The day before they had the first rains of the rainy season, so we were quite lucky - we saw the salt flat both wet and dry.


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We came upon an area where they are gathering up the salt.  They use large tools that look like squeegees and just scrap it into piles.  It is harder than it sounds - the salt is very hard.  We then went to the Salt Hotel - it is on the salt flat and is made entirely out of salt.  We could not go in and see it at the moment as they are planning on shutting it down as they can not dispose of their waste properly.  We took a group picture here.


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After about another hour of driving on the salt flat, we come to one of the thirty islands that dot the flats.  The drive was a lot of fun.  The flat is just that - flat, but with a few bumps and ridges to make the drive interesting.  We have lunch at Isla Pescadores.  While the drivers prepare the meal, we climb up to the top for a view of the surrounding salt flat.  It is amazing.  When we take off our sun glasses we are blinded by the light reflecting off the white sheet below us.


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There seems to be a tradition of taking pictures on the salt flats in various states of (un)dress.  Well, Craig carries on the tradition.


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Back down at the 4WDs we have lunch and then go and walk out onto the expanse of white.  It is dazzling.  As we leave the salt flats storm clouds are gathering on the horizon all around us, but they never seem to come over the flats.  We have a great day driving along.


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As we begin to reach the edge of the salt flat, it starts to get wetter and wetter from the recent rains.  It does not take much rain to make the flats wet, as it takes quite some time for the salt to absorb any significant amount of the water.  We are treated to a spectacular effect as the sky is reflected in the thin coating of water on top of the salt.  Jacqui gets a bit silly.


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We have about a two hour drive once we are off the salt flats before we reach San Juan, where we will be staying for the night.  It is a very nice drive there.  Once there, we throw our bags on one of the many beds in the dorm room and then go have a look around.  We get a beer and then play keep the soccer ball away from the dog.  There is this dog that can dribble the ball and is quite good at keeping it away from you.  We tire before he does.  We also go and try to take pictures of the llamas, but they are quite shy, so we get tired chasing them around the field.


After dinner we hang around for a while, but as there is not too much to do (and the conversation reverts to type), so we go to bed.


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