Here's what a day on the Salt Flat's like
Uyuni is a gateway town.
8 hours from LA Paz, it’s the start of a three day tour through the Bolivian Salt Flats that ends up right near the border of Chile, close to the San Pedro de Atacama desert.
Packing a small overnight bag, I left my backpack in storage once again, then jumped into the 4 x4 at the friendly time of 11am.
Our first stop was a deserted train graveyard, on the outskirts of Uyuni. Out there in the desert, huge chunks of old metal lay half buried in the sand.
Left to the mercy of the elements, they poked out in all kinds of faded shapes, throwing washed out shadows across the earth beneath them.
Around the outside of the graveyard, rusty carriages sat motionless on abandoned tracks. We were told this was where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid were caught. If it was an attempt to add to the allure of the place, it worked.
We spent an hour living a photographers dream, then headed onwards to the small salt mining village of Colchani.
After a tour of the factories, we ate lunch on a chunky, pure white table made entirely of salt. Even the square stools we sat on were made of salt. Everything was salty, except the food.
The tour goes to the Salt Flats on the first day. We started out driving along the bumpy roads of the village, then before I knew it, we were cruising over the wide, open flats that stretch out for over 10,000 square kilometers - far beyond my eyes capabilities.
When I stepped onto the Salt Flats, I felt like I'd landed onto a crunchy new world, over 3,500m above sea level.
The flats are the result of a prehistoric lake gone dry. What's been left behind are huge, white hexagons of ridged salt that lead away into smaller shapes until they disappear into the blue haze of the horizon.
The whole place looked like a surreal, giant white honeycomb.
The perspective on the Salt Flats was Wonderland skewed.
We were out there for hours, making ourselves appear bigger or smaller through the camera lens. Walking a tightrope of boot laces, fighting giant Ninja Turtles, doing yoga with My Little Ponies.
All right, those last two were just me.
It’s pretty damn fun.
There was a hotel made entirely of salt out there on the flats. I had been impressed by the salt table at lunch, yet this was next level, something out of a salty Hansel and Gretel tale.
It felt like we were driving towards the ends of the earth when we got back into the jeep.
As we drove further out, the other jeeps moved off in their own direction, getting further away until they disappeared.
When we were driving, there were hours that passed when it felt like we were the only ones out there. There was so much space. Then, just when I caught myself thinking that nothing could possibly survive out here, a giant island full of cactus appeared in the distance like a spiky mirage.
I felt like I was in The Truman Show, but where I really was, was Inca Wasy island.
The island was full of Dr Suess looking cacti that grew vertical towards the sky, their needles bursting out undisciplined in all directions. Some were green, some were brown, but all of them grew alongside the paths that trailed through the island.
When we got out of the jeep to take a look around, I saw that the coral rock of the island was formed into small, caved alcoves you could walk through.
As the afternoon lengthened, we drove further West towards the village of Atulcha. On the way, we pulled over in the middle of nowhere to watch the sun go down.
It was eerie out on the salt flats at dusk. A pinky purple glowed all along the horizon. The light bounced off the flats, highlighting the outline of each salt hexagon all the way to the edge of the sky.
Apart from the occasional crunch of salt underneath someones shoe, there was no sound out there at all. Eventually, the sky turned a velvet bluey-purple that closed into complete darkness fast.
The moon that replaced the sun that night was the biggest, bloodiest orange I’ve ever seen. It hung suspended in the sky so supersized, you could see the dips and craters on its surface.
We were eased into our first chilly night out on the flats. The accommodation at Atulcha boasted electricity, and, for 10BS extra, warm showers until 8 pm.
The temperature plummeted that night. I went to sleep wearing every woolly llama accessory I owned, which I had to remove the next day, when the desert sun came out in force.