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Salar De Uyuni

 Still trying to catch up on South America.

Our trip into the Salar (or Salt Flat) began true to our South American RottenLuck(TM). The first "site" on our tour is a visit to a train cemetery.  "You have 8 minutes," the driver tells us as we pile out of the 4WD in front of a line of decrepit, rusting train engines and gutted train cars. Liar (the lady from the dreaded To-Be-Avoided Blue Line Services) said that there were very few tourists at the moment and we wouldn't see more than three or four cars at any given site.  There were closer to 30 Toyota Land Cruisers there at the dump site.  I stopped counting after 24.

Julien muttered that he hoped we weren't going to be treated like children for the whole tour as we meandered over to watch swarms of tourists getting their picture taken with the rusted carcasses.  Trash blew around our feet escaping the piles where it had been dumped on the surrounding plain.

More like ten minutes later--eight too many for me--we climbed back in the car and raced off in a streak of dust for the entrance to the salt flat.  We stopped in a little po-dunk town that was supposed to have a museum where they explain the process of gathering and preparing the salt.  The museum was a store selling sweaters, bags, and hats where they charge you to take pics of statues carved out of salt blocks.

And then you had all this waiting outside for you:

We were granted a whole 15 minutes there.  Julien had the sense to wander off "behind the scenes" with his video camera and got some good shots of people cleaning and bagging the salt. (Thinking about all the little irksome details is making me cross, so here are some pictures and basic commentary to keep me from having to rehash all the things that chapped my hide about what should have been a beautiful, blissful visit.)

Then it was back into the Land Cruiser for what we really came to see, the giant salt pan. Our first stop was a ten-minute photo break near the edge of the pan where workers shovel the salt into mounds so it can dry:

The scenery was gorgeous once we started to leave the town and plains behind us.

We stopped to see the* Salt Hotel.  No one is allowed to stay there because it would pollute the salt, but they do allow you to enter and look around for a fee.  I did an about face when I read the sign about the fee and took a pic of the salt furniture instead.

We stopped for lunch at Isla de Pescadores where amazing, 1000-yr cacti grow on an island of ancient coral.  This forked one here is about 6 meters tall, the tallest was over 9m:

We then did a shoot of silly perspective photos, a seeming must on the incredibly flat salt pan:

We finished up the 3 (two) day trip with visits to volcanos:

and "lagoons" with pink flamingos:

Sorry for the boring commentary, but I don't feel like getting my blood boiling again.  More volcano talk--and possibly more pics--later.

* There were actually several Salt Hotels, and we slept in one on the first night.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
It's such an odd combination of wanting the tourists and loathing the tourists. Maybe they resent the need. I dunno.

But the scenery is gorgeous!
Jan. 5th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
Amen to that. And there are so many tourists who continue to come every year that they (the locals) just DON'T CARE! People don't tend to be return customers so the locals think "So what?" not caring about word of mouth.
Jan. 5th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
I can believe that. In the long run it seems short-sighted, but people do keep coming so why should they care?
Jan. 5th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
The one benefit of not going off the beaten path and visiting places like Paris or London is that you get to avoid business like that if you so choose. They're still there in droves, of course, but you can avoid them.

Not so much when you're in the middle of nowhere, though.
Jan. 5th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
So true. We met a French guy who had bought a motorcycle and was doing it on his own, and we wanted to drop dead of envy. If you can do it on your own....WOW!
Jan. 5th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
Speaking of which -- Thank you for the Christmas card :-) Believe me, you were in no danger of facing the picture-card wrath, given you sent one from a foreign country -and- carried props with you to do so! That may be my fave card of all time. :-)
Jan. 5th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Woohoo! So glad you got it...and liked it! It was so much fun to do them and send them out; we hoped people would enjoying receiving them just as much.
Jan. 5th, 2010 07:17 am (UTC)
Hey, I see the blanket I bought in Peru on that table!
I love the phots as always and am so sorry you're having the wrong kind of travellers' luck.
The problem, I think, is that you are travellers who are stuck in a tourist industry. There is definitely a difference.
Jan. 5th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
I agree. If you can get out of that tourist dynamic, you can have a much better trip. If we spoke the language, I think it would have been easier to branch out on our own....kind of. It still isn't easy when you have such a short amount of time in a place.

But we are learning lessons!
Jan. 5th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC)
Author brain engaged: imagine living in that spot, where you can see the volcano over the sere landscape. Imagine what your life would be like! Most places I can see how you'd manage, but spots like that...man. It's like areas of the American southwest, so arid, so alien. So beautiful.

Do you know, perchance, enough about the weather patterns to determine if those flamingos migrate elsewhere in local winter? My impression was that Peru (I think above is referring to Peru, yes?) has real seasons, but the concept of salt flats is playing fast and rough with my preconceptions.
Jan. 5th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
My author brain was on overdrive during that stretch of the trip (around the volcanoes). Very wonderful experience for me because my WIP is set on a volcanic island that has been struck by a blight that has killed off all the vegetation. I was seeing my world there in front of me.

The flamingos do migrate. This part of our trip is in Bolivia, and of the 6 species worldwide, three of them come to these lagoons during the southern hemisphere's summer.
Jan. 5th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Very nice photos, at least. Sorry about all the ickies.
Jan. 5th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, at least we have the photos. The ickies have not ended. Update coming shortly.
Jan. 5th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
Love the playful perspective shot! *grin*

What gorgeous pictures!
Jan. 5th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
Always have time for a little play. :)
Jan. 5th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Stunning cactus photo. That perspective one was excellent! :)
Jan. 5th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
Those cacti were stunning! Just wish the day would have been a better one (that's when we learned we had been scammed).
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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