This day for me was both wonderful and horrible. The salt flats were incredible, but I felt awful. I’d been up every 20 minutes overnight with diarrhoea, plus vomiting, and was shaking, cold and miserable. If Lauren hadn’t been so excited about the salt flats – and if she hadn’t spent the last 2 days making plans for various pictures she wanted to take with her new-found Irish friends – I might have insisted on staying in bed/the bathroom. As it was, I gritted my teeth, and did my best. This unfortunately included sullying the salt flats at times. There aren’t exactly a multitude of bathrooms out there. Hopefully pachamama (mother earth) will understand.
The Irish guys and Katerina were wonderful – most importantly taking Lauren to each of the sites when I couldn’t get out of the car and keeping her entertained and happy, but also feeding me Imodium, carrying my bag, bringing me coke when I couldn’t make lunch, and just generally making it as easy as possible for me. Some of the photos in this post were taken by them and shared, so thanks guys 😊.
Anyway, we started off heading to an area of the salt flats that was still wet from the recently ended-rainy season. This created a spectacular mirror effect, and we watched the sun rise here. Even in my state, I could enjoy the majesty of this view.
After that we headed to an ‘island’ (the salt flats are simply a vast dried up sea) that was covered in cactuses (I know, I know, but ‘cacti’ is so old fashioned). Lauren and the others went for a hike around the island, while I made regular use of their facilities, and sipped on coca tea. Coca tea is made from the leaves of the coca plant, better known for its purified state, cocaine, but in leaf form is a mild painkiller and locals swear by it for all sorts of aches and pains, and for altitude sickness.
Everyone else had breakfast, then it was the moment we’d all been waiting for. Finding a stretch of the salt flats so flat that you could take ‘perspective photos’ when the lack of any differentiation in the background means you can take photos of people/objects at different distances that look like they are close together. The guys had been planning this for ages, and Lauren had some pretty specific requests. Paul was clearly an expert, having brought his dinosaurs along and knowing just how to do it. I participated in a couple (Lauren particularly wanted to be a giant stepping on my head…..) then left them to it. As you can see, some were more successful than others, but they all had a lot of fun.
Next we headed off across the salt flats to a place where flags from all around the world have been placed. Katerina had brought a Czech Republic flag (so organized!).
After this, my memory is a bit vague – the Imodium was slowly taking effect but I spent much of the time dozing in the car, worrying about when the next bathroom stop would be, clutching a plastic bag in case I threw up. I think we headed for lunch then, where I stayed outside in the car and sipped on coca cola, supposed to be good for stomach upsets, but I promptly lost it again, inelegantly out the car door ☹.
The final stop of the day (by this point I was simply counting the minutes until I could find a hotel, our pre-booked overnight bus to La Paz out of the question) was a train ‘graveyard’. It was quite a melancholy place in a way, rusting hulks of engines that used to take minerals from Bolivia through the Andes to the Pacific. The guys and Lauren had great fun clambering about on the trains and I was once again grateful to them for including her in everything.
Eventually we were dropped off at the office of the agency, where I sat inside shivering while everyone else dealt with my stuff. We checked into a hotel directly opposite, on the basis it had rooms with private bathrooms and was staggering distance – Sebastian, Connor, Guy and Katerina all came over to reception, carrying various bits of our luggage, to make sure we were checked in and I was settled. What a nice bunch of people. Katerina, who was staying in Uyuni too, even came round the following day and took Lauren for lunch and played games with her while I led in bed trying to recover.
Thanks for everything guys, and safe travels 🙂
P.s. photos just don’t do justice to the scenery around here, so I put together a 6 minute video with some of my favourite video clips from the few days …. apologies for all the heavy breathing, I was usually out of breath!!!
watch here if interested: