Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Salar de Uyuni Trip Report Part 3

The last day of the trip had fewer things to see,  and by that time I was a little worn out in seeing more rocks.  We stopped at a lovely place with some lovely rocks,  but I couldn't bring myself to try to find anything to photograph.  Probably it would have been a good place for kite aerial photography,  but I made the decision to leave my kite rig at home a long time ago.

However!  We did see some very interesting other things.  The town of Uyuni (which is where the tour ended) has a train graveyard.  There are quite a few old rusting hulks of antique trains sitting out there.  It is one of the few attractions of Uyuni,  and is the sort of thing I could spend hours photographing.  Unfortunately I only had 20 minutes,  but I stretched it to 30 by walking fairly far away from our Landrover.  It wasn't the only time my fellow travelers had to come find me when I was pretty occupied looking for photographic opportunities.

The other thing we saw that day was the salt flats.  Near Uyuni is a giant desert of salt.  This is the major reason people to go Uyuni,  and was a good end to the 3 days of touring the desert.  The salt flats were blindingly white,  and sunglasses were pretty much a requirement to go out on the flats.  There is a hotel made entirely out of blocks of salt dug up from the ground,  it is possible to stay there,  although my tour did not.  There is also an active salt mining activity,  which involves scooping the salt into large heaps,  which are then hauled out and processed (mostly this involves drying the salt).  These large heaps can be seen in many places near where we were,  although at one point we drove fairly far out into the plain and then it felt like there was nothing else around at all,  mostly because there was nothing else around at all.

The final images in this set are of the town of Uyuni, which is where my last story takes place.

You may recall that I spent many days in Buenos Aires trying to obtain all the necessary documentation to get a visa for Bolivia.  Especially painful was trying to get US dollars,  which are nearly impossible to get in Argentina,  due to regulations which mostly prevent Argentinian currency to be converted into other currencies inside Argentina.  I kept that documentation all the way through the 3 days of traveling through Bolivia on this tour,  and when we finally got to Uyuni,  I reminded my driver that we had to get me through immigration.  He passed me off to the secretary at the tour company we were with,  and she instructed me to come back at 3pm when the immigration office opened.  No problem,  I checked into my hostel,  came back in plenty of time,  and then she escorted me to the small office,  located only a few store fronts down the street.  We got there,  and I was very friendly,  having learned the importance of this from reading about Bolivian culture.  I handed in my visa application,  I handed in all my documentation,  the form I filled out when I crossed the Bolivian border,  my passport photos,  proof of financial solvency,  proof of a hotel in the country,  and proof of a flight out of the country (the flight from Lima to Seattle was sufficient).  Everything was in perfect order,  when the friendly immigration official said,  "ok,  now you pay,"  and directed me to the distinctly less-friendly looking immigration official.  No problem,  I walk over to him,  proudly pull out my near flawless US bills,  smile,  and hand them to him.

He frowns.

Then he says,  "En Bolivianos?"   Uh oh.  I had read in many places online that the immigration office only wanted US dollars,  that US dollars were highly prized,  that as a US citizen I should be prepared with US dollars.  And this guy wanted Bolivian money.  Great.  I don't have that much Bolivian currency.  I say no,  I don't have enough Bolivianos,  and he directs me to a currency exchange as well as an ATM.  I go to the ATM,  which fortunately worked perfectly.  I got my money,  headed back to the office,  and handed him some 1000 Bolivianos.  He smiled,  directed me back to the first guy,  who had already put the visa in my passport.  He then stamped it,  and handed it back to me,  saying it was good for 5 years. 

I was so happy that at long last the arduous task of trying to get my Bolivian visa was finally done.  I thanked them both profusely,  and exited the office with a giant smile on my face.  Throughout the evening I took the passport out several times just to look at it and the Bolivian entry stamp. 

This concludes my 3 days in the (very) high desert of Bolivia.  I hope you enjoy these last photos.

The ghosts of dead trains.

Large hexagon patterns in the drying salt.

This one is for my brother in law.  :)


  1. Great shots. Love the desert flats and the sky and that sunset shot.

    1. Thanks Mark! It was a pretty interesting place to be. :)

  2. I've been checking in quite frequently to keep on your adventures and the photos! Not sure what I will do with my spare time when your trip comes to an end ;-)

    I'm loving the gorgeous color and composition you are getting with your shots.

    1. Thanks Arren! I do post monthly on flickr, but for a long time those will be the same images you're seeing here. :) The lappy is working just fine in La Paz, btw, which is elevation some 3700 meters. Breathtaking. Literally.

  3. Jacques dice, "no me gusta ese sal!" (he doesn't like the salt) Jacques has learned spanish, you see.

    1. Jacques is pretty talented that way. :) And yes, when Jacques returns home he'll be in need of a good washing.