Just another Bolivian dawn

Photo: Heike Rammelt

One useful thing you should definitely consider before traveling around South America is to know your Spanish. That helps getting around easily in several situations. Me and Fabri arrived at Uyuni around 5am, coming from La Paz. We traveled during the night, and it was one of the coldest bus rides we’ve ever experienced. Nevertheless, the night sky in the middle of the desert – and at 4,000+ 3,500+ metres high – sure looked pretty amazing.

Well, there’s not much to do in Uyuni at 5am. Most open places are a couple of excursion agency offices (you’re free to come in and crash inside, where it’s warmer, and especially if you do decide to travel with them!). We still had several hours before the majority of agencies around town would start opening, and it was a cold night to be standing around outside.

There was this really small tent-ish place in the middle of the street, where an old man makes coffee and cooks these sweet, egg-and-bread-based (?) round fritos. We sat there chatting, and after a couple of coffee-and-fritos, the old man told us about the nearby train station. A worker which was also in the tent drinking coffee confirmed; we just might be lucky enough to find the station open, and most likely it’d be warmer inside.

So after a really cheap breakfast which felt like a luxurious meal in our stomachs, we started making our way to the train station. It was open. Nobody there, just a dog walking around and saying hello to us strangers. We were warm, tired and excited about the salt desert. In one word: happy.

When the agencies selling excursions for the world-famous salar de Uyuni start opening, you should get yourself ready and start bargaining around town. Try to visit the maximum number possible. You’ve got several tour options: one, two, three or four-day excursions (maybe there’s more but I don’t recall). If you go for less than three days you miss the chance to take a photo like the one above.

We went for the 3-days tour. We bargained with most agencies in town – most of the agencies’ managers know each other, and some of them phone others to know if you’ve actually been there before, etc. We chose the agency with the ugliest jeep (never had a problem, though!), but for a really, really good price. If you’re actually going there, I can share with you the “where” and “how much”.

The salar is something unique, mind-blowing really. I tasted an immaculate part of the white ground, and yes – it is, indeed, very salty (you only live once, right?). It’s huge and I find it surprising that so many people (especially in my country, where a few do travel) know nothing about it.

The “final touch” of our amazing experience was the third day. We woke up in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity (you’ll get used to it) and very cold – at about 4am. We left to see some geysers. Then back to the jeep and then we arrived at this place with a house, and hot springs nearby, where a small group of happy British (I think) was already splashing around. It was really cold, but we just had to go for it. And what you see in the picture above is bliss. We changed our clothes, putting on our bathing shorts, and got in the springs before sunrise. Basically, you’ll be cooking for more or less half-a-minute (it’s a quite sudden thermal variation) but then you’ll be just fine and warm. And then the sun came up, and the light spread through the valley as if it was some golden liquid, and it was beautiful. We were silent, in awe standing before Nature. Good for the soul, my fellow readers.

Approximately one hour later we got dressed and went inside the house for a terrific breakfast. This was surely one of the greatest dawns I’ve ever experienced in life so far and I recommend it to anyone who’s considering to visit that part of our wonderful planet.

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26 comments

  1. What a wonderful experience and nice photo!

    Bliss indeed.

  2. fallingnotflying

    wow, looks wonderful

  3. Fantastic photo! my parents just returned from a long trip to South America and loved it. And, reading your post my interest is totally piqued!

    • Thanks, Trina. If you haven’t been there, go for it, as soon as you get the chance. I’m sure your parents will be good motivators!

  4. Beautiful scenery! One of my “to-do” lists is to travel and Central and South America are on the list. My friends visited Lima, Peru and loved it! Me hablo ingles un poco, pero yo quiero viajar (me trabajandolo–I’m working on it – is that correct?) Thanks for sharing your ventures. Truly wonderful to see the pictures, though I’d love to be there for myself.

    • Thanks, Kimi. Well Central America is still on my to-do list – and South America too, still…! 🙂 Your Spanish is getting there (but maybe you meant estoy practicandolo?). You can find a lot of stuff online even (WordReference so far has proven helpful), so keep going. Yes, I believe it’s positive sharing experiences. Whenever you get the chance to visit Bolivia, go for it!

  5. sharing is caring, thank you for the wonderful hints.

  6. Jim

    Wow! Insightful and what a great pic! Arms outstretched, in awe…we share a travel theme on our respective sights. 🙂

    • Hey Jim, thanks for the feedback! Been checking your great blog… yeah, true enough: I guess that kind of pose says it all 😀 you’re linked, btw, if that’s alright. Cheers!

  7. SallyK

    Aaaaahhhhh, let me add, amazing. Thanks for sharing, I can feel the steam just looking at your photo. North Coast Muse @http://sally1029.wordpress.com

    • Hi Sally, glad you liked it. Yes, one of those moments that [if freezing time was possible] I would live in for quite a while…!

  8. This brought back memories of when I passed through Uyuni and the Salar in July ’08. It was too cold for the women in my group, so we opted out of spending the night. Extreme place.

  9. This sounds amazing. I have never been able to travel, but I hope to some day! Thanks for sharing this post, it give me a little piece of it.

  10. Wow, the picture is amazing, beautiful. Thanks for sharing such a brilliant experience.

  11. reading posts like this one makes me want to get out and travel…thanks for writing 🙂

  12. Wow, truly amazing photo. And thanks for providing the specs. I will definitely be checking back in here.

    • Thanks, Alex – nice art you’re submitting at your space – you’re linked 😉 and turn up the volume with Neil Young! Cheers

  13. beautifull dawn!
    and… beautiful experience!

    • Thank you, Òscar and Noe 🙂 great photos you got on your blog also, you’re linked if that’s alright 😉 saludos

  14. Micah

    That’s an incredible shot! Thanks for sharing with us.

  15. Miss Knee

    I was there three years ago drinking mezclador in that same spot! we weren’t brave enough to get in the spring because it felt rather tepid (perhaps it varies year round), and now I regret it! Good luck with your travels!

  16. gisan pls55ne

    great pics !!

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