The next day we all went out to the train cemetery to check out the metal. This is a major attraction, which is 3 km outside of the town of Uyuni along the old tracks. In 1892 the tracks were completed and this town was a major hub for trains carrying minerals to the coast. The local Aymara indigenous people constantly sabotaged the route. In the 1940’s the mining industry collapsed partly from mineral depletion and many trains were abandoned here producing the train cemetery. Interestingly these same people blocked all road access in and out of Uyuni for 5 days last week to protest the mayor plan to build a “tourist only” bus station. The military finally came in to break up the blockade.
Walking back thru town it was market day. The traditional costumes of the Bolivian women are really colorful.
The plan for the rest of the day was to head out onto “the Salar” and camp out.
The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat (10,582 square km) and is at 3700 m elevation. It formed from several prehistoric lakes and is covered by a few meters of salt crust. It is known for its extraordinary flatness with only a 1- meter change over the entire area. The salt crust covers a brine pool rich in lithium and contains 50-70% of the world’s lithium reserves. The flatness makes it ideal for calibrating altimeters of satellites and taking funny perspective photos.
We bought our first Bolivian gas at twice the price the locals pay, but at least they sold it to us. Actually we pay the real price for gas and the locals are heavily subsidized/placated by their populist government with cheap gas.
There is a 20 km dirt road to the Salar of which several sections are very sandy. When you arrive at the town there is a hard pack road with potholes. Once you get to the salt you will see piles of salt for photo ops.
About 2 km farther there is the Dakar sign. The salt is very smooth and not slippery at all. We drove basically along the jeep tracks the 70 km to and around the Isla Incahuasi. On the way out we stopped for some pictures and a snack.
Driving back about 30 km we took a right turn about 4 km out into the salar and pitched out tent, made some dinner, and set up the time lapse for the sunset. The night was not that cold only minus 5.
Sara was still fighting the flue and unfortunately had some trouble with the 3700m altitude with a severe headache (brain swelling from lack of oxygen). Dan got up at 6 to set up the time lapse for the sunrise. Dan said, “ Sara if you can get up to see this you should”. She did and then promptly barfed out the tent door. Luckily some Tylenol and hyperventilation helped a lot with her oxygen level. We packed up and then set up some perspective shots. The most important task for the morning was to get the bikes washed of salt.
Check out our video of a day and a night on the Salar. If you watch closely in the sunrise time lapse you will see sara lean out of the tent to Barf!