Uyuni Salt Flat and Altiplano tour – DAY 3

So, we were off again! The final day of our tour started cold and early – breakfast at 6.30am. The first stop was the Salvador Dali desert – named because it is ‘characterized by landscapes that resemble surrealist paintings by Salvador Dalí’ – well, I’m not sure about that really – but it was a stunning empty landscape.

The Salvador Dali desert.

The Dali desert was the furthest point away from Uyuni on our tour, and the rest of the day was spent travelling back to Uyuni – with a few great stops on the way. The distance back to Uyuni was around 350km.

The next stop was an overview of a borax mine – borax is used for a bewildering variety of things, including  “as a preservative in taxidermy, to clean the brain cavity of a skull for mounting, and to color fires with a green tint” …. yes, well you learn something new every day so they say… Anyway, the borax mine was in a beautiful setting…

The borax mine.
Vehicles on the borax mine. I’m not sure how they actually mine it here – I guess they just scrape it off the top… we couldn’t see any holes dug anywhere….

From the borax mine we proceeded to the village of Villa Mar – with a brief stop for a leg-stretch on the way.

CC takes an opportunity to dance in the road  (actual dancing not shown in this picture…)
The village of Villa Mar.
Villa Mar has llamas – we like llamas.

The next stop was our favourite – the Black Lagoon – although it seemed to have several other names. It was a beautiful lagoon tucked away inside a kind of canyon, with craggy rock formations all around it.

We spent over an hour here, and were able to walk around the edge of the lagoon and in and out of the canyons. It was a truly beautiful place, and there was also quite a few birds in the area.

The streams by the lagoon were still frozen.
Our first glimpse of the lagoon.
Looking over the lagoon.
There are lots of watery channels around the lagoon.
View from the other side of the lagoon.
Puna Teals on the ice.
More watery channels.
Andean Goose.
Puna Ibis by the water.
Scenery outside the lagoon – where we had lunch in a farmer’s house.

The next stop was at a canyon, which supposedly had a big anaconda in it…. it turned out to be a very impressive canyon indeed.

The approach to the canyon.
View down the canyon.
View down the canyon in the other direction. The river at the bottom is the ‘anaconda’ – because it looks like an anaconda (if you use your imagination…. 🙂 )
Here we are at the canyon!

The canyon was the last of the amazing scenery of the tour, and not long afterwards we re-joined the main road towards Uyuni. The final stop of the tour was at the town of San Cristobal where we visited the church and market. San Cristobal is quite a prosperous town for the altiplano, as it’s a mining town, and has developed because of the nearby silver, lead and zinc mine.

The church at San Cristobal.
There was a town party happening in San Cristobal when we arrived.
Herbs, spices and colourings for sale at the market.

We left San Cristobal to head back to Uyuni, but before we got to Uyuni the driver turned off the main road and back on to the salt flat. We spent the last hour of the journey driving on the salt flat again – which was really nice – and we arrived back at Uyuni via the train cemetery where it had all begun a couple of days ago.

We thought that the driver had gone this way as some kind of shortcut, or to give us one last look at the scenery – but actually it turned out that there was a protest blocking the road into Uyuni and so he had needed to find a way around it. The people who live south of Uyuni were protesting and blocking the road because they wanted the road to be paved (like the road north of Uyuni). We were grateful to our driver for finding a way around the roadblock, and also for an extra trip on the salt flats! 🙂

We arrived back at Uyuni and were dropped back at the office of our tour company. It had been an amazing 3 days – it had all gone really well and we had really enjoyed ourselves. 🙂 🙂 🙂

We had to wait at the office for the tour company owner to turn up, as we had left some of our bags there. He managed to mix us up with somebody else, and despite promising to be at the office when we got back, and also to give us a lift to the hostel when we returned – he did neither.

Full marks to the driver and guide who were both awesome – but zero points to the tour company owner who was frankly CRAP… luckily his incompetence didn’t stop us from enjoying our tour 🙂

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