One of the pleasant surprises of Bolivia is its newly paved roads and smooth ascents into the mountains. Even on crumbling rocky roads between Sucre and Potosi, the going wasn’t so rough.
I don’t have much to say about the Salar other than a planned one night of camping on the flats turned into three. One of the few places on earth where you can catch an entire night of pure silence. No birds singing, no insects chirping, not even wind at times. Just the sound of stillness. First impression: it’s not as white as in the photos. We easily made our way across the Salar from spot to spot. At least in the dry season there’s an easy to follow beaten path, and many of the tour drivers are friendly and will give helpful advice and directions. Ha, directions. More like direction, singular, just go that way. You can see the main islas and certainly the looming Volcan Tunupa. We spent 24 hours on Isla del Pescado, enjoying the whole island and Salar to ourselves. Without light pollution for miles, the starry night is a feast for tired city eyes. We were told there aren’t as many cacti on Pescado as on the Isla Incahuasi. To walk on Incahuasi you have to pay something. We didn’t stick around too long to find out how much, and drove half an hour to Pescado to find a sufficient cactus density. Needless to say, without a soul in sight, it was free to walk around Pescado.
The next couple nights we spent at the village Coqueza at the base of Volcan Tunupa. A friendly host of about 50 people that inhabit the village, and a grassy shoreline to the Salar that elicited memories of Ireland. We spent a couple hours here just walking among the many llamas and trying to grasp the sheer size of this ancient salt lake.
Five kilometers into the hills towards the volcanic peak rests an amazing archaeological exhibit. At approximately 4000 m high. inside a cave without any sort of controlled climate, lay seven perfectly preserved mummified bodies from around 800 years ago. These beautifully maintained corpses are becoming a theme around here. First in the Museo Universitarios in Sucre, also pre-Incan artifacts from around 800-900 A.D.
Arriving back to the mainland of Colchani it was shocking to see how many Landcruisers were huddled around the artisanal strip before or after their Salar tour. We were far away from all that mass commercialism for just a few days but it was enough to feel like coming back from another planet. The Salar de Uyuni, truly a marvel like no other and as many have written before us, a free-spirited camper’s paradise.