6th October 2015 by emmadurnford

6th October 2015

We had said goodbye to our driver from Sucre yesterday and today our guide returned with a new driver - Francisco - who not only has an experts knowledge of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats but also has a massive Toyota Amazon 4x4 complete with large containers of spare fuel on the roof. We checked out of our salt hotel and our adventure on the salt flats began. I have never seen anything quite like this place - the Salar de Uyuni is a dried up ancient lake and the bright white salt is up to a depth of 10 meters in places. It is so bright that even with dark sunglasses, it is still almost blinding. There is a strange effect that totally removes any sense of perspective so that if someone walks into the distance, with a camera, it looks like they have become a miniature person. Francisco is already shaping up well as he patiently held Gulliver Bear whilst our guide posed in the distance. The salt flats (minus Gulliver!) had to be todays photograph although we saw many amazing sites. Francisco also somehow produced a bottle of wine out of thin air as we were having lunch along with 4 glasses - I didn’t want to offend so I raised a glass (and raised one on Colin’s behalf as well as he was sticking to water!).

We also spotted bright pink James Flamingos which are very rare now and were classed as 'threatened with extinction' in 2008. I have never seen wild flamingos before and they seemed almost out of place in this strange environment.

Amongst many places we visited were Inca burial chambers, complete with mummified bodies, an island with giant cacti, another cave cemetery with deep holes covered with adobe domes and more mummified bodies and finally the strangest cave. By chance we were lucky enough to meet one of the men who discovered the cave some 12 years ago and has now developed it into a visitors site complete with toilets and recycling bins. Any small funds or donations raised go back into the local community. This may not sound very impressive but in a country like Bolivia where corruption is rife and the President controls the people, it is actually very progressive.

Finally after a long and hot day we drove away from the salt flats towards our next hotel. Whereas the last hotel was made from salt, this hotel is an eco hotel made from volcanic rock and cactus wood! The room is big and I think we have the best view (we are in room number 1!). Last night the bedstead was made from rock salt - this evening we are sleeping on volcanic rock!!
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