You would think quitting my job to travel was saying I wanted to experience new things but as we were planning our trip and my husband was adamant about going to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, my reaction said otherwise, “a salt desert? Why? It will be just like a sand desert…only with salt.” I can laugh at my ignorance now but I was dead serious then.
When we were putting together our list of possible destinations, when no place was off limits, Bolivia didn’t make my list but was at the top of his.
Every time we needed to whittle down the list, Bolivia was always my first recommendation to get nixed. I would tell him “it’s going to be three long, dull days. I want every day of this 9-month trip to be exciting.” I know, impossible expectations. Still it remained at the top of his list and eventually, I had to concede.
It is one of the things I thank him for to this day. He stuck to his guns, insisted we go and was willing to trade other top-ranked destinations in order to keep the Uyuni Salt Flats on the list. I should have known then it would be more than just a salt desert.
So, the day of reckoning, arriving in a very small plane to a town that looked like it was made of legos. When we land, the airplane actually pulls straight up to the door of the “airport,” one small space divided into sections for waiting, baggage claim and immigration. In the taxi to the tour office I sit in my seat, smug and content that I was right and figuring out a nice way to gloat and say I told you so.
In the Red Planet Expedition office it’s a whirlwind of chaos and dust as we sign in, settle payment, separate luggage, meet our guide and our travel companions and within the hour we are off. A caravan of Toyota 4X4 vehicles heading to a galaxy far, far away, to the Uyuni Salt Flats and beyond.
What had I gotten myself into?
Smack dab in the middle of the planet Tatooine from Star Wars and into a 900-mile experience of a lifetime. Over the next three days we enjoy flamingos, pink, blue and green algae colored lakes, volcanic rocks, hot springs, sulfur springs, sand deserts, salt houses, small towns, a lone fox, a salt lake with water less than 3 centimeters below the surface, even an island covered in cacti. The only thing missing was a young Luke Skywalker and two droids.
We weren’t just driving through Bolivia taking pictures of beautiful landscapes. Our guide, Oscar, is educating us on plant life, lava rock formations, flamingos, llamas (guanacos) and alpacas, lagoons and lakes, volcanoes, a little math, a little science, some politics and so much more.
From our travel mates we learn about each other’s hometowns, travels and new card games while staying in a hotel made of salt, eating atop a boulder or bunking dormitory style in a house with no running water and limited electricity?
Bolivia…dull and boring? I have never been happier to be so utterly wrong.