The Salar de Uyuni is the most amazing natural wonder I have ever seen in my life. During our two trips through the world’s largest salt flats, Oksana and I got so many good photos and videos that editing them into a single podcast episode was more challenging than editing the ones where I don’t have enough footage. I worried that I wouldn’t do this amazing landscape justice.
This video is almost fifteen minutes long and that’s even after I decided to eliminate day two and three of our tour (I may make that into a shorter episode later.) I had the great fortune to be able to interview not just Oksana and myself, but also our guide and every one of the new friends we met on these tour. This isn’t just “Arlo and Oksana’s Experience on the Salar,” it’s “Arlo and Oksana’s (Alaska), Rémy and Aurélie’s (France), Wendy and Dusty’s (Ohio), Soledad and Joaquin’s (Buenos Aires), and Oscar’s (La Paz) Experience on the Salar!”
Not everyone is as comfortable as we are in front of a camera — and we’re far from comfortable talking into a lens, ourselves! — so I want to thank everyone who contributed to this video, especially Soledad and Joaquin who struggled with an unfamiliar language on camera. For what it’s worth, I think that having a 2-to-1 ratio for English-as-a-second (or third!) -language to native English speakers in this video is pretty cool!
Fifteen minutes may be asking too much of some internet viewers. If you find yourself bored by the setup, might I suggest you jump to the 9 minute, 45 second mark? Spoiler warning: It’s awesome!
Finally, there are more stories and photos of our Uyuni trips on:
The following is a transcript of the above video for Google’s benefit (ignore it, watch the video instead!)
Episode 14 – Salar de Uyuni
Even before we started on our trip, I knew I wanted to go to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. I had created a map of places we might want to see in the world and it was on there before we even left Alaska.
We met Oksana and Arlo in Baños?
And we were all on the top of a hotel, working on our blogs and ours is roamthepla.net.
And so, we met them there and then they emailed us when we were in Lima and said that they were in Lima and so we met up again, and then finally we were all going to head to Bolivia, and we ended up meeting in Uyuni to tour the salt flats.
(New Year’s Eve, Miraflores, Lima)
So, the best time to go to the Salar is in the rainy season because then, at night, if you get clear night, you can see the stars reflected in the water, down below.
So, we actually raced across Peru to get to Bolivia on the first part of February where there was a new moon.
(Machu Picchu, Nazca, Colca Canyon)
We showed up in Uyuni and we all went over to the Red Planet tour company and set up a private tour for just the four of us.
One of the main reasons that we wanted to do the private tour was so that we had control over the route, because we were afraid if we were in a big group that we would have to do the standard route and we might want some say and maybe even going out at night and taking some pictures under the stars which wouldn’t be typically possible on a group tour. So we opted to pay a little bit extra and go out with just the four of us.
When you get to the Salar, it is the most incredible place I’ve ever seen in my life! It doesn’t even look like planet Earth!
The first thing that I noticed was the mountains in the distance looked like they were floating, because of the reflection, I guess… I don’t really know how this works, with the physics of it. but it looked like they were floating. And then we started to go out onto the salt flats and it was just… blown away! The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen; I haven’t seen anything like that at all.
Immediately, when you get out on the water, it’s like you’re driving on the surface of a lake.
It was kind of rainy, but we were able to drive ahead of the storm and get to the Salt Hotel.
The hotel just looked so out of place. It was… what is this thing in the middle of nowhere? And it kind of looked like it was floating, as well.
I can’t imagine if the hotel wasn’t there, because I don’t… you go out into the middle and you get confused of which direction you’re supposed to go to leave.
Yeah, I think we actually only stepped into the salt flats, like, one-tenth of the way and that’s where the hotel is, but I imagine that if you go half-way in, it would have be quite the sight to see nothing but white around.
Arlo and Oksana weren’t feeling too good and they weren’t as excited as we were. We took about four hundred photos and I think they took four.
Oksana and I had probably eaten something bad on the bus, the night before, and by the end of the day we were sitting there clutching our stomachs, wondering how we’re going to get through a three-day tour, and then we just realized we couldn’t.
We could tell they were hurting pretty bad and knew that it was gonna end with our trip together and that they had to go home. As a matter of fact, I think I remember as soon as we got back to the office, Arlo jumped out of the car and started running into the office with his hand over his mouth and I know that I didn’t want to see what was going to happen!
We had to say goodbye to Wendy and Dusty two days before we were expecting, but it was the right thing to do.
It was a good thing that Arlo and Oksana didn’t come with us because there were no bathrooms along the route – at all!
So, after we got a little bit better, we decided to take another crack at the tour, mostly because it’s an easy way to get into Chile.
We did the whole three-day tour and it was really amazing.
On the second trip through, though, we sat down with Red Planet Expeditions and talked very specifically about what we wanted to do.
(Oscar Grájeda, Guide, Red Planet Expeditions)
For me it was really good because, you know, not many people do that, so… no, but for me it was really good. It is much better if you have all the information to do the much better the trip.
We thought that we are going to the Salar de Uyuni with Argentinean people or people who…
…who speak Spanish.
None of the buses came in from La Paz that morning, so all the tourists that they told us we’d be going with weren’t there.
It was really interesting because I was talking with the other guides because, you know, because my group, it wasn’t ready, because I had to join with the other companies.
So we met, then, Arlo and Oksana… who speak English!
When we got in the car, the guide told us, “Well, there’s something that changed. The program’s changed. You’re going to stay in the Salar until the night.” And we’re just, like, “Really?” And he’s like, “I’m sorry guys! I’m sorry for that!” And we’re like, “No! That’s pretty cool! That’s just amazing, staying on the Salar until the night, because all the other tours – I mean, like, twenty 4x4s! – are just staying there for two hours so, I mean that’s like 100 people in the same spot. And we were really lucky to meet Arlo and Oksana, because they wanted to do something different!
Yes, yes. A nice experience to see the stars in the semi-desert…
We actually went to the train cemetery first and spent about 20 minutes there.
(Because maybe you’ve heard about the Pacific war that we got with Chile and Bolivia. So in the Pacific War in 1890 we lost the Pacific Ocean. Why? Because in the Pacific Ocean, it was close to these mountains. And here we were in a big party…)
After we had lunch, we went out onto the salt flat itself. And, at first, it was very much like our first trip. We stopped a few hundred meters out at the first part to take some pictures and this time we could tell very quickly that there was more water on the flats, there were no dry areas. And so everyone’s walking around in either sandals or barefoot…
The salt crystallizes in this really hard, cube-shaped crystals. I went barefoot, and let me tell you: “Ouch! It really hurts!” But we had fun making funny poses and playing with the depth perception illusion.
We felt like we had all the time in the world because we were going to stay until sunset.
We went and took pictures on the salt flats of the… what do you call that? “Depth perception photos” and some photos with the water making reflections and…
I was climbing a rat! This was really funny.
Yeah, we are traveling with a rat, like friends of us gave us like a little rat, like a false one. We took, like, pictures of the rat and Aurélie’s climbing the rat, like that. And oh, like, kind of stuff like that. That’s really funny.
Well, in this photo sessions, pictures. We spell words like “Alaska” and “France” but “Argentina” is impossible. It’s more letters. And we take a flag, an Argentine flag.
We flamed it.
We flamed the flag and take the pictures.
We did some things like having Arlo, Oksana, and Wendy on my shoulders, and then we did a couple of Wendy doing headstands on top of my head. It was all pretty interesting stuff.
We do some photos, like some perspective. And I put my hand like this…
… because he’s very tall, and then I can see him in my hand! It’s a very good photo.
Yeah, all the afternoon was, well… bright, like, blue skies with clouds which makes the scenery just amazing!
When you look out into the distance, you cannot even distinguish between where the sky ends and the Earth begins.
Since it was completely flat, for miles, and then there was a small layer of water on top of the salt, so it would reflect the sky.
When you see someone walking out in front of you, it’s like they’re walking in the sky. It’s almost an infinite expanse.
Me and Arlo ran towards each other and jumped in the air and it kind of looks like we were superheroes, you know, flying through the sky, or something exciting like that. It was just incredible. I have never seen anything like that before!
It was looking like the perfect day. There were clouds on the horizon, but there were none overhead and we had very high hopes that we would be seeing stars after the sunset.
And in the end of the afternoon, there was some part in, like in the horizon, which were, like, getting darker and darker.
Can’t watch the stars because the storm… appeared. My English is really bad! (laughter)
At this point there were only two groups left out on the Salar: Our group and, I think another group of Japanese tourists that stood off to the side, and we all just sat there as the wind picked up and the sun set, and we watched this thunderstorm grow and start to approach us.
It went on and on and on and it seemed liked it was surrounding us… It was truly amazing.
And because of the way the reflections worked out, it kind of pinched around the floating islands we saw off in the distance. And then the colors turned to orange first, and then red, and the storm turned into a thunderstorm.
As the sun was setting, we could see, well, all the lightnings and everything and the sun set at the same time. That was just, like, amazing!
Yes, it was really a good experience for us. Watching the… lightnings?
…the lightnings in double visions, in the Salar’s mirrors.
It was terrific, really good! At the same time I was a little bit scared. But this one was really good as well because I saw all the storm and the lightnings come in and it was really, really nice!
At one point the lightning was coming down so often, that when I set up the camera to take bursts of three pictures at 5 to 8 seconds long, every single one had lightning on them! Some were so bright they overwhelmed the frame, some were just bolts out in the distance, some captured as many as six or seven bolts on a single frame!
After sunset, the wind was blowing. I was still in my shorts and sandals. It was incredibly cold; if it wasn’t below zero, it was very close.
For me, it’s very cold. But I enjoy it anyway!
I was not ready to leave. I was taking pictures up until every person was in the Jeep. And I turned the camera around to get one more photo of the Jeep itself. As we were driving back off the flats, our guide, Oscar, apologized to me and said, “I’m sorry, man, we didn’t get to see any stars tonight.” I said, “Are you kidding me? I couldn’t care less!”
He told me that it was really interesting and also he saw the sunset and also the lightnings; even if he couldn’t see the stars on the salt flats, he said that it was really good.
That’s the point about Bolivia! You buy a tour, and you never know where you’re going to go, when you’re going to leave, and how it’s going to be like.
The sights were just amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that; I didn’t even know things like that existed!
Never, ever experienced anything like that in my life before!
I’ve never seen anything like what we saw on this trip!
We can saw things that I have never saw before!
That was one of the best things, because you just never, you never see pictures of these places, you don’t hear much about it. It’s not like Machu Picchu, where you kind of know what you’re expecting there, but when you go on this Bolivian salt flats tour, you don’t know what’s next.
Oscar taught us a word on this trip that I really like. He said, “When you see something incredible in Bolivia, you say, ‘Unboliviable!’”
Unboliviable! Unboliviable! I like that.
It’s unboliviable! Unboliviable!
Salar de Uyuni
Postcard Valet: Episode 14
Postcard Valet is a Travel Podcast by Arlo & Oksana Midgett
2 February 2011 & 23 February 2011
Special Thanks to Soledad Nakama & Joaquin Rivera
Special Thanks to Aurélie Parisot & Rémy Dahan
NEWZ FROM THE WORLD
Special Thanks to Wendy & Dusty Doris of
All footage, copyright 2011 Arlo Midgett, www.postcardvalet.com
With photos by, copyright 2011 Wendy and Dusty Doris, www.roamthepla.net
And by copyright 2011 Aurélie Parisot & Rémy Dahan, www.newsfromtheworld.blogspot.com
Check out Red Planet Expeditions at www.redplanetexpedition.com
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