Uyuni: Departure Point To The Salt Desert

Uyuni is a much more happening place than Tupiza. Packed with pizzerias, clothes shops, tour companies and hostels, it’s the town one needs to arrive at if they are to see the bright white salt desert.

From here, backpackers organise for jeeps to take them into the desert for up to four days. Red Planet is probably the best company to use, since their drivers have a reputation of staying sober and acting more professional than many other companies. Since quite a lot of people die in drunk-driving accidents at the hands of some salt desert tour operators, it’s more than worth paying a little extra to go with a safer company.

Uyuni is a very cold place. That can’t be stated enough. Staying in hostel rooms feels more like an igloo, as temperatures drop to well below zero at night. Going to bed in five layers of clothes, as well as alpaca beanies and gloves, was the only way of waking up without frostbite. Honestly, thank God for alpaca and llama wool. Those strange, smiling, fury, giraffe-camel hybrids have magic in their fur. In Uyuni, you can pick up these products from most corner stores, as well as bags, food, water, cigarettes, and pretty much anything else you might need for a few days in the desert.

Hardcore techno blasts out of the shops early in the morning. You’d be forgiven for mistaking half of these places for nightclubs. Peep inside and you won’t see ravers or strobe lights, but instead indigenous Bolivians rugged up in traditional gear, selling ornements, clothes, and candy. It’s a smart way to attract backpackers to their little stores. The music is a good distraction from the severe cold and thin air, which can and will take its toll on you at some point.

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