[Day 15] Last day in Uyuni

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another tour before leaving Uyuni but everyone I talked to said that day time is different from sunset so I decided to do a last tour. (3 tours just in Uyuni!) There are usually several tours each day and they are all separately by time.

Starlight+Sunrise is the earliest one, usually from 3am to 7:30am. Day time is 10am to 3:30pm. There is also Day time+Sunset which is from 10:30am to 8:30pm. The one I did previously was the Sunset+Starlight, from 4pm to 10pm. And lastly, there is just Starlight, which is from 11pm to 3am. The times could be slightly different for each tour agency but it would be very similar to this.

I checked the moon and sun phase to make sure I would be able to see the stars. Depending on when the sun sets and when the moon rises, you might see more stars in the Sunset+Starlight or Starlight+Sunrise. They are all beautiful.

So the day time tour was from 10am to 3:30pm and since it was our last day, we also had to check out. So we woke up early, packed our things, eat our last breakfast, checked out and headed to the tour agency. We were able to leave our luggage at our accommodation and they also told me that they can provide the shower after the tour. Score!

We requested another Photography session with As and headed out. As told us that if we go with a photographer, usually the driving route changes so that people can get more of the salt flat shot. However, since we requested it, we were able to visit the train cemetery. It wasn’t as impressive as I imagined but still very cool to look at. There were several trains that were just abandoned on the unused tracks. Interesting enough, there was actually an active track right next to the cemetery. We were able to go on the trains to take pictures but As told me that there were several accidents here so be careful.

After looking around the train cemetery, we headed into the salt flats. First, we visited the dry flats. This was our first time here since for the Sunset+Starlight, they only take you to the wet flats. The dry flats were so different. The ground was sharp and it felt more like a desert. And it was 100% less crowded compared to the wet flats. I mean, we were the only ones here.

There were 4 of us taking photos with the photographer and in between our sessions, we took pictures of each other. We were able to do some illusion shots with different props that the tour agency provided. This includes the dino shot, wine bottle shot, and the stomping shots. These are probably the most common photos you would see online if you searched Uyuni. Our driver was nice enough to take some photos of us while we waited for our photographer!

*Remember! They are your driver, not your photographer! Some of them have had this job for a long time and may have experience taking these types of photos but they are not required to take them for you. If they do take photos/videos of you, make sure to tip well for their extra service.

I thought the weather was perfect for pictures. No cloud in sight. However, we found out it was a bust when we got to the wet flats. The wind was too strong and we couldn’t get the reflections at all. You could see ripples everywhere. It was unfortunate but we still had fun. This time, the photographer brought some props along, like flower bouquets and colorful umbrella! It was different and difficult, taking pictures with props. This was my first time taking pictures like this so I felt so awkward. If you are interested in doing a photo session, make sure to practice at home!

The day time tour was short compared to sunset+starlight so we were back in the city a little past 3:30pm. When we got back to our hotel area, we realized there was a huge market outside our hotel and we wanted to check it out before flying out.

First, we decided to take a shower. However, the hotel told us that they could provide the shower but no towels. Luckily, I had brought a towel just in case and was able to take a quick shower. They even provided a rest space if you wanted to take a nap. It was a smaller room upstairs with a single size bed. Because Uyuni is a tourist town, hotels might offer such service. Make sure to ask the hotel you are staying in to see if they have such space.

After washing up, we went out to the market. This market had everything! They had live animals for sale, mostly chickens, clothing for all ages, kitchenware, and of course, food. I walked down for about 10 minutes but I was still seeing rows of shops. However, it looked like they were still setting up. So I decided to check out the city a bit more.

Walking up the main street, there was a decent size super market. From here, I got an ice cream bar and it was so refreshing! During the day time, the sun was still hot so it was nice to just chill and eat some ice cream.

Also, right across the street, there was an arcade. They had several different games from street fighter, tekken, FIFA, and more. But their biggest thing was PUMP. I was so surprised to find a PUMP machine here so I just had to play. All the games were 1 bol. I didn’t have coins on me but there was someone here that did the exchange. I wanted to play more but after 1 game I was done! Not because I was tired but because of the altitude. My lungs were just screaming for air but I had a lot of fun, walking dancing through memory lane. While I was catching my breath, I watched some of the local kids play games and did not realize time was passing so fast.

When I walked back outside, the market was now bustling with people. A lot of kids were out with their parents, shopping and hanging out with friends. I wanted to grab something to eat before heading to the airport so I looked around the market. I really wanted the fried chicken cutlet again but it was closed. I’m guessing it was because of the market being open. So I looked around the market and several of the places looked like it had lines.

I knew I didn’t have much time now and I needed to get something to-go, so I found a stall that was selling chicken and other things. I wasn’t so sure what was on the menu but I pointed at the chicken and chorizo and was able to get it to-go.

After getting my food, we took a cab to the airport. It was 15 bol per person this time. The cab ride was short and the check in process was even shorter. It took less than 5 minutes to check in. We were flying with Amazonas and they allowed 1 free checked bag. So I checked one of my bag and ate my dinner using my other bag as a table.

The chicken was cooked perfectly and the chorizo was spicy enough. As I was enjoying the food, more and more people were coming into the airport and the line was getting longer. There were only 2 people working the check in desk but it was moving pretty quickly.

Soon, they told everyone to move into the actual lounge area. Before moving, we had to pay the airport tax. You cannot fly out of Uyuni without paying the tax. It was 11 bol and they gave me change back.

To get to the lounge, you had to go through a metal detector. However, they did not have one for bags. Some of the bags were hand checked but not all of them. It was a very short process and also very interesting. They also do not mind if you bring water in. And as I stated before, it was a very small airport. We had to walk to the tarmac again to get on the plane, just as we did when we got here.

The plane ride was uneventful. Once we were out of Uyuni’s range, it was pitch black outside. It really felt like there was nothing out there but soon, the lights from La Paz started to glow. When we got to La Paz airport, we had a taxi driver waiting for us and we got to the hotel safely.

We were not planning on doing anything too crazy the next day so we decided to Netflix and chill for a bit. The Loki Boutique, our accommodation, had free Netflix, so we watched John Wick. What a good way to relax and end the night.

[Day 14] Night time one more time

I was planning on waking up early and maybe doing a full day tour but I decided on sleeping in a little bit more and doing another Sunset+Starlight tour with Brisa again. I could have gone to another company but I really enjoyed our tour spot yesterday and thought why change if it was good.

So I headed back to the office. On my way, there were a lot of people out in the main square area. It looked like they were having a sports day? It felt like the whole city was out. There were several sports teams including for soccer, teakwondo, and more. There were also a lot of people with instruments and people who were dressed up. I wasn’t sure what was going on but they all seemed like they were having fun.

It took about 15 minutes to get to Brisa Tours and the paper forms were almost all full! I quickly reserved a spot for the Sunset+Starlight tour by writing my name and paying inside. Since this was my second tour, they gave me a slight discount of 120 bol, instead of 130.

After reserving the spot, I walked around the area, looking for some good souvenirs. In front of one of the stores, there was a lady selling fresh orange juice. I love orange juice and since it was fresh, I couldn’t resist. One thing that was a bit different was that she squeezed the orange and then added some honey to it. Never thought of adding honey but it was good. If you like cold/chilled orange juice, this isn’t for you.

Walking around the shops, we found some good souvenirs. I bought some post cards and magnet and my companions bought different flavored salts. After buying the post card, I went back to Brisa Tours to ask about where I can find some stamps or if they had a post office. They told me that they used to have a post office but they no longer have one! WHAT?!? I guess not a lot of people here were sending and receiving physical things anymore.

With this sad news, I decided to go eat some lunch to make me feel better. Across the street from Brisa Tours, there was a new Chinese restaurant that opened up and we decided to check it out. They had some items that were Korean style Chinese cusine so we wanted to try it out. We got Jajangmyeon (blackbean noodles) and beef noodle soup. While I enjoyed the beef noodle soup, the jajangmyeon’s flavor was closer to the Chinese style. If you were expecting the Korean style flavor, you won’t find it here. I still liked both of them. They were different but good.

After lunch, we headed back to our hotel and got ready for the tour. This time, I packed my camera, tripod, extra battery, extra SD card, pancho, jacket, sunglasses, hot pack, and most importantly, extra socks. The car was packed and we started the ride with introductions and luckily, our driver was the same as yesterday! Edward!

Edward drove us to the best spot again and here, he took a ton of pictures and videos of us, individually and as a group. He was so dedicated.

*One thing to note! The person that drives you out is the DRIVER! They are not your photographers nor your guide. They may have experiences and may offer to take photos or give you information but if they don’t, DO NOT complain about it! It is not part of their duty to take photos.

Since our group got to know each other a bit, we all took photos of each other and we had a blast. The atmosphere was very different from yesterday, even the weather was different. However, I think both days were wonderful.

I think our group had good chemistry and we had so much fun taking pictures of each other even though we were complete strangers. I also think Edward contributed to that chemistry!

Once again, we waited for the sun to set completely and for the stars to come out. While it was dark, we decided to take some lettering photos with the help from Edward. He told us how to hold our phones and write the letters backwards.

We tried so many times to just get Uyuni right LOL but this one was the best shot. We were able to do everyone’s name before the stars began to show.

The stars were amazing as usual. The way the Milky Way was pointing straight at the city was just amazing. However, I personally did not like the positioning of the car and the city. I asked Edward if we could move the car just a bit and BAM!

I got the angled shot I was hoping to get. Again, this is with my camera (Sony a5) on a tripod on a timer. I had to do several test shots to get this one shot and I am super proud of myself for getting it! I look like I’m basking in starlight, just radiating. And Edward was amazing to let me on top of the car. I have been told that they don’t let people on top of the car because it damages that car too much.

After seeing my photo, everyone wanted one. So we asked Edward if it was ok and he gave us the thumbs up. So I took everyone’s photos in the poses that wanted and they all looked great! I ended up becoming a photographer for the night and it was a lot of fun. We all shared some hot packs together and stayed outside longer.

After the tour ended, the group wanted to buy me dinner for taking their photos so we went to eat some chicken. There were several churrasqueria but only this one looked open.

They didn’t have everything from their menu so we ordered that they had. The Pollo Simple. I was surprised when it came with spaghetti. I thought it would be fried rice. The chicken was really good. Very juice. But the spaghetti was a bit dry with no sauce. I think rice would have been better.

But I was full and happy and was able to go to bed extremely satisfied.

[Day 13] Off to Uyuni

We woke up early in the morning, packed up, and headed to the airport at 6:30am. The hotel was able to get us a taxi fairly quick. The city of La Paz at sunrise was beautiful. The pink tone building with the early morning light was a sight to see. The road was clear so we were able to get to the airport in no time. Check in was a breeze too and headed to grab some breakfast.

Not all the restaurants in the airport were open and we had limited options. And since we were in Bolivia, I wanted to try something Bolivian. So I got Huminta, a Bolivian style tamale, and Tikimanas, a Bolivian style empanada. They were both really flavorful and filling. I actually couldn’t finish both of them because of their size. I didn’t realize how big they would be. But my travel companions were there to help me. For both, it was 17.5 bol. Not bad for breakfast at the airport.

The airport was so small that even the check point took only about 5 minutes and they didn’t take my water away. Once we were inside, we wanted for our boarding time. It was interesting since the boarding time was the same as the last call. There were a lot of people getting to the gate at the last minute, including us!

The plane that we took was really small and the ride was pretty bumpy. Once we got to Uyuni airport, we all got off at the tarmac. The Uyuni airport was TINY. It was the smallest airport I’ve seen. They did not even have a baggage claim belt. It was just this one corner they used as the baggage claim area. They don’t check tags or anything so keep your eyes open for your bag.

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. The interesting thing at Uyuni was that the taxi charges per person! So they try to fill the car up before leaving. The cost from the airport was 10 bol per person. With that, no one has to worry about if you are getting cheated on your taxi fare.

I wanted to try something new while at Uyuni and decided to stay at the salt hotel. We stayed at Hotel de Sal – Casa Andina. This is not the famous salt hotel but it had salt components in the hotel and the location was decent. We were a bit early for check in, so we left our luggage here and headed to book our tours.

There were several different tour agencies in Uyuni that specialized in Salt Flat tours. We decided to go with Brisa Tours. They had a tour with a photographer (extra cost) and I wanted some good photos with the stars. I had never done night photography before and since I was already here, I thought I wanted to get some nice photos.

At these tour agencies, they have papers outside that have different type of tours that are available and how many people can sign out. Anyone can come and write their name down and pay inside to make the reservation. We planned on doing the “Sunset + starlight” tour with Photographer As, who was part of Brisa Tours. The tour itself was 130 bol and we had to pay the photographer extra $120.

After we booked our tour, we decided to venture around a bit and grab something to eat before heading out on the tour. We found the local market and noticed that it was very similar to Peru’s market. And while following our nose, we found a fried chicken booth on the back side of the market. It was a bit hidden but those are the best, right?

The fried chicken was amazing! It was close to a chicken cutlet since it was so flat. It came with rice and veggie and the best part. It was only 8 bol.

After our meal, one of my travel companion decided to cut all our hairs! She is a hair designer in South Korea and she brought most of her tools to volunteer in Peru and Bolivia. I wanted to go super short and she just chopped it all off! After my hair cut, she asked around the hotel to see if anyone else wanted a cut and ended up cutting the receptionist’s hair too.

Our tour was at 3pm so after our haircuts, we headed back to the agency. They had a 8 seater van waiting for us. We drove about 20 minutes outside the city to this house to pick up rainboots and drove another 40 minutes to the salt flats. The ride was bumpy and we were told that some parts of the salt flats have sink holes so we all have to be careful. At first, the area was just dry flats and I was really worried we wouldn’t see water since it was dry season. But once we were out there, the view just made me speechless.

The weather was just spectacular with no clouds in sight. Also, the wind wasn’t too strong so we were able to get some good reflections. There was enough water to make the reflection too. Even though it was dry season, the tour agencies all know how far to go in to get the water so you do not need to worry about it.

It was just so pretty! When we got there, it was still very bright. But the sun started to set and the view just became even more amazing. The colors of the sunset seemed different here. And it really felt like we were the only ones here. It was so quiet, so surreal. I took the time to just bask in the sun.

Once the sun was gone, we had to wait for the stars to come up. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to see a lot of stars because the moonrise timing wasn’t that great for us. But slowly, stars were coming out and I was surprised that we were able to see so much of it with our naked eyes.

You could even see the Milky Way with your eyes. This picture was taken with my camera (Sony 5a) on a tripod on a timer. No filter whatsoever. Our photographer brought props that made the photos more interesting. The stars were just memorizing. I couldn’t believe I could see so much with my eyes. When I wasn’t taking photos, I was just looking up in awe. And the camera doesn’t do it justice. It was more mysterious in person and I cannot recommend the Starlight tour enough!

And one thing for sure. Make sure to wear layers or bring more clothes. Especially socks! While taking photos, we had to take off our shoes to get on the roof of the vehicle and in the process, our clothes, mostly our socks, got wet. So next time, extra socks! Also, it was extremely cold outside. Cold enough that my camera lens froze and wouldn’t focus. I had to take it inside the van to heat it up a bit before taking more photos.

After all the photos, we headed back to Uyuni. Even though it was late, everyone was so excited to have seen such a view that we kept talking about it. I definitely was amazing and worth it. I was not 100% satisfied with the pictures I took because it was my first time but it is a learning curve.

I did not plan much of Uyuni because everyone had said that everything is up to chances and luck. You might get lucky with day time weather, but not with night time weather. I heard so much of “what if” that I wanted to give myself a lot of buffer to work with.

I was debating doing a full day tour but I decided to wait to see what my body thinks the next day.