Day 3 was another incredible day. Many people doing the Uyuni tour end in 3 days. I am very glad I chose a 4 day trip because this was not an experience I would have wanted to rush, and I would not have wanted to miss out on anything I did and saw (although, in truth I ran into traveler’s from the 3 day trip that were ready to be done on day 3).
We saw more Flamingos, but today they were walking on ice. We stopped to admire the desert area of Arboles de Piedras (Trees of Rock) with it’s interesting rock formations. We visited Laguna Negro (The black Lagoon) which, with it’s black ducks and black water, was a stark contrast to the deep red waters and flamingo’s of the previous day. We had a picnic lunch amongst volcanic rocks beneath an active volcano that is on the Bolivian/Chilean border (not to worry, it is only active on the Chilean side, ha).
At this point, I realized that I had not yet seen a tree in Bolivia. I was actually quite surprised at how amazingly beautiful I could find a land-scape without any trees, but at the same time I began to find myself missing the sight of them. I think after several days of seeing so much nothingness (and by nothingness I mean amazingly beautiful natural wilderness – the nothingness part I refer to is the human handprint on the earth), your mind cannot help but wander, a lot. This was an amazing few days for self-reflection. My mind ran the gamete from what it would be like returning to the states, what I want to be when “I grow up” (as my mother would always say), how I have changed in the past year and a half from “before”, the entirety of my travels thus far, what part of the world will I visit next, the planet, maybe I should study geology? maybe not. Like I said, the mind wanders out here.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was a spontaneous, unplanned whim that our driver had. We did not realize until later that we were the only Jeep that made this stop, and that it was because our driver wanted to buy something. We got to see the rare site of human-beings for a bit. At the border, on the Chilean side every Sunday there is a market. We happened to be in the area on a Sunday. The way our guide explained the market on our way to it was as a place where both countries can come together to exchange goods such as produce. This description does not quite provide an accurate picture.
A more accurate description of this market is a clan of people who come together, in the middle of friggen nowhere, plop a squat on the ground and try to sell whatever it is they have. In most cases, it appears that each vender’s station is a place to sell their failed garage sail items. You could buy TV’s that probably stopped working in 1984, bicycles, mattresses, shoes, and just about anything else you could imagine. This rag-tag motley crew of Bolivian/Chilean venders fascinated me. It was unlike any type of market I had ever seen (even stranger than the night market in Istanbul).
The day concluded with a stay in a hotel made entirely of salt (a clear indication that the salt flats are near). I had been in buildings made of salt in Argentina already, but this was an unexpectedly awesome place to stay. EVERYTHING was salt, the walls, the tables and chairs, and floor was loose salt. There was a child who lives on the property playing in the salt. Can you even imagine being 4 or 5 years old and LIVING in what is essentially a giant sandbox? That sounds like something out of a cartoon movie!