The shrill ring of my alarm awoke me from the deep sleep I was in. Smothered by several thick blankets, I gingerly removed my arm from the warmth of my bed and fumbled to find my phone in the dark. The high-pitched ring awoke my roommates - meaning I wouldn’t have to - and I managed to switch off my alarm just as another alarm started to ring. It was 5:15am and the sky was still pitch black, highlighted only by the stars. Outside our cosy four-bedded room was the crazy landscape of the Uyuni salt flats, just waiting for us to witness its beauty in the new days sun.
My three travel buddies Alex, Tommy, Sean and I were silent as we pulled on as many layers of clothing as we could. While the salt flats were scorching hot during the day – the nights were positively glacial. Layered up until we resembled the Michelin Man, the four of us stumbled out into the cold with our blankets and cameras in tow.
We were on a four-day tour in the southwest region of Bolivia near the town of Uyuni. Salar de Uyuni, famous for being the world’s largest salt flat is remarkable landscape that has tourists coming in droves. Our first day of the trip was spent dodging camera-toting tourists and playing chase the four-wheel drive. For such a large mass of land, the Bolivians sure do a great job of mustering the tourists to all the same spots. Thankfully most people choose to do the three-day tour, where they leave the salt flats that day. We considered ourselves lucky (or clever) that we picked the four-day tour, meaning we would have not only sunset and sunrise on the flats but also; we would have it to ourselves.
The frigid air woke us up as we set up our GoPro cameras to time-lapse the event. We had nicknamed ourselves Team GoPro for the tour and were definitely outdoing ourselves.
If you can imagine four people running around salt flats waving selfie sticks around, then you have a pretty good idea of how we looked.
With cameras set up and ready to go, we settled into the salty ground and wrapped ourselves in blankets, waiting for the bright sun to emerge.
We had over-estimated the time of sunrise just a little so to pass the time we played music from Tommy’s portable speaker and put bets on what time the sun would rise. There was no one else around and it felt like we had the entire salt flats to ourselves. The only other visitors we saw were a herd of alpacas from the village close by and a few lone flamingos - not another human in sight. Before long, the sky started to lighten and different colours started to peek past the horizon line. Suddenly all bets were off, as we were too awestruck by the incredible view to take note of the time.
I have to admit, I’ve seen some pretty unreal sunrises in my time but this one just about tops them all. The white of the salt flats reflected on the morning sun, creating a kaleidoscope of pastel colours that flashed across the sky.
The puddles of salty water mirrored what we were seeing around us that created a kind-of sunrise inception, sans Leonardo DiCaprio.
We sat in silence, cosily tucked in our blankets and watched as the sky went from purple to pink to yellow. It truly was a surreal experience.
Salar De Uyuni holds approximately 43% of the world's lithium reserves
My camera lay beside me untouched. After several efforts of trying to create a photograph worthy of what I was seeing, I gave up and just enjoyed the moment. No photograph could do this place justice; it was just out of this world. As the sun rose slowly as did the heat of the day and we were peeling off layers as quickly as we had put them on.
Salar De Uyuni is estimated to contain over 10 million tonnes of salt
Early morning walks
Totally awake now, the adrenaline of seeing such an incredible view had the four of us continuing our Team GoPro antics and we ran and danced around the salt flats, embracing the solitude around us. It was such a contrast to the day before where you couldn’t take a photo without someone walking through it.
Now the only thing that could spoil your photo might be an alpaca or flamingo.
With the sun rising higher and the sky turning into a vivid blue, we packed up our GoPros and rolled up our blankets to head back in for breakfast. With not a cloud in the sky, it was shaping up to be a perfect day. The four of us were quiet and lost in our own thoughts as we walked back to our little homestay. Every couple of steps, one of us would look back at the salt flats for a moment as if to imprint this early morning image into our retinas forever. It really was an experience that was going to be hard to forget – or beat.
Team GoPro, alone on the salar
Things to Know:
- Book the four-day tour to witness the incredible sunsets and sunrises. Most tour companies will charge about 900 Bolivianos (approximately USD$130)
- Also, there really isn’t a need to book ahead. You will find the cheapest tours in Uyuni and can be booked the day before – or even the day of! Depends on what season it is.
- Bring sunscreen and sunglasses. The reflection of the sun from the salt flats can burn really badly!
- The infamous perception photos are harder than you think! But there is plenty of time to practice on the salt flats and also markets to buy knick-knacks to take photos with.
- We finished our tour on the Chilean border and continued into Chile. It is possible to start your tour in Chile, however it does tend to be more expensive
Jess Buchan is an Aussie travel blogger who has lived in Europe and loves to share her travel stories on her blog http://ablondeandherpassport.com Instagram: @ablondeandherpassport Twitter @ablondeandher
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.