Sunday, May 29, 2011

Heaven gates - Salar de Uyuni (Salt desert)

Dion at heaven gates.
What is your imagination of heaven gates, or stairways to heaven? Or did you ever dream about walking in the clouds? Can you imagine that the photos of the salt desert are only partially as beautiful as this place in reality?
Read first previous intro story to heaven gates here.

Salar de Uyuni is a salt desert. It looks completely different during the rainy season and the dry one. I had a huge luck to experience it at the end of rainy season, when the whole dessert was covered with few or several centimeters of the water and is reflecting the sky and clouds. It gived a feeling of the ultimate purity, infinity and unreality.

We were very lucky that we got to this place very early, just for the sunrise. We were also very lucky that all of us wanted to enjoy the place to full extend and we all wanted to stay at the salt desert the whole day till the sun set. Because there was a lot of water on the salt desert this time of year, it was impossible to drive through it. We got only few kilometers inside the salt desert and from there we walked around it. All our group enjoyed posing and taking photos so we took quite a bit of them :) We played quite a bit with the perspective, and few shots are very interesting. Have a look on the album below, for few more pictures have a look on Marta and Kuba website.

Laura and Mai
We departures from the salt desert during the sun set. I went on the roof of the car to fully enjoy last moments in this place.

Our driver was behaving a bit strange. It was after sun set and he was wearing sun glasses. He also kind of missed the way out from the dessert. All of us ignore those symptoms. We were all digestion the beauty of the place.

I was also there :)
CSC_4767We were back on the road several kilometers from the Uyuni. There was a huge truck coming from opposite direction and we were driving in the middle of the road straight toward it. The driver felt a sleep and Kuba who was sitting next to the driver moved the steering wheel in the last moment to the right!!! Thanks to which we avoid very serious accident. This was dramatically experience for all of people in the car. We all forced the driver to stop. When the driver got out from the car it got obvious that he as well as our guide are very drank. The driver had a problem with standing straight! We immediately decided that one of us will drive back to Uyuni. The guide wanted to convince the driver to come back with us, but we did not manage to force the driver to re-enter the car. The driver stayed on the road and the guide promised to call someone to pick him up. Kuba drove back. We came back to our agency office and call police. In the agency we met a boss who accused us .....that it is our fault that the driver was drunk since we stayed on the salt dessert so long.....
The policeman that show up was defending an agency and the driver. The policemen admitted that the guide was drunk but he refused to give it in writing or to do the blood test. For obvious reasons they could not check the driver since he was not around. Policeman said that they would not look for a driver and if we want we could take a taxi and look for him on our own. We were unable to convince the policemen to give us any statement in writing. The police station is just next to travel agency. At the end we did not wanted to push the situation further not to get risk to be beaten up.

Marta and Kuba.
Drunk drivers are a general problem in Uyuni. The night that we were coming from the salt dessert people from two others jeep from others companies also realized that their drivers are drunk. I also heard about serious accidents during this trips - the last one happened one weak ago and apparently two tourist died.

From my side I tried to warn other travelers that they should have paid lot of attention to the drivers behaviour and not to drive with drunk drivers. I posted my experience on Lonely Planet traveling forum, wrote warning on wiki travel, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.
Please be carefully and do not go with Andes Salt Expeditoons Tour Operator!!! They have drunk drivers!!!!
 I also wrote a warning on the  Andes Salt Expedition in the guest book. I wander how long it will stay there :)

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