Arriving in Uyuni, the gateway to the awe-inspiring Salar de Uyuni, is uninspiring. No, make that just downright depressing. Never has a tourist town been so obviously nothing but, and so indifferent to what is has to offer. If you want to go to the salt flats, you’ll end up here, so suck it up gringo.
The best it had to offer was another wonderful example of modern Bolivian WTF architecture.
Okay, it also had a tourist bar that did a play on the indoor beach bar thing and did a salt bar (yup, the pillars, tables, and ‘sand’ floor are made of salt).
Certainly made tequila shots a breeze!
I’m sorry for being so down on the place since it really wasn’t any more ugly than many other towns I’ve been to, but what really brought it down was the people. Everyone living there lived off tourism in one way or another and they hated it. And they made it obvious. Repeatedly.
But, enough of that- I’ve got better things to talk about than that… Like the salt flats! Though you will have to forgive me while I digress a bit before we get there… In Kenya during one of my numerous bike chats with people, someone mentioned a wonderfully modified BMW HP2 that was being ridden by an Israeli fellow. Then, when I was staying at THE riders place in Buenos Aires, Dakar Motors, a guy on a modified HP2 rode up. Before long it was obvious that it was the bike (and guy) I had heard about. We had a quick chat before he had to go on his way and that was that. Then, On my first night in Uyuni, I went to a local restaurant and sat down next to a small group of guys. We made casual eye contact and- HP2 Dude! It was the same guy again! And the three other guys at his table were also riders and they were going into the salar the next day too!
So, plans were made and we arranged to meet up the next day to ride the salar together- perfect!
After writing this I just realised that I completely forgot, and perhaps insulted, a couple of very cool guys.
In South Africa I met a rider on a Honda VFR (yeah- I know, crazy) who had just ridden down the west coast of Africa and was preparing to ship his bike over to Buenos Aires to continue his trip in South America. A cool encounter, especially since I ended up spending a couple of weeks with him at the same backpackers while I was waiting for my Angola visa and he was trying to get South African customs to clear his bike to Argentina. Thing is, buy the time I got to South America I expected him to be long gone, however, life had intervened and he was living with a lovely young lady Santiago! So, not only did I get to meet up with him again, but I was able to store my bike at his place while I played tourist. Riders stick together!
Now, the story gets better. Mr. VFR also had a riding friend in Santiago who had done a round the world trip and was happy to help out other proper long distance riders. With nothing more than an e-mail address I got in contact with him and was offered a place to stay for as long as I needed in Santiago. No questions, no crap- just one rider helping out another. Within 5 minutes of meeting him I had a key to the apartment and my own room. Every night I was invited out with hi friends and made to feel truly welcome. Rider stick together!
So, I just want to take to opportunity to thank Mr. VFR and Mr. Tequila Lover for not only making me feel welcome, but really making a difference in my ride.