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Salt Flats of Uyuni - Day 2

Written on: Tuesday January 8th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

Author: Julie


Our driver woke us up this morning at 8:30 with the information that with the help of the other driver, he had fixed the truck. We were happy and got quickly ready to go since we should have left at 6:00 AM if all had gone well the day before. We threw our bags up on the truck, got in and when the driver went to start the truck: nothing. The truck wasn?t working again. So, he popped the roof and we took down our bags and went back into the hostel to wait. We were all still hopeful but by 10 AM, with the help of Kevin, he came back in to announce that the truck needed a spare part. Julien, Galia, and Laura were getting worried as they had connecting buses back to La Paz, Bolivia and Lima, Peru respectively leaving the next night. If we were stranded here for one day while we waited part to come in and truck to be repaired they would be a day late and would miss their bus. So, after talking with driver, he agreed to go into the little village and make the appropriate calls to get the buses sorted out. He didn?t know the number to any of our tour agencies so we cobbled together the receipts they had issues us and drove to the village on the hostel owners bike.

Kevin kept working on the truck with the limited tools he had. He stripped the wires, cleaned the connectors to the spark plugs and the distributor cap. He also added water to the battery as it was bone-dry. It was amazing to look at the disaster that was our engine. Every single electrical wire was corroded beyond belief, the battery connectors were green from the corroded copper. The entire inside of the engine compartment was caked with a half inch layer of salt. No wonder we were having so many problems! After almost an hour and half of re-wiring, he was able to start the truck. Yeah! And it was just in time for the driver to make it back. With a quick smile but no thank you, he announced that it was too late now to leave on the trip and that we would have to wait till tomorrow morning to resume our itinerary, so we were stuck here in the salt hotel. He also told the three that were waiting to hear information about their bus that there would be no problem, but in the same breath asked if any of us had another phone number for our tour agencies. Seems they all were for cellphones that were now disconnected. So, really he was never able to reach anyone, let?s hope he?s right about the buses.

So, with an afternoon to ourselves, Kevin and I went to lay down for a quick nap. The day before had been long and tiring and we were still exhausted. Luckily for us, the beds were comfy and we just about to fall asleep when we heard a large thunderclap explode above our heads. We arose to the sight of ominous clouds coming our way. We could see dozens of lightning streaking the sky. It was going to be a doozy of a storm! And it certainly was. It started with large hail slowly moving its way across the barren landscape from a mile away, inching its way towards us. When it hit the roof above our hotel it created a dissonance that woke the others. It hailed for quite a while and we all had our faces pressed to the window watching it accumulate on the ground. The door to the hostel wasn?t well installed and it was difficult to keep it shut without something wedged behind it, so a bank of hail was slowly building inside the hostel, through the gap in the door. When things started to calm down and the hail turned into a heavy rain, we opened the door wide to have a pile fall into the entrance. It was so weird! But that?s when the troubles started. Water melts salt. The salt hostel was built to withstand rain but not a heavy layer of hail that melted all at the same time, so the walls and ceilings started to leak. We had to run from room to room to flip the mattresses up and away from the huge leaks that were coming down in each room. Most of them got a few wet spots but we managed to save them from being soaked through. The owner had just arrived and he kept saying over and over ?It?s terrible, it?s terrible?. We felt so bad for him and spent the remainder of the afternoon emptying out the full buckets of water and sopping up the water coming in from the entrance. That is all of us except for the driver and his girlfriend the cook. They never came out of their room till past 6 PM. We had to make our own tea and coffee to warm ourselves up after dealing with the freezing cold water. We were all covered in salty drops of water, our heads were caked with salt and our clothes were stained with salt spots. Sections of the walls had started to show through and the ceiling panels had huge dips from where the water had accumulated. The ceiling would have to be replaced and a good portion of the walls would need to be patched up. Luckily the owner wasn?t expecting anyone else for that night so we could leave the mattresses to dry and he could deal with the worse of the damage the next morning when things had time to dry out a bit.

As the evening approached, the storm passed and the flow of water stopped. The sunset and we were We settled down with our teas and biscuits to play card games and pass the remaining hours away. That?s when the cook and driver decided to make an appearance. He went out to check on his truck and she started to make our supper. At about the same time, the hostel owner got a bit of a surprise. Two full trucks of travellers appeared looking for rooms, so we quickly moved our stuff into a dry room before they did. After all, we felt entitled to it since we help save the hostel.

Here's a small video of the hail storm.