Cementerio de Trenes: Where Transportation Hopes Come to Die

Hello, hello, friends! This is the beginning of a rapid-fire blog journey following our tire tracks south from La Paz, Bolivia by overnight bus to Uyuni and then onward via 4×4 through cemeteries, salt flats, volcanoes and lakes, through lands of geysers and hot springs and high elevation passes, and finally past the Chilean border and into the Atacama desert. Enjoy the ride!

He stopped the vehicle and welcomed us to the Cemetery of Trains. An auspicious beginning.

Note to Tourist Industry in Bolivia: Consider starting a second Graveyard of Transportation Equipment. After breathing exhaust fumes through the night, I’m quite confident that there are plenty of decrepit busses that would do much better in the wild wind and salt of Southwest Bolivia than they do on the washboard gravel roads leading to the tourist trap that is Uyuni.

Now, let me preface the tale by stating the following: We planned to travel overland from Peru, through Bolivia, and on to Chile. We knew we wanted to see the Salt Flats. We also knew that the straightforward way to accomplish the mission and see the sights was to book one of the many ill-rated, ill-fated 4×4 overland expeditions based out of the salt industry/traveler cattle herding outpost of Uyuni.

We take full responsibility for finding ourselves whisked off to the middle of the desert to take in the view of ancient relics of industrial progress.

Fortunately, our three day, two night tour with the “Best of the Worst” company landed us with top notch traveling companions: Roderigo from Brazil, Saerom from South Korea, Alale from Spain/Iran, and Pablo from Brazil.

We were about to spend 60+ hours squished together on bench seats and head to head in bare bone dorms; what better break-the-ice game than “Pose with your favorite geriatric version of Thomas the Tank Engine”?

We made light of the funky pit-stop and took the same twelve photos that every visitor manages: rail road tracks, rusted train car, brilliant sky, etc., etc..




After one last look around at the windblown landscape of sage brush and plastic bags, we piled into our 4×4 with all of our worldly {backpacking} possessions strapped and tarped to the roof of the car, and kissed goodbye the world of comfort as we set out on a three day, x,xxx kilometer trip toward the distant Chilean border… (Okay, maybe it was only 550km, but it felt like thousands.)

Snippets for Those Who Enjoy Clicking Links & Learning More (it takes one to know one…)

Salar de Uyuni facts and figures

How to Choose a Salt Flat Tour in Bolivia

Another travel account on Beers & Beans summarizing well the tour:
“This not a trip for the faint of heart. But, it is a trip of a lifetime.”

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17 thoughts on “Cementerio de Trenes: Where Transportation Hopes Come to Die

  1. Do any of the trains choose to be cremated instead? Just curious…

    Also, I’m sure you get this *all* the time, but your pictures are phenomenal.

    Also Also, I secretly hope you made a twoOregonians stensil and tagged one of the trains, Banksy style.

    Keep up the good work. : )

    • I thought of you, my friend! You would’ve loved all the oranges and the blue, blue sky. Also…p.s…as you can see, I finally got around to the diptych tutorial ; ) Thanks again for the link! Much love. xx

    • Aw, thanks! I think it’s fun to take pictures — just ask Ted : ) Haha…

      We have an older model Cannon PowerShot SD1200 IS, and my dad gave me his hand me down Nikon D70. It’s a beast to lug around, but it’s worth it for the click of the button and the sound of that shutter. : ) Do you know what camera gear you guys are going to take?

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    • Hi Judy! So glad you’re enjoying the read. It’s always good to hear who’s traveling with us in our digital suitcase : ) Hugs, Bethany

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