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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Salar de Uyuni Tour (Chile to Bolivia)

2/5/2014 to 4/5/2014

Day 1

Today we (Dylan, Esther, Judith and I) finally started the Salar de Uyuni (salt flats of Uyuni) tour in San Pedro de Atacama. This morning was an early start to get to the Bolivian border after checking out of the Chilean side. After about an hour's drive to the border at 7:30 we crossed into Bolvia. The immigration office was more of a shack with an outstanding backdrop. The officials just opened my passport and stamped - without looking at my face. Welcome to the real South America. Our driver to this point was a hero and have us another groups breakfast (Dylan, the hero and me):

After a bit of a wait, we found another two English guys that would finish off our 6 for the trip and our driver, Soul. The other two groups who had booked under Estrella del Sur were both French and kept themselves to themselves. All the 4x4's out here are Toyota Land Cruisers'.  Once in we set off to the National Park office where we had to pay 150 bolivianos (£14). For the remainder of the day we saw many lagoons and volcanoes. We also saw different wildlife including lamas and flamingos! Although we shot up from 2500m above sea level in San Pedro to over 5000m in a day, none of us felt the effects of the altitude other than a bit of wind from the change in air pressure. Others weren't so lucky. Of all of the places I have been to, this is by far the most remote. I'll let the pictures do the talking from here:

Day 2

After waking up in a room that was like a fridge, we had breakfast and headed out for the day. A lot of driving today to make sure we get to the salt flats in time. Another day of looking at lagoons etc., which does start to drag despite their beauty. The pics do a better job than words: 

After driving for most of the day and capturing some good footage on the GoPro we arrived at the Salt Hotel where we would spend the night. A really nice place with hot water, which was decent considering it was our first shower in 2 days. 

Day 3

We were up very early today, 5:00am. As the hotel was in the middle of no where we had to rely on generators for power - needless to say, they weren't on at that time. We set to the salt flats for sunrise and breakfast. 

After sunrise, we headed to a small island -like mountain. More pictures but ended up waiting there for no apparent reason for 3 hours or so. After this we all did the mandatory prospective pictures (most are on my camera rather than iPhone). This was when it dawned on me just how big the flats were. You could see the curvature of the earth. The immense scale is breathtaking. The salt was rock solid and just seemed to go on forever. Our last stop was at an old train cemetery, which was pretty random. Overall the trip has been unreal and the salt flat blew my mind more than I expected. I'm a big fan of dramatic landscapes and this box was definitely ticked. On an even better note, Dylan is going to travel with me all the way to the Caribbean in Colombia. 

I'm now writing this from a night bus going from Uyuni to the capital of Bolivia, La Paz. To sum this up adequately, imagine being on an aeroplane with the worst turbulence you can think of. The roads are so bad and the driver doesn't care. It's so bad it's hard to type this. The tv doesn't even work anymore. They really don't mess about - we didn't go this fast off-road. Haha, brilliant. Hello La Paz.

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