I had yet another early start and woke up at 6am to be collected around 6:30. The bus was half full off sleepy tourists as it raced around San Pedro. Benny, who i met on the Red Rocks tour a few days before, managed to grab the seat next to me and we headed up, literally at 4000 metres, to the border.
The Chilean side went smoothly, they kindly let me use the toilet and I noticed that they had a table tennis table. We then raced over to the Bolivian side and it was here that I realised I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Now most people seem to travel South America from the north to the south. Either starting in Colombia, Central America or a multitude of other places. I started in the south and am travelling north, which I think and don’t quote me, is less common. So I’ve been told that Argentina and Chile are really well developed, which they are, but for me they are really different to Europe. However for those who have visited the poorer countries in the north they are very close to Europe, expensive and I think as a result many travellers don’t stay so long. I hadn’t really thought about this as I’ve been her a long time. It was only when I reached the Bolivian border that I realised things were going to be different from here on in…
Benny has a little trouble with the border owing to him being a US citizen. He had triplicate paper work, the fee and everything else and still they needed a bribe. Whilst Benny stressed the rest of us ate breakfast and it was here that we met Melissa, Emma, Ruben and Niklas who were to be our friends for the rest of the tour. The company told us to divide into groups and we jumped into the Jeep’s with Simón, our driver and guide.
The breakfast was great along with all the food on the tour. We were never rushed and stopped for extra photos on request. I booked with White World Travel, going from San Pedro to Uyuni.
We were whisked away and soon arrived as Laguna Blanca. This was after a quick stop to buy tickets for the National Park. After an introduction in Spanish, I would end up knowing little about what we were to see over the next few days so don’t ask, we jumped out in the freezing cold to have a look and take photos. As you can see in the group shot below the lake is frozen! So yeah it was cold and this day was really grey so that didn’t help much.
We then drove across to Laguna verde which didn’t really look very green to me owning to the cloud. We didn’t stay too long.
Then we stopped at this random place in the dessert. I don’t know why but I took photos.
Then we came to the hot springs. It was freezing and I very nearly didn’t go but after missing every other opportunity I figured that I should. So I stripped off to my trunks and very quickly jumped into the quieter of the two pools. After some time we changed pools and found the reason the other was busier is because it was hotter. I dreaded getting out but it’s wasn’t as bad as I thought. Mostly because my body was so warm from the pools. We were told to stay for only 20minutes and I’m not sure if I stayed too long but this is where the altitude started to hit me.
Next up was the thermals and these were at an altitude of nearly 5000 metres and there were still mountains towering above. Call me stupid but I never realised that flat land could be this high. I just assumed that it was mountains but no there is tonnes of flat as you can see from the pictures. I think I’ve said this before but London is 35 metres above sea level. So go outside and look up at the clouds and that is how high I was. Again I don’t know anything about the thermals but they stank and bubbles away so I took pictures as any good tourists would.
We stopped for lunch at our accommodations, which had no heating and was well above 4600 metres. On the first night we were in a 6 person dorm but with all the extra sleeping bags and blankets we were cozy and warm. Lunch was again delicious and I broke out the dice for the first time in months and everyone really got into Perudo which was nice.
I was still suffering quite badly so I made myself some tea from the random herbs I brought in San Pedro. It tastes gross but it did help and I drank a lot of water.
After lunch we headed to this red lake with flamingos. Again I don’t really know anything about t other than it was so cold. This time I was having trouble walking due to the altitude. If I walked any faster than a crawl I was left fighting for breath. Once I realised my limits it was okay and I felt like and old man hanging out at the back. Benny was kind enough to stay back with me to make sure I was okay.
After the lake we headed back to the accommodation had dinner and went to check out the local shops. There was a bar that we visited but all declined a drink due to the altitude and ended up in bed by 8pm after another game of Perudo.
We had breakfast at the hotel and headed out early to some rock formations in the middle of the dessert. There was nothing to say we couldn’t climb on the rocks so we did. At one point Niklas and I tried to climb up one set and were blocked. Ruben and Benny scrambled straight up other formations and later Melanie was kind enough to take some photos of me posing.
We moved on to another set of rocks which was home to some rabbits. Well kinda rabbits.
And then stopped in the middle of the desert. There was a great song on the raído and Simone turns it up so we had an impromptu disco. I have a video but I don’t know how to upload it here.
After another long drive and passing a load of cyclists who were doing the same tour as us, but on bikes, some people are just crazy!
We ended up at another salt lake, again I don’t remember the name, but Emma helped me take one of the best photos I’ve taken on the trip. I’ll let you decide which one.
We stopped by another lake for lunch.
And when we headed on we all thought that we could see a camel in the mountain. It turned out that that we were all seeing different camels but let me know if you can see one.
The next stop off was stop to see an active volcano. There was also a sign saying that we couldn’t do something but I still have no idea what.
After this stop I was able to ride shotgun and managed to snap some shots of the dust thrown up by the trucks.
the final stop of the day was the train line. I managed to tick off another bucket list item by sitting on the tracks. Before you worry there are only two trains a week and it’s easy to see if any are coming. Melissa took some really nice group shots with her camera and We took Benny hostage for fun.
Again I rode upfront and took some. More shots. It’s really interesting to drive though this dessert as you can’t believe how far away the mountain are in the distance. We never seemed to reach them despite driving for miles and miles.
We arrived at our second hostel which had salt for carpets and had hot water-In one shower only. We convinced Simon to drive us to one of the shops to get some cactus beer and opted to get up at 5am to see the sunrise on the Salt Flats. But not before we drank the beer, played a few games of Perudo and were mobbed by the children.
I had yet another early rise and it was getting ridiculous as to how many early morning a I had had in the past 12 days. It was absolutely freezing too. I ended up in the front seat which had become much less popular since the door on the passenger side had broken meaning I had to climb over everything but also I was able to get the warmth from the engine which was good. We set of in the dark and soon light started showing over the horizon. I snapped a couple of photos but the jerky ness of the car made it impossible to get anything in focus but I really like the first photo.
Soon we arrived at the Salar de Uyuni and this part was covers in a thin layer of water giving a beautiful reflection. I can’t tell you how cold it was here but it was completely worth it. I’ve never seen so many colours and the reflections with the clouds was just stunning. There are no filters on any of the shots below. It’s all completely natural.
After we had watched the sun rise we were taken to an island in the lake where the re were lots of cactus growing. Just to give you an idea of scale the lake is 200 kilometres long. That’s further than from Portsmouth to London. And a depth of 140 metres. It’s huge.
We walked around the island in the middle of the Salt and returned to have breakfast in a beautiful setting.
Afterwards it was time to make the perspective photos and kudos to Melissa as she took charge and without her I don’t think they would have been anywhere near as good.
After we finished playing around it was time to leave but not before we stopped past a lot of flags in the Salt Flats.
And then there was one last stop in Uyuni. A train cemetery. I’d like to write so much more but again this is crashing due to the amount of photos so I’ll leave them to do the talking.