Uyuni Salt Flats, Uyuni, Potosi: Welcome to Bolivia

The 4x4s of the tour group

We had heard a few horror stories of the tours that take you from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to Uyuni in Bolivia. Drunken drivers, dodgy jeeps and drivers navigating the rugged terrain at great speeds. As it was just about the only way to get from northern Chile into Bolivia, we had few other options and tried to find out who the least dodgy tour operators were.

There was no real way of knowing the dodge factor and after heading to the office of  one that was well reviewed, we weren’t entirely reassured. It was hard to get any information out of them about the tour and when we asked if we could have a general itinerary of the trip, we were told simply that we would “see lots of things and go to lots of places”. When the bus driver picked us up it was evident that we were not the only ones who had no idea what the tour entailed. Only half the group were told that we had to bring the full three days worth of water and no one had any clearer idea of where we were going. We did later find one person who had managed to obtain an itinerary but she was inundated by people asking her what was happening next.

The bus driver who picked us up from San Pedro to be taken to the Bolivian border seemed to be just as clueless. He did several laps of the small town stopping outside hostels looking for the rest of our tour group. He even resorted to yelling “Bolivia?!” out the window at pedestrians in the street who looked like they could possibly be tourists.

Luckily we were driving in a reliable Toyosa Landcruiser…. wait….

Once we got in our jeeps, however, it was fine. The cars were reliable (trusty old Toyosa (?) Land Cruisers), the drivers sobre and the tour was reasonably well organised. Our driver was perhaps even a bit too cautious, slowing right down over small mounds in the road. I think we must have got the new driver because he kept slowing down to let the others overtake so he could check which way we were going. I’m not sure how they navigated the huge national park with no roads and with seemingly no use of a gps but we cruised along through volcanoes, mountains and countless lagunas.

The 3 flamingigos.

Lots of stops to see flamingoes and laguna after laguna…

There was dirt everywhere…and it got everywhere. A week later I think our clothes and skin are still recovering. It was even sunny enough to justify wearing our silly hats.

The minerals such as borax and sulphur gives the interesting colours at the lagoons
Another laguna

Lots of llama-meeting opportunities.

Attack of the high altitude green gooby things

A strange green plant that only grows at very high altitudes. We were at around 4000m which was enough to blame our shortness of breath after walking short distances on the altitude rather than our terrible level of fitness…

Jeep brigade, assemble!
Another another laguna?

Amazing scenery although sometimes there is such a thing as too many lagunas visited in a day.

Salt hotel

Our accommodation for the second night was a hotel made almost entirely out of salt. The tables, chairs, beds, floors and inside walls were made from blocks of salt presumably stolen from the nearby salt flats. Irony of the trip was that they served us unsalted chips for dinner…

Sunrise at the salt flats

After some groaning, our group voted to get up at 5am to see the sunrise over the salt flats.

Still sunrise

Was OK I spose.

Cactus island!
No head?

They stopped in the middle of the salt flat for us to take the obligatory silly photos.

Our photos didn’t quite turn out as well as the French couple in our group that put on crazy matching pants, set up a tripod and filmed a black and white arthouse film of themselves posing around the salt flats…

Safety at its finest

Our hotel was quality. Who needs extension leads when you can just wrap the wires directly around the plug without insulation? Their mains voltage is 220v which is 20 less volts than Australia which by my calculations still means DEATH! OK I am being over dramatic, just don’t touch around the TV when you are searching for the light switch. They had amazing signs like “Mr. user hints that washing in the bathroom is frowned upon” and “Put is forbidden on the table”.

The aftermath of the carnival incident

After three days in the national park, we made it to the small town of Uyuni where the tour ended. We assumed Uyuni would be a bit boring considering none of us could believe that the desolate dirt roads that we were driving through were actually those of Uyuni. We were actually really very wrong. This was because we were yet to hear of the “Extreme Fun Pub”. Sean won a chicken hat for beating a beer drinking challenge and they had a range of humorous novelty glasses…

A chicken hat??! Life is complete!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Catherine Dawson says:

    Loved this entry So glad I knew about it after you did it. Your photos were great So nice to see your beautiful happy faces You did your dad proud Sean great chicken hat Love Mum


    1. Luke Dawson says:

      Rock on guys, thinking of you


  2. Karen Mill says:

    Im guessing the chicken hat photo was taken after the drinking competition. You sure look silly, Sean


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