Chile to Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia
We met Will in the bus from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama. Since we had the same trip in mind, driving through the salt flats to Bolivia, we agreed to do the tour together. Waiting in front of our hostel us three got anxious about the experience. With the microbus they drove us to the border – a small hut in the desert – where we got the next stamp. Don’t ask me how Michael convinces the Immigration Officers to squeeze another stamp in. Before we jumped in our jeep we had a breakfast with cheese and sausage, how good was that for a start? After breakfast they divided us into groups of six and we started packing our jeep.
Our team from Cordillera consisted of three times six people. We were lucky with the team and we were a crazy mix of Europeans (3 Brits, 1 French and 2 Germans). For sure we found a suitable name -“Las Vicuñas Locas” (the crazy Lamas). Our 65 years old driver Clemente was well experienced. After driving this road weekly over 12 years he knew every single bump and hole on the way.
After Clemente secured our big luggage on the roof rack off we went through the desert. The foothills of the Andes were extremely colorful and we were surprised about those shades in the desert. On our way to the first accommodation we stopped at several lagoons with so different colors and full with flamingos. The first day we went all the way up to 5000m and luckily non from our team had trouble with the altitude. Others weren’t so lucky when we arrived at our first lodging on 4200m and had to fight with a massive headache, stomach ache, vomiting or all symptoms.
To get rid of the dust we jumped into a hot spring on our way to a geyser. The hot, sizzling ponds around the spraying geyser where impressive and reminded us on Rotarua – New Zealand. You shouldn’t go to close to the steaming, puffing geyser and we enjoyed the landscape when we continued through the desert.
Past Lamas und vicuñas (a smaller version of Lamas) we were surprised about those thousands of flamingos feeding in the different lagoons. Flamingos eat algae and depending on the algae, the feather shine in those specific colors. They were so close we could almost touch them. But remember, touch only with your eyes!
The six of us couldn’t stop taking pictures and were stunned from the beauty of nature. Our lodging was another surprise. Warmer and more comfortable than expected we devoured dinner and went out for star gazing. Unfortunately the moon was too bright but we enjoyed the quiet night.
One girl from another group was so miserable we gave her one of our Diamox we still had from our Nepal Trek and the next day she could enjoy the trip. But none of us slept really well since the heart beat goes up in altitude.
The second day we started at 7:30am and off we went in the jeep. More lagoons with those funny creatures – flamingos – and into a Canyon were we found Chinchillas catching some sun rays.
At the Arbol de Piedra (rock tree) we made a little stop to observe the bizarre formations of rocks. How do those rocks get here in the middle of a desert? Before we could think of a solution we continued our trip through the dusty desert. During our trip through the dry land we came across some hard core bikers crossing the desert towards Chile. From a safe distance we had a good look upon an active volcano before we reached our second lodging.
High-spirited from this experience we killed 8 bottles of wine and some beer cans. Our driver Clemente identified the situation very quick and out of three groups we were the only ones who could sleep in. Alcohol is not the best idea in altitude but we felt a normal hang over the next day. We had a quick breakfast in our hotel made of salt and left the glittering house for our last day into the salt flats.
But the scenery woke all our senses. Finally arriving on the Uyuni Salt Flats – with 12 000 m2 the biggest salt flats in the world – we drove over the white honeycomb formation. At the Isla Incahuasi we made a stop and we walked around this island with cactus full of flowers. Suddenly we realized that we stood on top of a coral reef, frozen in time. You could still make out the coral formation and the island was surrounded by salt. What an unreal sight.
When we stepped on the Salar de Uyuni we jumped around like little kids and played with picture motives – fighting with a dinosaur, eating each other, standing on a hand or get squashed under a foot. Wasn’t so easy especially with the reflecting salt and the sun but we had fun.
At the end of our trip we drove to the Train Cemetery in Uyuni. Those old, rotten trains and logs where a playground not only for the camera and we loved to climb those trains. As always when you really enjoy something it is faster over than you think, so after three days we had to say goodbye to our team. But this was definitely one of our highlights in South America.
Jeeptour to Bolivien: Cordillera Traveller, www.cordilleratraveller.com
Comment: very profesionell and well organized. Outfitted with satellite phone, first aid kid and