Chile to Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Bolivia

Day 1

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.


Day 2

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.


Day 3

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,

Comment: very profesionell and well organized. Outfitted with satellite phone, first aid kid and
                   oxygen kit



San Pedro de Atacama – the highest desert in the world

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Chile

On our way to San Pedro, Chile, we observed the spectacular scene. Luckily we decided to do the day trip from Salta to Chile and those nine hours on the bus where fantastic. We drove through canyons, went up to 4 900 m and the road went through some salt flats. In the mountains we could see Vicuñas grassing on the green-yellowish grass.

Finally we arrived in the dusty little town of San Pedro de Atacama which lies on 2 000 m. With the wind and automatically the sand in our eyes we tried to orientate and found the tourist information in the center. First of all we needed money since we had only Argentinian Peso in our pockets. Somehow each traveler seemed to have the same trouble at the ATM. Out-of-order or no money in the machine. Luckily we could change our Peso with some Germans traveling into Argentina, so with the just changed Euros we could get Chilean Peso.

We booked a room in the Backpacker Hostel for three nights which was the cheapest in town. Lucky we stay only a couple of days in Chile since US $20 per night per person was way overpriced for this hostel. But let’s check out the little town, which seemed to be extraordinary. Hungry and thirsty we finally bought some food for dinner and left the planning for the next morning.

After a little sleep (our hostel had a party) we showed our German organization skill since we decided with Will, whom we have met in the bus, to leave already the next morning. We wanted to see the salt flats but we didn’t wanted to miss out on the Valle de la Luna Tour in San Pedro. Since we booked the 4 pm tour we had to hurry up sending off a parcel to Germany and changing some money for Bolivia.

With 14 other tourists we hopped on a microbus and drove through the strange landscape. There is a reason why they call it Valley of the Moon. The different colors in those valleys we drove through – e.g. Valle de Marte, Valle de la Muerte und Tres Marias – where fascinating. Never have I thought of so many colors in a desert. We enjoyed the sunset which would have been better if we would have waited for another 10 minutes to see the color changes


Back in the hostel we prepared everything for our big adventure in the Bolivian desert. Three days off-road in a Jeep, we were really excited. Let’s go to bed since we want to be fit for this trip. At 7:45 am the adventure will begin.

Accommodation: Backpacker Hostel

Price: CH $ 9 000 p. p, 4 bed dorm, shared bathroom, two kitchens

Comment: In case you stay in a room in the backyard they sometimes play music at the bar till
                midnight. If you book a 4am tour this is no fun. Even with two kitchens there are not enough
               pots and pans when the hostel is full. Not the cleanest facilities, the room was small. Price
              value wasn’t really achieved.

Tour Operator: Layana – Tour: Valle de la Luna


Salta – a stop over

Written by Nadine Zangerle on . Posted in Argentina

We arrived quite late in Salta and at midnight we stumbled towards town and found the Ferienhaus Hostel. Before we went to bed we enjoyed a bottle of Salta beer and where happy that we had a 6 bed dorm to ourselves.

The next day we wanted to do some errands – put another report online, do some laundry, plan the next trip and buy a bus ticket. On the way around town we unfortunately checked out some Artisan Stores. Why unfortunately?

In all our years traveling we had been good in controlling our shopping but this time we were very tempted. So we went back to the bus station, organized a ticket to San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) and were thinking if we should buy some things. You also want to have some reminders of your trip so we decided to spend some money. Which wasn’t a lot but we were concerned about the extra weight.

Happy that we bought it but already annoyed that we had to carry it, we decided to check in Chile for shipment prices. In Argentina it was not only too expensive but the customs have to check the package and only opens up in the morning. Our bus to San Pedro was early the next day so no possibility to send it from Argentina.

Michael prepared us a nice dinner with fantastic meet and we enjoyed my bottle of wine which I have won the other day in the bus. After winning twice in bingo at the bus I should think of playing in a Casino. Who knows?

You could do a lot in Salta but we were running out of time and money so we hopped on the next bus to get into Chile. Let’s see what we find there.

Accommodation: Ferienhaus Hostel Salta, 751 Alvarado, Salta

Prices: $ ARG 81 p.p., 6 bed dorm, shared bathroom, incl. breakfast (10 % discount with Go South book)

Comment: Super friendly staff. Spacious dorm rooms and very clean.