San Pedro de Atacama (Chili) to Salar De Uyuni (Bolivia)
We eventually got to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (2440m, crazy how you get out of breath so easily!) with a hell of a delay at the border crossing again making it another 14 hour trip to Chile. We were greeted by our hostel man and checked in to our dorm room, we had to dorm it as San Pedro is so expensive just a bed in a dorm is £7.
We were knackerd but managed to get up the energy to walk around this tiny dessert oasis, its everything you think a desert town would be, dusty, dry and very hot! This town is geared for tourism, with lots of tours and activities to do. We had a nice bite to eat and went back to our hostel and got talking to 2 American girls in our dorm room. We discovered that they were interested in doing the same trip as us to the salt flats. So the next day we set about booking our next adventure. I woke up with no sleep as it was too hot, I hurried the girls to get ready and we went and compared loads of tour agencies. This is essential when doing a 3 day 4 wheel drive tour to Uyuni, and we found the right tour for the right price and its reputation was amazing. Always make sure there is only 6 in the jeep and the vehicle is reliable and the driver is a good laugh, English speaking drivers are non-existant.(See the feedback book at the tourist info office for good advice from other tourists before booking).We also joined up with a German guy called Frank and he booked on the tour as well.
Late that afternoon we went on a dessert hiking tour to Death Valley and the Lunar Valley. We had a lovely guide called Gonzalo and took an amazing hike through the dessert, through canyons, sand dunes and across dried up river and lake beds. It was a completely different and stunning experience for our first time in the dessert. Then we got to the Valley of the moon, its named this as it resembles the surface of the moon and has an other worldly feel! We hiked for an hour up a hill to watch the sun set over the Valley, this was pretty special, as the sun setting made the valley turn all sorts of colours and shapes!
San Pedro is a really cool place, so different!
Absolutely knackered we hit the sack for an early start the next morning. We got picked up at 8am in a Mini bus and drove to the Bolivian border, had a nice cup of coffee and some breakfast, got our passport stamped and met our crew. We had one English speaking 4 x 4 and one Spanish speaking 4 x 4 and a real highlight of the trip was our driver Figo, so friendly and smiley and never got bored (hilarious laugh!).
On the first day we stopped at 3 different coloured lagoons and watched flamingoes eat and fly in their natural environment! We started to get to know our travel buddies really well, Frank from Germany, Sarah and Robyn from USA, Catherine from London and in the other car, Carol, Lucas and Gustavo from Brazil, Julia from Argentina and Hannah and Pato from Chile.
We were driving along over the bumpy terrain and Figo pulls out this green bag of Cocoa leaves and hands them around to help us to deal with the crazy altitudes. We stopped by a hot pool formed by natural hot springs and took a dip, one of the highlights. When I got out at the geysers (5000m) I almost fell over and Frank caught me, I had lost my footing because I was so dizzy. The Geysers were amazing bubbling away, but the sulphur smelt like and egg factory! Everyone started to go a little quiet at this point, we were all wrecked from the altitude, Sarah was especially affected. We then arrived at our hostel in the middle of no-where(4500m - same height as our sky dive in New Zealand!) We dropped off our bags and went to see the red lagoon near by and marvelled at the beautiful flamingoes. We had a nice social meal, I got talking to a Brazilian guy called Gustavo (who is in love with his GPS!) who was telling hilarious stories of his adventures and we hit it off immediately, he is one of the nicest guys I have met so far! He is funny and kind and a joy to be around.
The next day we didn't really wake up as none of us had really been to sleep. I took a morning photo vote on how good the nights sleep was and there were a lot of thumbs down, mainly due to the lack of oxygen everyone was short of breath. Day 2 we drove a lot and saw 4 more lagoons and some amazing scenery and had a picnic by some volcanic rocks overlooking a huge active volcano, which was smoking away in the distance. We saw 8 Brazilian guys squashed into the jeep next to us with a lack of food, looking distinctly unimpressed! Would recommend Estrella del Sol tour company - £89 for 3 days all inclusive.
In the afternoon feeling refreshed from lunch we drove to San Juan and then to our hostel in another town close by we all took a walk around the town and the boys went for a warm local beer and the girls took a walk, the accommodation was spot on and me Mish and Gustavo shared a room, we had a gorgeous chicken dinner and the Brazilians taught me a cool card game called tricko.
The next day it was raining and we missed the sunrise bit gutted but got 2 more essential hours kip! We then headed to the highlight of the tour, the salt flats, this was an incredible experience, we messed around with funny photos at this one site, and then headed off to an island on the flats. The island was made up of dead coral I guess from when it was under water! There were many cacti and some were thousands of years old. We were grateful that it had rained in the morning as there was a perfect reflection off the salt. The sun had come out between white fluffy clouds, because of the reflection you could not see the line of the horizon, creating an optical illusion that you were walking on the clouds, unbelievable!!!! On the photos the reflection is so clear that it looks as though there are two people in the photo on top of one another! We took many many pictures here and we all agreed that this is the closest thing to heaven on earth!!
We then drove across the salt flats, which was like flying we had our last lunch with the group and arrived at Uyuni around 3pm and said our emotional good byes especially to Frank who is a legend!
We checked into a hotel for a good nights kip and went to get some pizza, when low and behold we bump into Gustavo, Carol and Lucas and find out they have been trying to find us! As it happens Gustavo had been looking for us in all the hostels and hotels, what a legend!
We stayed in Uyuni for 2 days that was well enough time as there isn't a lot to do, we treated ourselves to 1 £14 room to get some sleep and the next day checked into a hostel.
We checked out of the hostel at 11am and had a painful 9 hour wait for our bus to La Paz, we went to drop our bags off at the bus company because the luggage room was full, this was so lucky because when we got there, they said the service would be cancelled for 2 days coz of heavy rain and it was too dangerous. We thought we would have to stay another 2 nights in Uyuni, but the women helped us get on another bus for half the price which left that night so it all turned out great.
This bus journey can only be described as hell! 7 bloody hours of being battered and thrown at 10mph around in our not very comfortable seats and also being stupidly hot!! Its funny to look back on but it was horrible at the time!!! We went through rivers over massive boulders which almost tipped us over!! Poor driver doing that every day. The last 6 hours of the trip was smoother and we managed to get some kip. If you want a cheap bus go with Omar travel, if you want a comfy bus go with tudo turismo but it will still be horrible so prepare yourselves!!
We arrived in La Paz (3600m) on the 3rd Feb and got a taxi to our hostel for £1, feels so good to be in cheap land again. Then we met up with our Brazilian friends and went out for some drinks and 2 giant pizza's, so full only £2 each!
We headed back to the hostel Loki, which is incredible, toilets every where massive bar,oxygen bar, very clean, cool staff ,, hot showers, free wifi, playsations dvds, everything!! For £10 for a room you cant go wrong, you even get Towels.
That night we had a party in the bar and had a right laugh and danced a bit.
The next day we visited a church that was built in 1549 and learnt a bit about the history of La Paz, and we had our Brazilian friends translating what the guide said, perfect! It was so funny mich and carol got really into the your but after 10 minutes all the lads were bored stupid and just wanted to grab some lunch, it felt like a long hour! We have really hit it off with the 3 amigos, they are so kind, helpful and really good fun to be around.
We have booked a 60k downhill mountain bike tour for tomorrow called "the worlds most dangerous road"! So that will be fun! So the 5 of us are up early to bike for 4 hours to Coroico, Mish and I will stay a few days in Coroico as its on the way to the Amazon basin, but the guys will come back as they are flying out of La Paz.
La paz is a cazy city, you can tell its quite a poor city and alot of people strugglle to get by, the qsadest thing is having 80 year wmoen begging for money, makes me very sad, so we do our best to help them out. It feels safe here aswell we will be back in about of week to do some more things in and around the city.
Having such a great time here, Bolivia is so different, I love the clothes, the culture, people and the diverse landscapes. I have bought 2 Alpaca jumpers they are so soft, so if you want one let me know and ill send it back for you, only £10 for a beautiful one.
This blog Is quite brief, to be honest I have been really tired for the last week as we have been constantly traveling. We were going to stay in La Paz for 6 nights but wanted to do this trip with Lucas, Gustavo and Carol before they go. So soon we will have a week some where to sleep and just chill, this place Coroico is meant to be a good place to relax.
Cantt wait for tomorrow and some more adventures it just keeps getting better!!!!
Ads and mich xxx