We were picked up at 6.30am from our hostel in San Pedro and driven to the border crossing. As we waited for our turn, our group bonded. Two Kiwis, one Australian, a German, an Austrian and a Spanish girl. I was super excited to find that the language we all had in common was English – we had been forewarned that everyone would probably be speaking only Spanish. Having Abby (the Spanish girl) in our group also meant she could translate what our driver said into English. Our group was feeling great!
The crossing was easy: apparently it’s a lot more difficult in the other direction as Chile has strict border control. We had a yummy breakfast in the crisp morning air before beginning day one of the journey through Bolivia. First stop was Laguna Blanco. The reflection of the mountains on the water was simply unreal. Laguna Verde was also pretty beautiful, especially with the volcano in the background. We drove through the Salvador Deli desert, where we made our first fox and vicuña (like deer) sightings.
The Polques Hot Springs were warm, but not quite as hot as the Sol de Manana Geysers which can reach temperatures of 180 degrees. The geysers were our highest point in the tour: clocking in at a solid 4800m above sea level. Our whole jeep was. Inching on coca leaves to try and alleviate the effects of being so high. An impressive lunch was then had at our nights accommodation before we headed back out to the Colorada Lagoon. Boy, it was windy here. This was soon forgotten as I spotted all the llamas and flamingos feeding close to the shore.
Back at the hostel, everyone was starting to get pretty tired. We shared in a decent dinner with about six other groups, charged our phones in the 4 hour window where we had electricity and actually hit the hay not long after 9pm. I managed to spill my entire drink bottle through my bed moments before I climbed in, which delayed our room’s bedtime for about 25 minutes while I got that sorted (sorry guys!).
Day two, and altitude sickness got us good. Sounds like Andy and I scraped less than a few hours of sleep between us due to the absolute throbbing headaches we’d developed and a slight shortness of breath. To my dismay, my headache would last all day. After stomaching no more than a banana each we were on the road again.
We drove through the Siloli Desert to the over glorified rock tree. We then visited four different lagoons where we saw an absolute abundance of flamingoes (literally thousands) and a huge array of different colours radiating from the landscape. The lagoons were all vibrantly coloured, due to the presence of certain minerals or bacteria in each one. We ate lunch in a glass building overlooking the most populous lagoon: flamingoes were literally everywhere.
We spent the night in a salt hotel. The walls of our room and to a lesser extent the floor were made of salt crystals. It was really beautiful and located in a Ferny tiny town (Colcha K) that took about ten minutes to explore. The drop in altitude and us having a private room meant we could retire early and catch up on some much needed sleep.
Our alarms sounded at 4am. I wasn’t fazed about the time, I was just relieved to find my wretched headache had finally deserted me. We drove for about 45 minutes and arrived at the Uyuni Salt Flat. For sunrise we climbed Isla Incahuasi. It was spectacular. The salt flat was so white and so vast, it was easy to play tricks on the mind. It looked like snow, like water, almost like anything I wanted it to!
Once the sun was up we meandered through the gazillion cacti and coral caves over the island, down to where breakfast had been laid out for us. It was Monika’s birthday (the German lady) so we celebrated with cake and singing. We then headed out on to the salt flat for a painful number of photos. Some of them were really cool though so I am glad we took the time.
After visiting the salt museum and the small tourist town of Colchani we made our way to Uyuni where the tour would shortly finish. First though, we visited the train graveyard and enjoyed one last lunch together.
I had such a great time on the tour and was really sad to see it end. We made some cool friends out of it though and for four of us (us, the Aussie and the Austrian) our adventures would continue together as we booked an overnight bus up to Sucre.