Bolivian Salt Flats

To cross over into Bolivia we decided to jump into a battered old landcruiser, head out on some of the most remote and wild terrain we had experienced with four complete strangers plus our guide. We were joined by three Dutch girls, another Australian and our wonderful Bolivian guide Oscar.

The trip got off to a bit of a shaky start when we were  delayed for a day due to a combination of some bad weather making the mountain road impassable and the Chilean census. Needless to say, Jen was annoyed! Take 2 saw us take off an alternate route for two hours before receiving the call that the mountain pass had re-opened and having to turn-around and head back the way we had just come.

Despite the false-start once we got going we experienced some of the most amazing scenery; lakes filled with flamingoes, impressive geysers, beautiful hot springs, strange cactus gardens, weird rock playgrounds and of course the majestic and impressive salt flats. 

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To combat the effects of high altitude we tried the local method of chewing coca leaves. The leaves (from which cocaine is made) are meant to be chewed and the saliva soaked ball kept in the mouth. Unfortunately, Jen did not like the taste and had to try and spit the leaves out the window which just ended up going all over Oscar’s precious car.

At night we stayed in some small remote towns out in the wilderness and for one night in a hotel made out of salt. On our final day we got up early to see the sun-rise over the blindingly white salt flats and had fun attempting to make some different perspective shots. We visited Inca Huasi (Fish Island) which was home to some giant cacti and had great views of the salt flats all around.

Our final stop before entering the Bolivian town of Uyuni was a strange train cemetery where you could see old rusting trains from decades ago.

San Pedro De Atacama

Our one week of enjoying some city life quickly came to an end and it was time to head of back into the wilderness. Our next stop was San Pedro de Atacama, a little outpost in Northern Chile which was our gateway to the Bolivian salt flats.

Things did not get off to a good start when we touched down on our flight from Santiago and experienced that heart-sinking feeling of standing by the baggage carousel waiting for a pack that was never going to arrive. To make matters even worse the pack that had gone missing was Jen’s who was none too impressed about having to spend a few days in the same set of clothes. Luckily they were able to locate it and sent it onto the hostel 12 hours later!

Despite the set-back of the missing luggage, the scenery around San Pedro was something completely incredible and unique. The town itself consisted a few dusty streets with a cute little town square and church.

We spent the first day haggling with different tour companies to book our Salt Flats tour, because in South America you never pay what they are asking for. At the end of our first haggling experience we were pretty happy with ourselves….. Until we spoke to others in the hostel and found out they got even better prices!

Outside of the town we visited the Lagunas Escondidas which were some little salt pools out in the desert. The pools were so salty that you floated without any effort. Tristan has always struggled floating in water and he was finally able to! It was a triumphant moment for him.

We also went to Valle de la Luna to watch the sun set across the valley and take in the strange and otherworldly scenery

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At the end of our three day visit to San Pedro, we were ready to leave and go to Bolivia. Or so we thought!