Our next stop in Bolivia was the Salar de Uyuni, which are the largest salt flats in the world near the crest of the Andes and is at an elevation of 3,656 m/11,995 ft. The salt flats were formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes and is now covered by a few meters of salt crust. They are extraordinarily flat and capture an amazing reflection during a sunny day. We got lots of fun, silly pictures with the group of 20-year-old boys we were traveling with during our 3-day tour.
During this tour we also visited a train cemetery, natural hot springs, many lagoons in a national park and photographed pink flamingos. Our driver and the 6 of us drove in a 4×4 Lexus Jeep through so much barren, lifeless land, except for the wild llamas and alpacas. Desert, high mountains, rock formations, volcanoes, lagoons and more deserts were our landscape for 2 days. It has a unique beauty that we are not used to witnessing. The accommodations and food on our tour was some of the most basic we have experienced staying in a room of 6 concrete beds, bathrooms of substandard cleanliness and basic food. But we were with a group of 4 boys in their 20’s and we made the best of it. Lots of laughs, bottles of cheap champagne and a night of kings cup with local booze and beers made it all worth it! The last day of the trip we woke out at 4am to see the sunrise at the geysers but we were in the problem vehicle. It is known for these jeeps to have mechanical difficulties but this turned comical. Our alternator died, and we had to drive in the dark with no headlights, then change batteries for one too big and so on but we survived the tour until the Bolivia border where more fun was waiting.
We got stamped out of Bolivia with no issues and a minivan booked to take us to the Chilean border. But of course no border crossing is to go that smoothly so after our driver confirmed we had tickets he took off as we were in the immigration line. After an hour of waiting, miscommunication and throwing rocks to pass the time we realized we missed our bus and had to pay a second time to get to the border. This is about par for the course so we just expect to somehow get screwed at border crossings.
Arriving at San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, one of the driest deserts in the world, was a shock in temperature as we were still wearing layers of clothing from the Bolivia border. It is the third largest tourist destination in Chile so the prices are high and the sites were similar to what we saw in Uyuni so only stayed one night. Our next goal was warm beaches and sun. A local pointed us into the direction of Caldera, a costal town with great beaches and little tourism. Our excitement about the beach was soon crushed as our night bus dropped us off on the side of a highway in the dark at 5am. Making our way to the beach with a couple other backpackers we cuddled up in the cold air watching the drunken bums and transients fight the local dogs for space on the beach. After sunrise we combed the city to find accommodation and everything was sold out for 3 days. Hopping another bus to Copiapo to get another night but to Santiago was our solution. It was a long, tiring 3 days with a roundabout way to get to Santiago but its all a part of traveling.
More Pics: https://picasaweb.google.com/105315223482012434599/UyuniSlatFlatTour
Awesome! We just watched a movie last night about Butch Cassidy and he crossed the Uyuni salt flats. I thought of you guys!!