Salty business

We enjoyed all of Bolivia very much and the highlight was still to come: the salt flats of Uyuni.

We took the night bus that arrived at 4 am and teamed up with the two other tourists on the bus, a Brazilian and an Aussie, to dwell through the last hours of darkness. Soon a woman approached us to offer early breakfast and since we had nothing else to do, we gladly accepted.

The Brazilian was planning on leaving the same day and the Australian, James, teamed up with us to leave the next morning. At 10am we went to our hostel and asked for some advice on tour agencies because some have very bad reputations like drunken drivers, overloaded cars, bad hostels along the way, you name it, they have it… We got the names of 4 good ones and went to book ourselves the best, not too expensive tour. After listening to the similar stories of a few agencies, we all felt best with the Cordillera agency and booked a tour for a decent price. To celebrate this success, we went for second breakfast and afterwards for a nice little nap. It had been a long day already after all.

In the evening, we went for dinner at a place known for its lama meat. We played jenga and afterwards we went for a drink and a pool game. James knew some variants you could play with three, which was nice.

Time flew by and before we knew it, it was midnight already. Time to go to bed to be fit for our three-day trip.

In the morning, we got to know the other people who would join us in the car: Necco & Anna from Brazil and Chu from Japan.

Before the salt flats the caravan of 4X4’s stopped at a train grave yard and a little town with loads of local handy crafts. It was very crowded…

Afterwards we moved on to the actual salt flats. We had a very good time making cool pictures in this incredible place. For once the rain season had its advantage: we could see the mirror effect it has on the salt flats, which was awesome. Take a look for yourselves! 😊 (click on picture to see it full size)

We found out Chu was only traveling for 9 days and the Salt Flats were the high light of his trip. He barely spoke English, but he was super friendly and a very eager model with fantastic karate moves.

In the evening, we would sleep in a salt hotel. It had tea and cookies when we arrived, which was nice. Luckily, we brought our own Toddy Cookies as well as they simply are the best cookies in the world. Our whole group went for a walk afterwards since Anna really wanted a picture on which she cuddles a llama and since we saw a flog we decided to make a go for it. The little lady with the flog wasn’t to glad to see us and wanted 10 Boliviano’s for a picture. We acted as if we didn’t understand and took a few nice shots, but cuddling wasn’t going to happen.

Over dinner we got to know each other better and apparently Necco, also a teacher, had even worse dad jokes than I do. That was great and I found them all super funny.

In the morning, we discovered some scorpions in the hotel, but the cleaning lady killed them all before I could take a picture.

It was again a magnificent day. The nature was overwhelming: mighty mountains, crazy rock formations, lakes of all colors with hundred flamingos, llama’s, a coyote and an animal which looks like a mix of a squirrel and a rabbit. Anna really tried her best to hug a llama again, but apparently, they are not so fond of human affection.

Since Anna didn’t manage to hug a llama, here are some beautiful pictures of the beloved animals especially for her. 🙂

In the evening, James bought us all a beer to celebrate Australia Day and Anna and Necco showed us some Brazilian dancing.

We all slept in the same dorm which was really cool in the morning (4am) since I could wake everyone up with my morning happiness. 😊 Everyone got up in a super good mood (obviously) and we went to see the geysers in the sunrise and went for a dip in a thermal pool.

We tried to ask our guide when we would reach the highest point of our journey, since we still had to make our highest point picture, but I think he didn’t know exactly so we just took a picture on a beautiful spot this time, before we crossed borders with Chile. James on the other hand discovered a breed of flamingos which is called after him: the James Flamingo and insisted we made some family pictures of him and his pink friends, but since we didn’t see any birds anymore, he just imitated his favorite uncle at a copper green lake.

At the border we said goodbye to our new friends, since they were heading back for Uyuni. Luckily James joined us to Chile.

Border crossing in Chile is serious business: your luggage gets scanned! It was even more impressive than the USA border. Also, the city, San Pedro de Atacama, in the desert is totally different than Bolivian cities. It’s really weird how two worlds, with only a mountain between them, can be like 20 years apart.

Chile is way more expensive and therefore Jan and I were looking for a camping. We left James who was looking for a dorm. Luckily we found each other again after lunch and played some games under a parasol in the yard of his hostel, to protect ourselves from the heat.

We went back to the tent to change before supper and were a bit delayed by some friendly Chilean students who invited us for Whiskey and Melvin. Here they drink Whiskey in shots and ad fundum! We had some good laughs while one of them prepared the Melvin: a melon filled with ice cubes and white wine and sugar. Muy rico!

While we were drinking, hell broke loose: it started raining and hailing like crazy! The campsite flooded in no time and we had to rescue our belongings. Apparently, it hadn’t rained like this in 10 years. Camping had become impossible. Luckily, we could stay in a kind of room where an old man passed the whole time. We were a bit uncomfortable since the man was acting weird and talking to himself and not waiting to enter while I was changing for example, so we decided to join James in his hostel the following day. We stayed for three more nights in a big dorm. It was very nice. We met two American girls with who we went biking to Valle de la Luna, a part of the salty desert. It was very beautiful and very hot and I discovered I wasn’t in shape at all!

The rest of our days we took it easy. We went for lunch in the same little place every time, played Munchkin, tried to catch a sunset in the desert, but failed. And James tried to explain us how to use the English language properly, but had a hard time doing so. It was great.

The last day James left early to catch his flight to Santiago. We left in the evening towards La Serena, a little seaside town before going to Santiago as well, where we would meet James on his last evening in South America.