Uyuni Tour

Trip Start Jan 24, 2007
Trip End Jan 11, 2009

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tuesday 8th - We left Tupiza at 9am and headed out into the wilderness in our nice blue jeep with our driver, Emillio and our chef, Daisy.

We didn't manage to find another person for the tour so we ended up paying 125USD each for the 4 day tour because there were only 4 of us. It would only have been 110USD each if we'd found a 5th person, but to be honest, the extra space we had was well worth paying the extra 15USD for!! The roads around the tour are all just dirt tracks so the extra room for bouncing around was great!

The first couple of hours we drove along some incredible roads, rising to an altitude of over 4000metres. We'd bought some altitude sickness tablets for the journey so none of us suffered any ill effects.
The road is slightly reminiscent of 'death road' near Coroico - just a narrow dirt track winding around the mountains with a sheer drop down one side. Luckerly we didn't meet anything coming the other direction. 

We stopped for a picnic lunch in a llama field and then carried on driving through some fairly dull countryside. We stopped briefly at a small town where the kids were going crazy for us to take their photos and the show them on the little screens. 

Louisa gave a couple of the kids biscuits and one of them had a tantrum, no clue why, but he was lying on the ground kicking and screaming which was very amusing!!

We reached our first 'hostel' in the town of San Antonio at around 5pm and the chef made us tea and biscuits. 
The hostels we stay in on this tour are really basic, this one just has the basic facilities, beds (no sheets, we needed sleeping bags), a toilet and a room with table and chairs for eating. 

Daisy had to bring her own gas cooking facilities and all the food for the 4 days with her. Considering the facilities she managed to provide us with fantastic food. We brought some wine with us and she prepared soup and a main course so it was a feast! We had an early night, the altitude was making us feel quite breathless and the temperature was freezing. We all went to bed in our thermals and I was wearing almost all of the warm clothes I had in my backpack on top!

Wednesday 9th - We were woken at 4.30am, breakfast was at 5am and we left the hostel at 5.30am - nice!
We reached 'pueblo fantasma', a ghost town just at sunrise which was really eary. I was a bit sleepy so didn't quite grasp what went on here, but I think the town was abandoned in the 1500's, but for what reason I have no clue!

Then we reached the highest point on the tour - some 4855metres above sea level!

We'd all had one of our altitude pills, so didn't feel too bad. We then passed by Lake Morejon and the solar de Chalviri before arriving at the thermal pool at lunchtime. 

There were several other jeeps doing the same route so we were chatting to them at some of the stops. Three groups had left from the HI hostel Valle Hermosa in Tupiza and it turned out that 2 of their jeeps got lost the previous evening and had only arrived at San Antonio at midnight!! They'd then had to go without dinner and still get up at 4.30am!! Nightmare!!

Jon and Louisa braved the thermal pool, but Abi and I just watched - the thought of getting out of the nice warm pool into the icy breeze just didn't appeal!

We were treated to another fabulous lunch and then headed off to some spectacular scenery. We passed multi-coloured mountains which were said to have inspired Salvador Dali's work, then we arrived at 'Laguna Verde', the green lake - funnily enough so called because it's green!

The wind stirs up the algae in the lake which makes it that colour. Then we passed Volcano Licancabur, which is the one I saw from the other side in San Pedro - at this point we were really close to the Chilean border.

The geysers were after this - they were very different to the ones I saw in San Pedro, the speed at which the steam was escaping was incredible. It was like someone was letting off a huge powder fire extinguisher from underground! Check it out on the video....

Last stop was Laguna Colorasda where there were supposed to be thousands of flamingos, but for some reason most of them were somewhere else when we arrived. We were promised plenty more flamingos the next day, so we weren't too disappointed.
The hostel we stayed at that night however, was pretty disappointing - the room was OK, but the toilet was just disgusting!! It was like the toilet out of the film Trainspotting!! There was no running water in the hostel so the toilet was just filling up!! You can't put toilet paper down the toilets in Bolivia (or Chile or Argentina) so there was also a huge pile of used toilet tissue piled up in the shower room and the smell was rank!! 
There was also no electricity, but the generator gave us light from 7-9pm, so there was a communal 'tooth brushing' outside the hostel (noone dared enter the bathroom with their toothbrush!!) and everyone went to bed just after 9pm!

Thursday 10th - We had a bit of a lie in til 6am and then headed out to the Arbol de piedra (the stone tree). The rocks in this area have been eroded by the wind to form very peculiar shapes, one in the shape of a tree. With the multi-coloured mountain behind, it looks really surreal.
We also saw some desert and a few more lakes, this time with lots of flamingos and Volcano Ollague.

At lunchtime we took Daisy's plastic monkey from the car and took some daft photos of it.....seemed like a good idea at the time!! ha ha

We arrived at the Salt Hotel in the town of Atulcha at around 4pm - pure luxury compared to the previous night's accommodation!! The entire hotel is made out of salt and looks a bit medieval.

We had our first showers since Tupiza and ate quinoa soup (quinoa is grown locally on the antiplano) and Llama steaks for dinner! I wasn't too fussed on the llama steak - too fiddly with the bone, but the soup was delicious. The electricity went off at 9pm, so we drank our wine by candlelight and had a fairly early night.

Friday 11th - We were woken at 5.30am and left the hotel at 6am and headed for the salt flats to watch the sunrise. We had breakfast at the Isla del Pescado (fish island) and then spent a couple of hours exploring the island and taking silly photos on the salt! 

Colchani town was our next stop where we saw the salt being processed and we also had lunch. there. We were dropped off at the Marith hostel (25 Bolivianos / 1.50GBP per night!!! ....bargain!!) at around 1.30pm and we said our fairwells to Daisy and Emillio.

Although we only had a quick wander through Uyuni, it seems like quite a nice town, a bit dusty and pretty much geared up for tourists for the salt flats tours, but the people are friendly and helpful.

We booked our bus tickets for the next day, checked our emails and then went for a beer. We were joined by a few other English people from other tours who we'd chatted to along the way so there ended up being 7 of us - that's the most Brits I've been with in one go since I left the UK! We found a good place for dinner and a few more drinks and spent the rest of the evening there.

When we got back to the hostel someone had hung salty slabs of meat over the washing line which the hostel cat was going bonkers for!! I'll pop the piccy in here...

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Where I stayed
Salt hotel
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