Atacama desert and the Salt Flats – Bolivia

The Atacama desert and the Uyuni salt flats are a highlight of many travelers, so we started this tour with high expectations.

We were picked up at 7am buy a big bus to take us to the border of Chile and Bolivia. The immigration for Chile is in town, so we were literally driven a block to get our passport stamp out of Chile. After this procedure they took us to a restaurant for a stock standard breakfast – coffee and bread with jam we jumped back in the bus and drove for an hour or so to the Bolivian border, in the desert. At the tin shack for immigration, we got our Bolivian stamps and jumped into our Toyosa – Toyota Landcruiser for the trip across the Atacama desert and to the Salt flats near Uyuni.

We booked the three night tour with Coique tours for CHP65,000 after shopping around for a few prices. All the tour agencies seemed to be selling the same deal, but the prices differed slightly and Coique was slightly cheaper.

the Toyosa

 

Here is something I found interesting for all you car nerds… The 80′s series landcruiser we took, had a 4.5L gasoline engine – carburetor fuel delivery – not injected. They say they use petrol over diesel because it doesn’t freeze in this part of Bolivia.

After packing our luggage onto the roof we met our new traveling companions in the cruiser – the driver named XXX and a dude from Spain and a girl from Uruguay. (As well as the English girls!) We crammed 7 people into the cruiser including the driver and we were off to see the sites. All this scenery is at an altitude of over 4000m, you get your puff on walking downhill.

more desert reflections

 

oh! What a feeling… Toyosa!

 

The magical thermal springs

 

stinky Geysers

 

Llamas on the plains

 

Our first nights accommodation was next to Largo Colorada. This is a red lake full of Flamingos. At over 4500, it was freezing at night! It was even hard sleeping with the lack of oxygen around.

Flamingos

So after our first night sleep, we woke early in the freezing cold to set off for the day and guess what?… the car wouldn’t start. A blocked fuel lead led to needing to replace the mechanical fuel pump. Pretty cool these cars are so simple to work on! The driver had a spare pump, and we were on the way eventually.

I thought the driver was going to gravity feed the fuel in… bush mechanic style.

Rocking tree

desert

need another amazing lake?

dead train museum.

 

After the above sites, we stopped in Uyuni for the night. We stayed in probably the best hotel in town lol. The driver offered to pick us up really early in the morning, so we could drive out to the salt flats before sunrise. That said, we left to check out the “Extreme Fun Bar” – with a name like that how could it possibly be bad in any way?

it can’t be bad!

They have competitions for drinking, crazy glassware, games etc. Probably one of the best pubs I’ve been too. Order a “Sexy Llama bitch” when you get in! I would have been happy to stay all night, but we had a 5am start the next morning… for the salt flats!!!

Well we were all up early.. where was the driver…. oh yeah 90 minutes late! Thanks for the 5am start mate! We missed the sun rise over fish island, but the salt was still oh so amazing.

 

Salt

 

Oh what a feeling… Toyosa!

 

Fish island… covered in cactus but no fish.

yum, massive tin of Vegemite!

We decided to charter our own bus to Potosi in order to save some time… for Bs 775. It cost about $20 each for the 6of us.

Bam, 31 seats

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