Calama is a mining town in the middle of the desert. There is nothing really there and we struggled to find a hostel. Most tourists go on to San Pedro where there are pretty colourful houses and they can spend a few days before doing the three day salt flat tour. We decided that we wanted to do the one day tour. To try and cut on spending and to save time.
We booked our local bus to Uyuni where we would start our salt flats tour. We arrived at the bus station at 7am and looking around we thought we were the only gringos on the bus. It turned out the rest of the tourists were inside keeping warm! – when I say rest I mean 4 people.
The locals had so much stuff, washing machines, boxes of goods, and loads and loads of blankets. The women are so small and look amazing in their traditional clothes. This consists of long woollen socks, a skirt which is big and has lots of petticoats, a blanket with things in, strapped to their backs, a hat and their long hair plated into two braids.
After a number of random stops we arrived at the border of Chile. All went smoothly (as we had our slips which were saved from the rubbish bin). We jumped back on the bus and we stopped before we reached Bolivia.
It suddenly all made sense why the locals had so much stuff! There is a market between the borders!
We were then told/ushered onto a new bus. A bus which they call a chicken bus. It’s called a chicken bus as the locals bring everything on, even chickens. The bus was stuffy and the windows let in so much dust as we drove through the desert to the Bolivian Boarder.
We finally reached Uyuni which is another dusty town. We arrived on a Sunday so there was a little market where we could buy some fruit and a dinosaur to make some cool pictures at the salt flats. We easily booked our one day tour for the following day and a night bus to La Paz.
The next day we were collected in a 4×4 and told that we had been bumped up to a more expensive tour and to keep quiet about how much we had paid.
We were joined by two guys from Japan and an American couple. The Japanese guys didn’t speak much English and there was an American couple were great company. They have even invited us to stay with them in LA.
First we arrived at the train graveyard. The salty winds had decayed the trains making them look super cool and rusty! In the early 19th century, big plans were made to build an even bigger network of trains out of Uyuni, but the project was abandoned because of a combination of technical difficulties and tension with neighboring countries. The trains and other equipment were left to rust.
We were then taken to a quiet place on the flats where we had a lovely lunch! It was so peaceful and all you could see was white salt.
After lunch we visited an awesome place where there is water on top of the salt enabling you to see a beautiful reflection of the sky. The guys even jumped on the roof of the car.
We started heading back to watch the sunset over the salt flats but our car kept breaking down – it kept needing more and more water. The guides used up all their water and our 3L bottle! We made it to dry land but it was a bit touch and go at times. Laurie kindly let me keep the jumper as she thought that it looked good on me. We hope to see them again one day!
We were dropped off at the bus terminal to catch our bus to La Paz. We were given a meal of veg and quinoa before snuggling down in our seats. As it got dark I started to look out the window at the stars. They were amazing. So clear and so many of them!
Until next time…