Lost in the Altiplano
Uyuni Travel Blog› entry 12 of 15 › view all entries
Chris and I sat at the Posada de la Abuela at 10pm Wednesday evening, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Chito and Mauricio - the two drivers who would take us south across the Altiplano, on an overnight drive to Uyuni. (At first, we thought it was only going to be one driver, but we were relieved when the agency said there would actually be two drivers, since the drive was so long and so dark.)
What would these men be like? What kind of car is their "jeep"? Do they know the way?
When they showed up, I was relieved. They were driving an old (but large, sturdy-looking) Toyota Landcruiser with a front seat and two rows of rear bench seats (good for sleeping, or so I thought). And Chito and Mauricio seemed friendly and animated (i.e., awake -- muy importante).
We bid farewell to Griff and Melissa and piled into the back of the Toyota. And so it began...
As we left La Paz, we engaged in some small talk with Chito and Mauricio ("C&M" from here on). How long was our visit? Where did I learn Spanish? Where are we from? I tried to ask them how often they drive to Uyuni. I thought they said something like once a week. That also put me a little at ease.
Once we got on the open road, Chris and I set up our "beds" on each of the rear bench seats - me in the middle, Chris in the way back. We tried to sleep.
I slept some, but Chris not much.
Apparently C&M did NOT do this drive very often. By 4m, they were knocking on the door of a house in a pueblito, asking for directions. (Las Salinas I think). By 6am, they were interrupting a sunrise ritual of sorts again asking for directions.
Some of this led to major back-tracking and/or cross-country driving. At one point we were on a very muddy road, almost driving through a field, trying to get from one side of a valley floor to the other. Fears of getting stuck in mud, or simply getting more lost than we already were, filled my head. We were in no man´s land.
But we finally somehow got back on the "main" road to Uyuni. And did finally make it there by 9am. (Only after 1 false alarm when we arrived in Colchani and C&M, who again do this drive "weekly", declared we were in Uyuni. Ooops guys. Wrong.)
It was quite an adventure though. When we arrived in Uyuni, we took several photos of C&M and tipped them $10 each. Not because they did such a great job at directions, but just because they got us there safely. Poor Chito drove the whole way, too. We got Mauricio´s email, and promised to send him a photo, too.
Chris and I had a pancake for breakfast, and then headed to Olivos Tours for the next part of our journey ... onto the Salar de Uyuni. The largest and highest salt flats in the world.