San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni.....exhilarating, scary and stunning

Uyuni Travel Blog

 › entry 12 of 18 › view all entries
Left San Pedro and headed in a mini bus to the Bolivian border, where passport control was a small brick hut in the middle of nowhere. Transferred into 4wheel drives and set off across country to some of the most mind blowing scenery I´ve ever seen.

On day 1 we passed a lake that was that green it looked like some one must have filled it with dye, but was apparently a reaction of the wind churning up the organisms in the water. We reached our Refugio for the night mid afternoon, the setting was stunning next to flamingo lake - the surface of which was bright red, only a few flamingos in it mind. As the sun set the reflection of pink sky on the red lake was beautiful, I braved the cold for as long as possible to watch it, I survived, unfortunately my camera didn´t it fell to hypothermia and altitude sickness and has never recovered! The sky at night also took my breath away and not just as a result of the freezing temperatures. With no light pollution around it looked like someone had taken great hand fulls of glitter and thrown them to the sky - I´ve never seen so many stars. Was expecting a pretty rubbish nights sleep because of a combination of the effects of altitude (we were around 4500meters) and the cold (I´m told the temperature drops at night to below -18), the Refugio being very basic protected you from the wind but little else. The altitude had an effect but think the thermals, sleeping bag and 5 very thick wool blankets did their job and if anything I was too hot!

Day 2 was certainly a day of two halfs. It started as a lot of fun going over massive dunes, it felt like being on a roller coaster, there was definitely a lot of controlled skidding going on. We arrived for lunch in a tiny village where our drivers left us to it to go and meet some of their friends. We found ourselves sat around with nothing to do waiting for them....hmmm. When they finally were prepared to leave both were pretty much blind drunk!! Not to impressed but hey its Bolivia! About 5mins out of the village the driver of the car I was in waved the second car past at which point our car stopped, in the middle of nowhere we had ran out of fuel! Luckily the second car turned around and came back to help us. By this point, considering the drunken state of both drivers, we were a little pissed off. One of the guys in my car started telling the guys how unacceptable it was. Didn´t´t go down very well, the response being if we Didn´t´t like it we could get our bags and get out!!! Hmm time to bite the tongue! The next two hours drive were possibly the most scared I´ve been. What had felt like controlled skidding in the morning now felt decidedly uncontrolled and not so much fun! Eventually arrived at another village and the drivers filled the cars up while we purchased vast quantities of wine - obviously just to calm the nerves when we hopefully arrived in one piece at that nights hotel. By the time we left the village our driver seemed a little more sober, between that and the terrain flattening out to the beginning of the salt flats we managed to relax again and enjoy the ride. The night was spent in a salt hotel - everything from the bricks and mortar to tables and chairs were made of salt. After having the first hot shower I´d had in days (cold showers in hot countries are one thing but in cold countries its just painful!) had a very nice evening getting suitably drunk.

Woke up this morning to see the sunrise over the salt flats - very pretty. Most of the day has been spent driving over and taking lots of pictures of the salt flats (or rather posing for pictures in my case as I Didn´t´t have a camera). They´re every bit as stunning as I imagined them to be from the pictures I´d seen and well worth the scary ride yesterday to get there.

Now in Uyuni, heading south on Saturday with a couple of the guys I came here with. After that I´ll start heading to Villa T for the project I´m going to work on. Getting there could be interesting - I´m told the area its in and the towns on the way are a bit of a no go area at the moment because of the political situation, but then again if you went by what the foreign office websites said you´d never leave England...........
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photo by: razorriome