From Salvador, we flew over to Santiago in Chile. Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to spare, and Chile is expensive, so we only got to spend one day wandering around Santiago. It seems like a really nice city though, and we both definitely want to head back to see more of southern Argentina and Chile another time.
From Santiago we caught a 24 bus up to San Pedro de Atacama, which is in the Atacama Desert, just before the border of Bolivia, at an altitude of 2400m. The bus itself was fine, but about an hour and a half away from San Pedro the bus stopped for a bit at a mining town called Calama. Here a couple of local guys got on and stole Jas’ bag. So that was a bit of a disaster. Luckily, all the important stuff was in my bag, but Jas did still lose his iPod, iPhone and all of our chargers. Once we got to San Pedro we had a stressful few hours trying to get used to the lack of air, while running around canceling cards, making a police statement and lots of emailing.
From San Pedro, we booked ourselves on a 3 day 4×4 tour from there to Uyuni in Bolivia – crossing the Atacama desert and the salt flats of Boliva. The company we booked with had 12 people leaving that day – so 2 cars. The bus journey out to the Bolivian border was amazing. We drove for an hour through nothing to a tiny little hut which was apparently the Bolivian immigration office! Here we had lunch before jumping in the cars. The tour was absolutely amazing. The guide took us across the spectacular landscape, stopping at lakes of varying colours, with flamingos and llamas running around. There were huge mountains surrounding us everywhere, some with snow, some without.
On the first day we went from 2400m, to around 4800m in only a few hours – so Jas and I suffered real bad altitude sickness. Blinding headaches, no appetite, throwing up etc. It was pretty painful, but we followed the locals and chewed coca leaves and drank as much coca tea as we could get out hands on. Thankfully, by the second day, we were both feeling heaps better.
The last day of the trip was by far the most impressive. We drove out on the salt flats (the largest in the world) and took heaps of silly photos. Back in Uyuni, at the end of the trip, we had some money dramas as the only ATM in the town was broken, but we eventually found another bank that let us have a cash advance, so we had some pizza and beers with the other guys from our trip before jumping in an overnight bus to La Paz. The bus journey itself was an adventure – a 540 km journey, 180 km of which is unsealed….and it’s rainy season! At around midnight we were all woken up with a fright as the bus bottomed out while attempting to cross a river! S o we were stuck for about 40 minutes until another bus pulled us out…then we got a flat in the process! So it was about an hour before we got moving again…all part of the adventure!