The bus landed in Uyuni at about 8am. Before I start, you need to know this, Uyuni is such a poor quality town that it probably doesn’t qualify as a town. It’s like something out of a Wild West film that went bust. When you get off the bus you go find a tour for the salt flats. You don’t not stay in Uyuni for a day!
There were different companies waiting, once we got off the bus, offering tours but we still had to collect our second payment refund for the bus so we got that sorted before we looked at anything to do with tours. Plenty of time.
A guy approached us with a price that was about half what the reputable companies were offering so of course we were sceptical. I had heard so many bad stories about bad guides or drunk drivers so after a quick google we were well aware of why this gangster’s price was so low. I had heard that red planet were the best company going so we looked for their office but couldn’t find it so we ended up striking a deal with ‘Quechua’ who were the next most reputable company after red planet. We got a discount of 250 Bolivians each (because of my amazing charm, obviously) and we were happy enough with the combination of a quality tour with a discount. In a nutshell I can describe the company as flawless. The guide was great and informative (and funny!), the meals and accommodation were provided, the route was good, the vehicles were great (Lexus jeep and land cruisers, just like being back in Qatar) and the driver was sober ( not something guaranteed from what I had heard!!).
The tour started with a view of some old, rusting, trains that used to carry minerals from one place to the next. Not a great start by my own admission.
Next stop was a small town that produced salt blocks to build houses etc. At 2 Bolivians per kilo it wasn’t a productive business and they lived off tourism, I reckoned. After this we stopped at a building that was formerly a salt hotel but now more of a museum and lunch hotspot. After this the time finally came. Let’s be honest, everyone wants the cool pictures at the salt flats. I was no different. ‘Funny picture time’ as our guide put it was upon us. We spent the guts of 45 minutes taking funny pics in a group and individually to get what we wanted. A lot of credit must be given to the guide who was a bit of an artist with the camera. I tried a few myself but they didn’t work out so well!
Meals were included in the tour which was great and after dinner on night one our guide brought us outside to look at the stars and Milky Way. I had never been in a place where the Milky Way was visible to my naked eye before and I must admit, it was breathtaking. Our guide had a laser that was beyond strong and he pointed out, with ease, different constellations in the sky. I enjoyed that a lot and it gave me a longing to find another spot that would give me an even better view of the Milky Way. Bucket list item added.
That night and the next morning I was feeling sick. I felt like it was the food from the night before but I ate the same as Paul, and others, and he was feeling fine. “Ahh, the altituder has become the altitudee” he joked. I made myself get sick and as the day went on I felt better and by the end I was fine. Whether it was altitude or food poisoning I might never know but considering how well I’ve coped with altitude in general, to me, it made no sense and I’m blaming the food. That day we stopped at several lagoons to see uncountable flamingos, a smoking volcano, steaming geysers, boiling mud, Andean foxes, Andean rabittes etc. as well as ending the day with a dip in a hot spring.
The accommodation that night was basic to say the least with a pebble floor and rock bed (with proper Mattress on top to be fair) but our company provided sleeping bags and hot water bottles so all was good. The dinner was nice, we played cards for a bit, checked out the stars again but the moon was so bright that I couldn’t enjoy the Milky Way in all its glory like the night before and then hit the hay. The next morning Paul and I would be getting dropped at the Chilean border to catch our bus to the next adventure. The bus was arranged as part of our tour so all we had to do was get our passports stamped and hop on. The three day and two night trip is probably a bit dragged out but at the same time I don’t regret it one bit. We seen so much and sometimes when you are surrounded by such beauty all the time you take it for granted. It was amazing.
Tips and prices:
Be aware of gangsters/cowboys selling cheap tours but BAD tours of the flats. We nearly got one because its up to you whether you think it’s worth it going no cheap for a bad tour or expensive for a good one.
Gangster price 700 bolivianos approx.
Prebool with company we went with (Quechua) 1,300 bolivianos. Advertised price 1,250 bolivianos. Price we got ( supply and demand, don’t expect to walk in the door and get this price, 1,000 bolivianos). That was for three day two night tour.
Extras on tour: island walk 30 bolivianos. Optional.
Park entry fee. 150 bolivianos. Mandatory.
Hot springs. 6 bolivianos, optional.
I’ve heard a lot of bad stories about the cheaper tours. In the end you probably get what you pay for so its up to you once you are aware. Considering we got a deal I am more than happy with out tour. Our company was brilliant, and the guide and driver were good Craic which adds to it all.
Stamp on Bolivian side of border. 15 Bolivianos.