My last week in Bolivia was first spent in freezing La Paz, the highest city in the world.
It took me a couple days to deal the with altitude here, overcoming it with the traditional coca mate and by heading out daily to the thriving, colourful local markets where I would buy local products such as cheap Llama threads.
My next stop was Uyuni. This small tourist town is in the South West of Bolivia and is literally in the middle of nowhere. Its sole purpose is being a gateway between the world’s largest Salt plain and an easy way for tourists to enter Chile or vice versa. After searching for a decent place to sleep and realising that this place didn’t supply the usual breakfast and wifi thats most hostels do, we decided to check in to a central motel and search for a tour to the infamous salt plains that the area is famous for.
The next day we headed out on our 3-day tour. In total we paid 800 boliviano (around $115), which included our transfer to San Pedro on the third day, as well as food and basic accommodation while we were out in the Bolivian wilderness. We needed another 150 boliviano to pay for the national park entrance fee.
I definitely wasn’t prepared for was the spectacular landscapes I was about to see.
Every 10 minutes of our drive seemed like we were in a new exciting land and my vision exploded with the reality of where I was travelling. From salt plains to volcanic leftovers, this place is a photographers dream. My favourite landscape by far was the Uyuni salt plains which is made up of 10,582 square kilometres of salt. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the beauty of this land of white. The rain that gathers around this time of the year added even more dimension to the beauty of Salar de Uyuni, creating a mirror imagse of the sky – It was as if I was walking in heaven.
Within a couple of days we went from 25C to about 0C as we reached mountains as high as 4780m, the highest my body had ever been. I was thankful I had already started adjusting to the altitude a few days earlier, because some of our poor German friends with us on the tour had only just entered this land of altitude.
We visited numerous lagoons and mountains filled with local wildlife like flamingos and my all time favourite - llamas! I was once again in awe at this wonderful creation around me. At some moments, I found it so easy to take for granted the spectacular landscapes I was driving through. I had to keep reminding myself that there is nowhere on earth like the place I was in. I was so thankful to God that he created different parts of this world with such diverse views, landscapes and cultures and that I could experience this masterpiece.
Unfortunately, on the last day we discovered we weren’t going to be able to cross at the traditional land border to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. This crossing usually only takes an hour, but was closed due to a mass dump of snow. We ended up being transferred 3.5 hours north, and after having to entertain ourselves with the 30 or so other gringos on our tour for three hours in no man’s land we had found ourselves in, we were finally transferred a further five hours to the desert in Chile.
This was my first experience of drastically changed travel plans. I was happy to be able to report my survival, but it was still very annoying to find out, once we got to San Pedro, that the original pass had opened up and we could have continued with our tour as planned. I had to keep reminding myself that this is South America and that these type of occurrences are a completely normal occurrence.
Overall I highly recommend the Salt plains tour. San Pedro is a great little adventure town with amazing landscapes and places to explore – but you won’t find a very authentic experience of Chile here, thanks to the high prices and mass tourism found in the region.
About Hannah: Hannah has spent the last seven years living, working and studying in Sydney, Australia where she worked professionally in the corporate event industry. She is a recent full-time traveller deciding to quit the rat race and explore the world. She hopes to inspire people to live their dreams as she lives out her on. Only new to the writing game she hopes to captivate people with the lessons learnt and the stories gained from the travellers road. You can read more about her travels and experiences on the road on her personal blog “Blue Marble Adventures”