Bolivia: A little lawless, a little insane, extremely cheap, and all around unsafe
First of all: Mom, I’m exaggerating.
Moving on. Bolivia is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The landscape is, as the guidebooks promise, rugged, rocky, thorny, harsh, and raw.
We entered Bolivia through Chile, which I’ll have to write about later. We signed up for a 3-day tour from San Pedro de Atacama through to Uyuni in Bolovia; its a pretty standard South American backpacker staple. Full photos and video to come.
After doing some extensive reading online about the risks of these tours (alcoholic drivers, shitty jeeps, lying tour operators, general unsafe conditions), we eventually chose Atacama Mistica for $110. Expensive but cheaper than three days in Chile.
For fellow tourists: Atacama Mistica let us down in a few ways but overall we were satisfied with the tour, the drivers and the jeeps. They lied about the number of blankets on the beds in the “hostel” we stayed in (we froze), they said our driver would speak basic Spanish (he spoke and indigenous language) and they overbooked the tour by at least 2 people. Each night there weren’t enough beds, blankets or coffee cups, and two of the four jeeps had to squeeze in 7 people, even though they promised against this.
Annnnyways. Salt Flats Tour, Part 1.
One of the first adjustments we made upon arriving to South America was learning to accept having no freaking clue what’s going on, and just going with the flow until everything sorts itself out. The Salt Flat Tour was a prime example of this. The entire group got their passports stamped to cross the Bolivian border, except the four Americans and two South Africans. Our passports were inexplicably taken and thrown into a manilla envelope, which was sealed, taped and stamped. Then they just handed the pack to a Travis and said something like “Hold this until you get to Bolivia.”
They couldn’t give us a reason for the setup, but no one was happy to trust another person with their passports. Weird things like that seem to happen left and right in this country.
When we got to Uyuni three days later, we had to pay $135 US (993 Bolivianos) for our stamp. So that was annoying. Also annoying: The cold.
Less annoying: The insane scenery, watching the sunrise, llamas, a hotel made entirely of salt, a train cemetery, and an impromptu “Bolivia’s Got Talent” talent show. (Our jeep came in second with a rousing rendition of “Bananas Unite.”)