4x4 trip into Bolivia
Trip Start Jan 11, 2012
38Trip End Aug 09, 2012
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The journey started by getting to know some of our travelling companions while standing in a queue at Chilean immigration for about an hour. There would be 17 humans from 6 different countries departing on the trip from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, but more on them humans later. After successfully obtaining an exit stamp from a textbook emotionless immigration official, we continued on to the Bolivian side of the border
We quickly decided that there was bugger all that we could do about our immigration status until we arrived in Uyuni so it was best to forget about it all and enjoy the journey. That didn't take much effort. As soon as we bid our farewells to the border we were immediately in complete awe of the dramatic scenery.
Joining us in our Land Cruiser were Amanda and Nick, an Aussie/Brit couple and their hilarious third wheel (fifth wheel for the journey), Sam. The other 2 Land Cruisers carried a few Germans, some more Brits and Aussies and a Frenchman that had definitely strummed a few chords on the old guit once or twice in his life. In all we couldn't have asked for a more entertaining crew. From drinking games, "extreme" photos and rock throwing competitions to singalongs, French-British banter and human pyramid building, our entire journey was filled with all sorts of entertaining experiences.
From the start of the trip it was clear that we were going to be driving through some pretty remote and extremely barren territory
On our first day we visited a hot spring, a couple of lagoons, some flamingos and a few geysers. In between all of this our Land Cruisers effortless ploughed across the desert, proving once again that Mr Lynch and son are a tad loco when they try to convince people that a Land Rover is "the best 4x4xFar". Please. Whether it’s the deserts of Dubai, the potholes of Africa or the South American outback, the Land Cruiser rules supreme. I'm expecting Toyota to give me a free one after punting their product on such an established and highly reputable media source as this blog.
Our first night was spent at the brain-tearing altitude of 4400m above sea level. Sir Edmund Hillary probably used to enjoy a quiet jog with the lads at such an altitude, but for the rest of humanity that sort of elevation generally results in a few sour faces
Day 2 involved a whole lot more driving, more lagoons, a rock that looks like a tree and some more drinking games. This time with alcohol. And not just any alcohol but some delicious Singani which is basically a much cheaper version of Cape to Rio cane. Mmmm. Cheap cane + 3900m above sea level = sore brain. Sore brain, but loads of entertainment, particularly since our French musician, Fred, somehow stumbled upon another crazy talented French guitar player in the middle of the desert. So Fred and his countryman strummed away while the rest of us attempted to sing in tune. Don's voice was magnificent as always.
On the final day of our trip we first visited a train cemetery which was far less emotional than the more conventional kind of cemetery; and then headed for the highlight of the journey - the Uyuni Salt Flats. Now this is where the incredible scenery became even more remarkable. Again photos will do the flats more justice but the landscape was like nothing we have ever experienced. We spent several hours on the flats gazing out into the white nothingness and of course took the opportunity to capture some of those ridiculous photos that have become an inherent component of the salt flat experience.
So an incredible trip ended in the uninspiring town of Uyuni where we did indeed manage to obtain those elusive entry stamps, albeit after paying a small "fee". With our immigration status upgraded from illegal we headed straight to the nearest pub for a celebratory drink and then boarded an overnight bus bound for La Paz. Our first glimpse of Bolivia had been extraordinary, the 4x4 trip was definitely our best experience to date, but Bolivia still had a whole lot more to throw at us...