7. Re-roaming! B-olivia: San Pedro de Atacama & Uyuni

Sometimes when travelling the stars align, other times, the only way to avoid eye wateringly expensive flights is to go the road… already travelled. The re-roaming(ton) began in Iguazu Falls and arrived into San Pedro de Atacama (aka northern Chile) 4 flights and 48 hours later after: a delicious steak in Buenos Aires, a picturesque sun rise in Mendoza and a relaxing shabbat in Santiago. With just a day in the Atacama desert before touring into Bolivia, we decided to rent bikes and cycle to the Valle de la Lunar (Lunar Valley) which gains it’s name from it’s mysterious moon-like landscape. Equipped with terrible bikes but directions for a “nice flat route”, we set off in high spirits and high vis.

After an hour of steep hill-climbing whilst being battered by a sand-storm (imagine the feeling of a thousand tiny needles stabbing into any exposed skin!) we were informed that our route should have included turning left 5k earlier! 

With our skin looking radiant from a level of exfoliation that only sand-blasting can achieve, and our lungs filled with dust, we dejectedly turned around and headed back. Decision time: to continue home or to take that left turn and see the valley? 

Yep, you guessed it, we trooped on and arrived at the start of the valley… completely zonked. Facing yet another 20k worth of cycling to descend into the valley and return, Liv graduated from the Kazza school of shmoozing with first class och-nours and made friends with some Chileans with a car! I was jumping with joy at ditching our bikes… 

From squeezing through narrow salt caves that made Liv feel tall, to the beautifully vast desolate landscapes, the Lunar Valley was incredibly diverse. 

Giant sand dunes flowed down into rocky plains and salt flats stretched for miles. 

Pictures captured, we profusely thanked our impromptu drivers and achingly cycled back. 

Thanks to the worst ice-wind in 30 years closing the standard border crossing, we met our multinational group of travellers at a chilly 4am and headed north into Bolivia for a 3-day Uyuni tour. 

From the moment we stepped off the 4×4 the altitude hit us. A bizarre feeling of breathlessness that made gentle walking a challenge let alone jumping selfies. All stoked up on coca tea/sweets and with our hearts pounding, we toured the rugged landscapes and lagoons of Bolivia. 

After a day of llamas and quinoa (they even had quinoa beer) we arrived at the spectacular salt flats of Uyuni where, after overcoming the sheer amazement of the place, we managed to get a few amusing photos thanks to the vast flatness distorting perspective. 

Following a freezing night in a “hotel” made “completely out of salt” (#pedanticquotations) and with all running water frozen solid, we headed back to the salt flats for sunrise and to see the oasis of Incahuasi, some more local wildlife and a museum on… yep you guessed it, salt. 

All salted out, we finished our tour with an evening relax at the outdoor thermal pools where, after summoning the courage to de-robe in minus 8 Celsius, we were rewarded with delightfully hot water and an incredibly clear view of the stars. Southern hemisphere constellations learnt and shooting stars seen, we settled into another freezing and this time vertically challenged hostel. 

Uyuni tour completed and excessive photos taken, we bid farewell to our fellow international travellers and, in the land of seemingly extreme temperature changes, departed on the worlds hottest local bus towards central Bolivia where we’d soon learn some very valuable lessons… 

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