We arrived back in San Pedro on Tuesday evening after a long wait at a bus terminal in Calama (already missing the freedom of having our own vehicle). We got into town at 6:30pm and it was already pitch black, though the town was very much alive. We found our hostel (Pangea Norte), dropped off our packs and quickly went back into town to try and book a tour for the next morning. That did not work so we booked for 2 days later. On our way back to the hostel we found an amazing chicken restaurant that would put Swiss Chalet to shame, and so cheap!
The next day we explored San Pedro, as the last time we were here, we were 10km away and had not really seen the town properly. We still had lots of food on us from our van so we only got some ice cream in town and it was amazing, right on the main street. We got a cactus flavour and pear (the pear was my choice and it was so good). The rest of the night we got our packs prepped for our early departure the next morning. Everyone we had spoken to that had just done the tour warned us about how cold the mornings were going to be so we got our layers out.
The next morning we were in the van by 6:30 and on our way to the Bolivian border, at the border we got through stress free (although some American girls were having a tough time, and Americans have to paz $160US to enter Boliva, ouch). We met our driver Andreas and got into our 4×4 that would be our chariot for the next 3 days. Everyone else on our tour were very nice and they were all Brazilian so we spoke as much Portuguese as we did Spanish (very little).
Our tour started by visiting two lagunas, Blanca and Verde, then we were off to our lunch destination, that included a brief hop into some nice hot springs looking out over another laguna towards Bolivian mountains. After lunch we started climbing and gained some serious altitude over the next couple hours, we did not quite reach 5000m but we were close enough. At that elevation we stopped at a geyser site with mud pots. We were all feeling pretty sluggish at this elevation and did not venture too far from the truck. We eventually started our descent to a more reasonable 3900masl where we went to Laguna Roja, and got to witness massive amount of flamingos doing their thing. I also got a prettz great selfie with a local llama.
From Laguna Roja we bombed straight for Villa Mar our accommodations for the night. Somehow Becca and I got a double bed in a private room which is always nice. However the bathrooms were outside and that was not nice. In the morning while brushing my teeth I noticed that the water in the sink had frozen while I was brushing. Needless to say that was a chilly night.
Stay tuned for Part 2: The actual salt flats.