We decided to do the Uyuni Salar tour from Tupiza, instead of Uyuni, because we had heard Tupiza was worth the detour and the tours would be cheaper from there. We arrived from Sucre at 3AM and were planning on sleeping at the bus station until morning. But we were soon offered a cheap hostel to sleep in, and couldn’t resist the call of a comfy bed and hot shower!
The hostel also offered tours to Uyuni and the price seemed reasonable, so we booked to leave the next day. In hindsight, we should probably have done the tour from Uyuni, as we wanted to get to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile which is already a destination of many of the tours from Uyuni. The guy at the agency assured us transport from Uyuni to San Pedro was easy to find, listing non-existent trains and regular buses. It turned out we had to get quite expensive transport, via Jeep, which we had not taken account into the budget.
But Tupiza was a very relaxed and charmingly rundown town, settled in surroundings straight out of western movie. They still have a few restaurants and cafes that look like saloons and perpetrate the legends of American outlaws Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, who met their fate in the area, at the hands of the Bolivian army.
We spent the afternoon walking around town and stocking up for the trip at the market. We also walked a little outside town and discovered jagged red-rock formations surrounding shallow valleys dotted with cacti.
Our tour to Uyuni left early the next day. We met with our counterparts: a Swiss family of 3, mother Catherine, daughter Virginie and son Anthony. We also met our guide for the next 4 days, Cesar, and cook, Santu. All fitting into the Jeep was a bit of a tight squeeze, a slight issue we would have to deal with throughout the trip, by playing musical chairs!
The day started great: sunny morning and breakfast in the hills above Tupiza, taking in the amazing view on the valley below.
We stopped shortly to get up close to a heard of grazing llamas. The last stop was an abandoned silver mine and mining town. Other metals could be found there too: copper, gold, quartz, led…
The weather turned in the afternoon and by the time we reached higher altitude, it started snowing, unbeleivably, for a long time, and heavily. What a radical change from the morning. One of the Jeeps ahead of us got stuck in the snow, and all the drivers stopped to help. It took them alot of pushing and manoevering, and eventually swapping over the front and back tires, to get it back on track 2 hours later. Some of the tourists got out to enjoy the snow and build snowmen, while others stayed in the Jeep that was stuck, while others were trying to push it! Due to the heavy fog and delay, we did not get to see the last attraction of the day, the Laguna Blanca.
We got to the pueblo where we were spending the night, after sunset, exhausted and hungry! Thankfully Santu had prepared an amazing meal: hot vegetable soup, steaks and potato pancakes, yum!