After visiting the amazing San Pedro de Atacama, I had planned to go to Bolivia crossing the border through Calama and Ollague. Ignacio had decided to join me on my trip to Bolivia so we were supposed to meet in Calama. Well, it was easier said than done 😉
We had indeed told each other that we would meet either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The only instruction was: if I arrive on Saturday evening, then Ignacio would have written me online where he was and we could meet there, if I arrive on Sunday morning, then we directly meet at the crossroads at the beginning of the road going to the border from Calama.
The problem is that I arrived in Calama on Saturday and I had no message from Ignacio online. Internet was our only way to communicate with each other –he had no phone anymore-. I had thus no idea where he was and where we could meet. I was wondering: what should I do tonight? Where should I sleep?: if I sleep near the crossroads then I have no access to internet to check where he is but if I stay in the city
then he is maybe waiting for me at the crossroads… Dilemma…
I wrote him that I would wait for him until 10pm at the main square in Calama and then I would go to the crossroads. I waited and waited and waited but even at 10.30pm, no sign of my friend. So, I went up to the crossroads hoping to find him there… Yes, sometimes, I am really optimistic 😉 So, at 11pm, I was going to the crossroads, which was much further than I would have imagined. Obviously, nobody was there. Well, when I am saying nobody was there, I mean no human being was there, but unfortunately, there were a lot of dogs… I am not afraid of dogs but that night hearing all them shouting while I was walking through the industrial area outside of town I wasn’t so reassured. It took me a while to arrive outside of that area and to find a place to put my tent. But finally at 0.30am, I could pitch my tent. I had a new friend that night: a dog… After spending some time camping in San Pedro de Atacama and finding dogs destroying my tent and laying
on it, I wasn’t a big fan of them. Well, I wouldn’t be more fan of them after that night, after that the dog “marked its territory” (=pissed on it) on my tent and on my bag in the morning… That night was really a tough one for me:
- Walking out of the city at that time is something I am usually not keen on doing abroad
- Sleeping along the road alone outside of the city neither, I really thought “Natacha, why are you doing this??”, I was feeling like a homeless person and I am not one, so it wasn’t a nice feeling
- I was really hoping to meet Ignacio that night to not be alone living this
- It was a very cold and windy night, my tent isn’t that resistant anymore, so I couldn’t sleep
- I spent a lot of time at night wondering: Will I meet Ignacio in the morning? What would I do if he would not show up early?… Should we meet directly in Bolivia? Should I wait for some days??
So, after such a good night and a very cold morning, I walked
up to the crossroads, which was some kilometers away. I hitchhiked to go there, as I wasn’t feeling well with that cold… Arriving at the crossroads with the car, I didn’t see Ignacio, so I decided to go to the city center to get online and see whether Ignacio had written me. Well, some meters afterwards, guess whom did I see on the side of the road walking up to the crossroads?? Of course, Ignacio 😉 I thanked up a lot the woman, who was driving me and greeted Ignacio very happily :D We were very lucky to meet there as he was coming from the petrol station, where I would have never seen him from the road!
He told me about his story coming there and it was even crazier than mine!! He even went to the crossroads at 2am, shouting my name in the air but I was a bit further away and at that time I was probably asleep… Anyway, we found each other, which was the most important point.
The most important thing then was to cross the border with Bolivia to go to Uyuni. Ollague was like 200km away from where we were,
so we started to hitchhike there. A lot of people were just going to the industrial area and not going further, so we waited for a while. Ignacio even boiled water for a tea while we were waiting –even though I told him, it was being pessimistic and we shouldn’t prepare tea at that time 😉-. After a while, a guy drove us to the little village of Chiu Chiu, 40km away. At least, there, all the vehicles that would drive by us would go to the border city Ollague, so it would be easier to hitchhike and the place was nice: a small farmer village. After a very short ride with a funny Peruvian girl –from which Ignacio got a free beer 😉-, we got a ride with a woman working in tourism and going to the border to pick up some tourists, who went to Uyuni for a couple of days. The scenery on the road was amazing: mountains, volcanoes -2 very small ones and an active one!- the different colors of the rocks, the salt soil and the abandoned villages.
At 2pm, we arrived at the border post, which was looking like a ghost town and
after arguing at the Chilean checkpoint that no, we weren’t coming with a vehicle and that crossing the border on foot is usual, we started to walk to the Bolivian border. It was the hottest moment of the day, we were in the middle of the desert, so the 3km- walk up there was very difficult and a car didn’t even stop seeing me laying on the floor out of tiredness… We however finally arrived at the Bolivian checkpoint and after mistakenly entering the 2 checkpoints, which are for vehicles, we finally got out entrance stamp to Bolivia 😊 We just needed to find a car now to take us to Uyuni and get out off the border. This place wasn’t even the best one to spend the night, even though it was still better than our last night in Calama –Ignacio spent the night at the petrol station with his sleeping bag…-.
However, very quickly, a family arrived by car at the border and accepted to take us to the next village. We thought it would be much better to go to a village to find another vehicle going to Uyuni or at least to spend the night.
The family was very nice. The husband was working in Calama in the mine –like a lot of Bolivians from the border are doing as it’s a very good salary for them- and the little daughter was amazingly beautiful I thought! The scenery was also very nice. It was a salt soil and for the 1st
time in my life I could see the crazy phenomenon of not seeing the horizon line because of the sun reflection on the salt soil! I was amazed by this vision.
Shortly, before sunset, we arrived in the very small village of San Juan and as we saw that we would need to be very lucky to get a lift there tonight and as we both fall in love with this peaceful place, we decided to stay there for the night. We fell in love with the quietness of the place, with the llamas walking around after being at pasture all day, with the traditional clothes, with the small houses and with the amazing mountains surrounding us!
We went around in the village to find a place to sleep. The only place with advertisement outside was offering us room for 40 USD
with hot shower.. –thanks but even with hot shower it’s overpriced. We then met a very friendly old woman, who told us which houses had free rooms for tourists. We went to the 1st
place and the guy offered us a room for 80USD!!! We said it was our weekly budget and he said it was the usual price in the village. Finally, when he saw that we wouldn’t pay that price, he told us he was just joking… Well, I don’t think he was joking so much, I am sure that he would have taken the 80USD if a person had accepted that price without saying “oh, no thanks it’s a joke”. He offered us the room for 3€ but we couldn’t look at the room before paying. We thanked him and went away, we don’t like such people! The last place, we went to, offered us for 2,5€ per person a room with 2 beds and for 1€ more, we could get a hot shower. We accepted: the place was good, the owner was honest and nice and we were very happy to have a bed to sleep that night. After a good meal, we spent our first
night happy to be in Bolivia 😊
The next day, before going to Uyuni, we visited the village. I loved that village and it will definitely stay one of the best places I was in this country! I loved looking the children going to school playing football with a can, walking in the street without any other tourists and the most amazing thing was to visit the old cemetery there. There were indeed some skeletons in the cemetery of people, who lived ther 800-1000 years ago. We weren’t expecting to see such things and were amazed to see it!
It was the story of my arrival in Bolivia and I wished I had stayed longer in that peaceful place, which made me love Bolivia at the first sight!
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