The scenery from the Bolivian was just breath-taking. We couldn’t stop looking at the mountains and the scene before us.
The road from the Bolivian border down to the Chilean passport control was about 50 km. The Chilean immigration staff clearly have more sense than to sit up in the middle of nowhere and instead, located their passport control office in the town of San Pedro de Atacama.
So the 50km bus ride into town and passport control was stunning!
It took about an hour to get down and the bus pulled up outside immigration where we had to queue to get stamped into Chile. It was whilst we were in this queue that Jody suddenly shouted “our hats! Bryan we have left our hats in the car”. Bryan (wearing his leather hat) couldn’t understand what on earth she was on about as she too was wearing her warm fleecy hat
Then it dawned on him too. His lovely panama hat from Ecuador and Jody’s lovely cowboy hat from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, were as we stood there, zooming off across Bolivia on their way back to Uyuni in the back of Orlando’s car. OH NO!
Well there was nothing we could do about it there and then so for the time being we just had to kick ourselves and just be cross with ourselves for leaving them behind.
We found a really sweet place to stay (mind you it was full of cats which weren’t so nice) but at least they had reasonable wifi and Bryan got straight onto Red Planet and emailed them about what had happened. A follow-up phone call the next morning and the bad news was that Orlando wasn’t going back to Uyuni – he was off to visit his family in a remote village and wouldn’t be back for a few days.
Deciding that we would hang around in San Pedro for a while to try and get them back (we presumed that cars were leaving Uyuni most days for the Bolivian border and they could hitch a ride in one of those as soon as Orland got back) we used the time to try and catch up with everything we had fallen behind with whilst in Bolivia and hadn’t been able to because the internet had been pretty much non-existent.
A few days later we got an email – The hats will be at the border again at 09:00 tomorrow!
Fabulous – now we just had to get to the border to pick them up. We decided only one of us need go – Bryan had a lot of work to catch up on so Jody volunteered. And she has more room in her passport in case we had to go through the whole stamp in/stamp out again procedure with Bolivia.
Our first obstacle was finding a ticket as going up to the border wasn’t a problem, trouble is most of the mini buses were booked up full to come back from the border. After trying several companies with no luck, we were eventually pointed to Colca Tours who had a big bus and some free seats. £15 later and Jody had a return ticket for a 7am pick up.
The following morning, armed with a packed lunch and wrapped up to the nines as it was freezing, Jody set off all prepared for a long day hanging around at the border (we didn’t belive for one minute they would get there at 9am). She was joined on the bus by amongst others, a fairly loud group of 3 girls. They were wide awake, laughing and joking. They turned out to be from Portugal and France and had all met whilst travelling and were going to Uyuni together.
Well they turned out to be a great bunch and Jody, Joanna, Fanny and Kristina chatted all over breakfast and the really chatty one – Joanna spoke excellent Spanish and soon the whole bus including the driver – Jose, knew why Jody was on the bus.
We had to stop at the Chile Immigration control because everyone else on the bus was leaving Chile. Unfortunately Chile wanted Jody to Stamp out again even though she technically wasn’t really going to leave. So that done, they chatted more all the way to the border.
The tricky bit came at the Bolivian border. Joanne & Jose were on hand to translate and help her but Bolivia didn’t want to stamp her in as technically she wasn’t going into Bolivia. This would cause a problem when she went back into town and into Chile. These two countries don’t seem to co-operate when it comes to their rules.
So deciding to let them think on it a bit Jody went off in search of Red Planet cars, Orlando and our hats. Already believing she was on a wild goose chase anyway, but hoping to be proved wrong, she eventually found Oscar. Oscar was by chance, the chap she had spoken to on the phone when we had been trying to sort this out.
Oscar was so apologetic but said no – Orlando wasn’t going to be here today and neither were the hats. It wasn’t Oscar’s fault at all that we were in this situation but agreeing that as soon as the hats were found, they would be returned to the Red Planet office for safe-keeping until we could work out what to do with them, she left Oscar and went back to the bus.
Joanna, Kristina and Fanny set off on their next adventure so if you are reading this girls – we hope you had a great time on the Salt Flats.
Jose went back to the Bolivian immigration and persuaded them to stamp Jody into Bolivia and out again – Thank you Jose! Then she reluctantly got back on the bus and headed back to San Pedro.
Well it was a wild goose chase as we had expected but meeting Oscar had given us some confidence that they would be located and held safely for us.
We had hung around in San Pedro for 6 days in total whilst we tried to sort this out. But we had used our time well and we had managed to squeeze in a couple of really cool things to do too.
We took a trip to the mountains about half an hour outside of the town. Remember the geo-thermal springs we had visited in Bolivia on our last night? Well the fault line ran into Chile and they had some hot springs on their side of the border too.
It was very pretty there. The springs were very natural looking but had been landscaped beautifully. There were natural pools with natural waterfalls between each one and to start with it was very easy to find your own little pool. Then it seemed as if coach loads of people turned up and the peace and quiet was disrupted.
We had a lovely picnic lunch there too but as soon as the sun dropped behind the mountain it got very cold and it was time to go home. We spent a good 4 hours there though. A really lovely afternoon.
The other really cool thing we did was go star gazing.
We were in the Atacama Desert here and at night the sky is so, so clear. A local enthusiast and tour guide had set up a really great telescope in his garden out of town and had created a really lovely set up so he could give tourists the chance to use his telescope.
He also supplied wine, biscuits, tea and coffee. Perfect!
So there we were at midnight, out in the desert in this man’s back garden, drinking wine and looking at Jupiter. Just how great is our life? Wonderful!
Well it was time to leave San Pedro but where to next?
We decided Chile was just a bit too expensive for our pockets at the moment though so a bus to Argentina it is then!
We packed up – quick look round – not left anything behind this time we hope.
Will we ever get out hats back?? Who knows but we have a plan!