We crossed the border into Chile this morning (big smile) and we’ve booked 2 nights in San Pedro de Atacama. Our Bolivian Salt Flats Tour was a disaster!
Salt Flats with a Terrible Tour Guide
Written on 16 October
Here we are with four fellow disappointed group members sitting outside the Salt Hostel we stayed at last night by a little man-made pond with one duck swimming in it and some llamas occasionally drinking some water. The sky is bright blue and there’s a chilly breeze blowing.
It’s almost midday. Cesar, the worst tour guide in history, was supposed to wake us up this morning by knocking on our room door at 7am. He didn’t, but we all woke up anyway and had caramel on bread buns for breakfast.(yum!) We had forgiven him for being ridiculously rude and useless yesterday and we were all excited for day 2 of the tour where you supposedly get to see colourful lakes, pink flamingos and climb a volcano.
Last night Cesar said we would leave at 8am. (But in retrospect he had probably already conjured up his evil plan and knew what was in store for us because he was really over-friendly when he explained in Spanish and “sign language” the plan for the next morning.)
All the other groups had left by 8am. Our bags were also packed and the six of us were waiting outside for Cesar. By 9:30 am Marc and Christene, the French lady in our team, followed a local woman to the only phone booth in the little Village of San Jaun to phone Ripley’s Tours, the agency we booked the tour with. (Believe it or not.) They didn’t seem to care too much and nonchalantly said that they will phone Cesar. (Not that any of us wanted to see his face again.)
After 40 minutes of watching the duck and the llamas and playing “eye-spy” (which I sucked at), we phoned Ripley’s Tours again to find out what’s happening. Did Cesar die in a car crash? Was he being held hostage? Did he just purposefully abandon us because he doesn’t like us? The answer Marc received from Ripley’s travel agency in broken english was that they are sending another vehicle to pick us up-It will take about one and a half hours to arrive. We don’t know what happened to Cesar or if he is the one driving this other vehicle which is apparently on its way to us. Marc also asked if we get discount for such poor service, and to that the agent replied angrily: “Why you want discount!?”
We should have suspected something bad, there were some signs: Firstly, we heard Red Planet Tours is the best but we still didn’t go with them. We thought we should rather save money. There were so many other agencies to choose from! Why didn’t we pick another? Anyway, Red Planet Tours cost B$1200 for 3 days and almost all the rest of the agencies we asked cost B$750. Ripley’s was one of these. I must say, besides for our sucky guide, our car, food and accommodation was exactly the same quality as all the other tours. (If you want to book Red Planet you need to email them a few days in advance.)
Secondly, after we had booked our trip with Ripley’s we heard tourists tell other tourists: “No recommendo!” pointing towards the Ripley’s building. By then it was too late to cancel because we had paid already.
Thirdly, they say the guide can speak basic English… My Spanish is better than Cesar’s English! (Which is really not good at all!). We couldn’t ask him anything! He literally couldn’t speak a word of English…and does not want to try either.
Fourthly, he didn’t help us take any cool photos at the Salt Flats which I have heard other guides do.(Like Red Planet) He didn’t have any props for us to take photos with and he stopped at such a windy spot for photos it was hardly possible to stand up straight. Then, while we were trying to take cool photos,(I ‘ll show you in the next post what type of photos people take there) after 10 minutes, he started revving the Toyota Land Cruiser’ engine angrily. We got into the car, confused, and he shouted at us: “too mucho fotos, too mucho fotos!!” and some other Spanish words and raced off like a maniac. After this incident he made us listen to really bad Pan Flute music and not Ian’s iPhone’s play list which we were listening to earlier. We were shocked and sad because we were looking forward to play with photo ideas.
Fifthly, the speedometer on the Toyota was not working and he was driving pretty fast on the gravel road.
Lastly, with him being so friendly last night after his fit of rage earlier…. We should have known something was up… We should have known.
On the bright side, our group members are nice and we have a good view of a pond with a duck and llamas. I’ll tell you what eventually happened in the next post.