An Australian is visiting the salt flats in Bolivia. Accidents happen, and after one slip, doctors may need to amputate his leg. Choose your tour company carefully so they don’t abandon you in a time of need.
Camille: Alright, so you know the salt flats of Bolivia, right? They’re salt, they’re flat, they’re high up. They are amazing! And the volcanoes…
This story is not about how great things are, however. It’s about how shitty people are.
The salt flats are just like a desert. There’s nothing there except for Jeep tour companies that take hundreds of tourists on two-night or three-night trips through the salt flats. And I met this girl in Boliva, Kay, who told me a story.
Anyway, because the salt flats are so beautiful and everyone wants to go see them, a hundred tour companies are all offering the same thing. Except, some of these tour companies are super dodgy and you pay cheap and their drivers are drunk. They don’t look after you. Basically.
We knew about this and we researched it really well, but the girl I met just came off a tour had the worst, worst tour ever. This is her story:
It was our second day and everything was going fine.
Our tour guides drove us to this place where it’s like a desert with these big rock formation/boulder things. They said to us ‘Ah get off, go climb them, and have a look.’ They stayed in the Jeep.
I [Kay] was wandering around with another girl and then suddenly heard ‘thud, snap, scream.’ We ran over, and a French guy has fallen off a boulder and broken his leg. He’s lying on the ground, going white, and he’s going into shock.
The tour guides came over and they had no first aid training whatsoever. They don’t know what to do in case of an emergency, but we had to do something… like now! We found some sticks to straighten his leg out and then ripped up some T-shirts to tie his leg. The whole time, the tour guides are standing around looking a bit worried. They get him back in the jeep, drive three hours back to Uyuni, a little town, not much in it, where all the tours run out of.
This guy’s been amazing the whole time, he’s just like, ya know, stoic. They go to the hospital, and they don’t speak much English, and after awhile, we realize the tour guides have just dumped us there, and left! They’ve taken us to the hospital, and then disappeared because they don’t want to get involved. The doctor and nurse come out to see me and says, “We need you to sign this form if that’s ok.” My Spanish isn’t that great. “What does it say?”
“This is giving us permission to amputate his leg.”
“Uh, No!” I don’t know this guy, I met him a day ago at this point…
I’m freaking out, so we decide we need other help. We call the French embassy, and they say “We’ve got no one there now, but we’ve got this guy we use sometimes in the American embassy who’s nearby. He can come out and help you.”
So the guy comes in and smooths the whole process and fixes everything. He gets the hospital in touch with these guy’s parents, and the leg is saved. Everything runs much better once this guy comes in. We are still kinda in shock, because we’ve had to straighten the leg and deal with all of this. He takes us out for a drink that night and says:
“Don’t even worry, this is not the worst thing that’s happened here, ya know? I’ll tell you about the worst story that’s ever happened while I’ve been working here. There was a three day tour out of Uyuni and one Japanese girl was there, traveling on her own. On the very first night, she slipped in the shower and hit her head. Died instantly. Which is a really really horrible thing to happen, right?
Then, the tour guides rolled her up in a carpet and tied it to the top of a jeep and they went on in the rest of the tour for the next three days.”
So, anyway! If you go to Boliva, pick a reputable fucking tour company!
On Trip Advisor, some people ask you “Can anyone give us a reputable tour guide out of Uyuni?” And people say, “This is cheapest, this is the cheapest…”
Do not pick the cheapest!! Pay some money. It’s not regulated. The tourism industry is all over the shop.
Ever wonder what happens if someone falls overboard on a boat party?