The Bad and the Ugly

Lies, deceit, blundering incompetence and chaotic disorganisation - that's what we got on our three-day tour of the Uyuni salt desert and environs.
The "guide" refused to speak to us on the second day, we had to take our driver's ID/licence to prevent them driving off on us in the middle of the night, and it ended with the agency threatening to call the police when we tried complain.
Responsible for this very unpleasant farce was Oasis Odyssey Tours. I name and shame them here in the hope other travellers will not suffer the same misfortune we did. Nobody deserves such treatment.
Myself, Jenny and Edie, an Irish girl we met from Tralee, each paid €65 for the tour, covering food, transport, a guide/cook and accommodation including a night in a salt hotel. We were told we'd have to pay entrance fees of B$45 but no more. An Israeli couple and Cato the Aussie completed the group.

The morning of departure, the head honcho said we wouldn't be staying in a salt hotel after all, but she changed her tune when we said that's what we agreed and paid for. That evening, after a wonderful day on the salt flat (I won't taint that experience by writing about it here), our guide told us the salt hotel was full and we'd have to stay somewhere else, 45 minutes drive away.
The other option was to stay in another salt hotel but for more money - B$10 each. It was just a €uro but fuck it, we'd already agreed and paid for a salt hotel. We refused to pay any more and demanded to stay in the salt hotel. She eventually acceded. Eventually. But the tone was set for the rest of the trip.

The next morning Narky Nelly was in foul form, refusing to speak to any of us, despite her duty to us as a guide. For the whole day she persevered in maintaining a stony silence. But for the fact the driver had the courtesy to tell us what lakes we were looking at, we wouldn't have been told anything at all.

We came to the checkpoint to learn tourists are now screwed out of B$150 each to proceed, €30 for me and Jenny, and five times the price it had been four days before. We'd already been assured we wouldn't have to pay more than B$30.
There was much arguing, tears and tantrums - none of the tourists had been told - and about 25 landcruisers were lined up in front of the metal barrier. We were delayed for an hour or so before most just eventually coughed the money up. Narky Nelly suddenly found her voice again and had a huge row with Jenny and Edie after myself and Cato skipped over the border. (More on that in the next post.)

We were to stay the night in a small village just beyond the checkpoint. When we got there however, we were told beds were scarce, and would we mind sharing three matrimonial beds. I went to check the rooms and found just a room with five single beds in it.
"Donde son los matrimoniales?" I asked.
"No hay matrimoniales. Solo hay cinco camas."
The double beds never existed at all, and they now wanted the six of us to sleep in five single beds. I refused, and was telling the others about it when the company's other 4WD pulled up with six more tourists in it. They were to stay in the room too! Suddenly there were three more beds available, but that was it - eight single beds for 12 people.
I was outraged. I asked the "guide" why reservations hadn't been made, as I asked her the day before too. I'd had enough at this stage, as had everyone else, and I asked her if it was the first time they'd ever done a tour. Maybe then it could be excused. But apparently she'd been doing it for three years.

She then suggested we drive for another hour and a half - after we'd been driving all day - to find accommodation further on. At this stage, we'd already taken it upon ourselves to find beds, and found six available in the hostel next door. For some reason these weren't suitable - they still wanted the 12 of us to sleep in eight beds, or to drive on.
Then the other 4WD suddenly left, after the driver had a disagreement with Nelly. We wanted to stay however - it was dark, we were knackered, there was no guarantee we'd even find beds further on - and we insisted on staying where we'd found the six beds. (We learned the next day the other jeep drove a further three hours to the Chilean border before finding accommodation.)

Nelly, meanwhile, just sat in the jeep with a face on her, fuming. A mediator with fluent English and Spanish tried broker a deal but to no avail. We grabbed our bags and brought them into the room.
The mediator, Alex, suggested we take the keys from the driver to make sure they didn't drive off on us. The driver agreed, but as he still had stuff to do in the jeep, he suggested we take his driving licence instead. We did.

I then tried clear the air with Nelly. I knocked on the window but she turned her head away. I kept knocking until I eventually opened the door. She turned around with a snarl. "This is my country. I'm Bolivian. You're in my country!" Her face was contorted with rage, teeth bared like a snarling dog. So I didn't get very far with her.

We tried order food inside but all the tours had brought their own cooks, so there was nothing available. Unfortunately our cook was still in a snot in the car.

Then a guy came up to me in a very aggressive manner and said we wouldn't be eating in that hostel, that he had spoken with our cook, that we were very bad people and under no circumstances would be allowed eat there. He wanted to know where we were from and said there were three Israelis in the group and that they were known for ganging up and attacking people. He was squaring up to me as if he wanted to hit me.
I told him he didn't know what he was talking about, that he only had one side of the story, that he didn't know of all the trouble we'd had on the tour, and that we weren't very bad people. I resisted the urge to hit the fucker. It was only the next day I learned he was just another tour guide. Another liar. He told us to follow the other 4WD and eat with them when we met them. They had all the vegetables and we only had the meat apparently.

I ignored him, and went back to the table to hold my head in my hands. Everyone was pissed off, tired, exasperated, and nobody was going anywhere. We weren't getting fed either apparently, but a couple of the other tables kindly gave us some bread and leftovers.

Half an hour later Nelly was in the kitchen cooking, and an hour after that vegetable soup was produced. So much for us not having vegetables. Jaysus knows what she did to it. A meat pique was served next. The vegetarians didn't bother complaining.

We were up at 3.30 the next morning to catch up with the other vehicle. We saw the geysers on the way - in the dark, so we barely saw them at all. At least the guide spoke to us. Comparatively the third day was incident free, although we did notice the driver of the other jeep drinking wine from the bottle. Meanwhile, our driver was clearly knackered from the three days' toll, and nodded off a few times as he drove back.

We were all far from happy when we eventually got back at 6pm. Before we were able to complain however, our guide ran in to complain about us. "They're bad people," I heard her say. "The other group was fine. I only had problems with this group"
The head honcho (Nelly's sister or mother from the startling resemblance) wouldn't hear any of our complaints. "No queramos hablar!" she stated flatly.
She refused to give Cato change she owed him from the bus ticket to La Paz he'd ordered, insisting instead he owed her the money! After being accused of being a liar, he eventually got his money back, slammed down on the table in a rage. It was evident then they hadn't even ordered the bus ticket.

They told us to get out when we tried list our complaints - "¡Fuera!" (something you'd only say to a dog) - and then threatened to call the police.
"It doesn't matter. It won't affect us," the woman said when I told her we'd tell other tourists of our experiences.

So you've been warned - if you find yourself in Uyuni about to embark on a tour of the salt flats, stay the hell away from Oasis Odyssey Tours of Av. Arce, Uyuni (beside the Palace Hotel). Their outrageous lies and insulting service very nearly ruined what should have been a wonderful experience. They did their worst and shouldn't be allowed do it again.

Comments

  1. Dude, sorry to hear this news dude…all those fucking people really understand is soccer the game of the working classes to keep the working class in check, generally speaking I find the Latino folks [all of them] to be a bit, primitive, on many levels, in the way they think, way too religious, old fashioned and the likes, in a nut shell a very basic type of human, not surprising how they all have been shafted for eons.
    And your bad people...they’re like children…wtfunk…I live and work with them every day, I like em cause they kinda have that way we have i.e. an understanding of how things should be, but least us not forget they are and you are in a third world country..Chile Argentina is too don’t be fooled... Don’t forget you are a European and fuck your PC correctness…is BS...You know it I know…knackers are we yet cultured and have a sense of decency….you represent what they don’t have so they’re gonna fuck you every chance they have..

    One word ‘Lawyer’
    this unchecked aggression will not stand man...

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  2. Slightly racist there don't you think?!
    I guess that's just the developing world for you - not much forward planning or planning at all. Everything is for a short-term gain, and then they're still fucked at the end of it.
    I'd like to be smug but the same greed, short-term thinking and so on rules the roost in more "developed" countries like Ireland. The government there increasing airport charges when the country is crying out for the money tourists bring in comes to mind. In fact, the Irish government seems to be taking its cue from governments in countries like Bolivia!
    Unfortunately Bolivia is rife with schemes to milk as much as possible from visitors. Peru and Guatemala were the same.
    As long as they persist with such short-term planning, nothing will ever change here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This the reply from Oasis Tours:

    Thanks for writing!

    UNTIL NOW I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM WITH THE CHEF NELLY, our cook NELLY IS A PERSON WHO WANT TO HAVE ENOUGH TO MAKE THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATION CLARIFICATIONS, WE DO NOT MAKE MARRIAGE ROOM, NOT INCLUDE THE RECOVERY OF NATIONAL PARKS TO BE MADE IN THE BOOK WAS AVAROA BOLIVIAN 150 DOLLARS WERE NOT, AND only charged 30 BS. YOU were not alone be surprised were very surprised TOURISTS FOR U.S. also did not have that information, simply as a exception for you and we were wrong why not admit the great effort that was made so that everything goes well. ANYWAY THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS

    SALUDOS
    VERONICA
    CEL. 72871717

    ReplyDelete

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