I decided to copy the message that my husband sent to the office in La Paz to explain the problems I had with this company.
I arrived at Colquetours Uyuni's office exactly at 10 AM, considering the necessary time for payment and finishing what else it could be needed to start the tour, that you had also set to be started at 11 AM.
The local employee seemed to be caught by surprise when he saw a group of six people arriving to make a tour, despite of having in his records a fax ( probably coming from your office) with the names of all of us. Some evidences that support my affirmation:
- the driver/guide (MARCOS) was scheduled at the moment and, worst, did not know that, on second day, he could have the task of guiding us to the top of of the mountain on Thunupa sight seen, what he later told us that he was not prepared (physically) to do that ( his behavior will be commented later);
- later, the driver told he was not a guide tour, only a driver;
- the car was not ready, since the spare tire had been left to be fixed, and all the group had to go back to the place it was left, what happened at approximately 11:30, after going to the trains cemetery (remember this was a sight seeing that we had asked to be cancelled and, as you have written, our tour would start at 11 PM);
- the food, box lunches and all the stuff was not ready and, one way of dealing with that, was the fact that the guide headed us to the train cemetery, in order to have some time to make possible for office's employee to finish the preparation (and purchase) of the necessary food and the other goods.
This was the actual schedule:
- 10:00 - group arrival at Colquetours office;
- 11:05 - car's arrival at office and loading of our luggage;
- 11:15 - tour start heading trains cemetery (remember we haven't asked that);
- 11:25 - back to Colquetours office when the food has been loaded;
- 11:30 - arrival at spare tire's fixing place (with all the group on board);
- 11:40 - tour start, heading Colchani.
As you can see, the real start of tour happened at 11:40, what means that we have lost all the morning. You know that we asked a 2 day tour, since we did not have too much time for the trip, so, the only thing we wanted was a well organized tour, what really did not happen, and besides, we had to hear some jokes such as "Bolivians are this way", when the tire was being fixed.
In my opinion, the 2 day tour is not good, since the second day is programmed for an activity that can be performed only by well prepared persons, since the vulcan (or the top of mountain) is very far from the last car's position. Colquetours DOES NOT give the customers any information about the difficulty of climbing the mountain and ONLY ONFORMS that climbing to the top is an option. This was one of the reasons that led us to insist on the climbing and made us having problems with the driver, that did not believe in our capacity.
Still considering the second day, if the climb is not performed, the program is too short, and maybe the day is lost in places not so interesting and, besides, having other options.
Concerning the driver's behavior, here are some facts:
- at first, he presented himself as a nice and accessible person, and he really confirmed that was scheduled for the tour at the moment we arrived at the office;
- after having the spare tire back, he had stepped in our luggage, in order to access the correct place for loading the tire;
- during all moments, when we started discussing the second day, he clearly tried to induce us deciding not to climb to Thunupa's top, saying that it would be too tough, we should wear special shoes, and we it was paramount to leave the hotel at 5 AM, in order to complete the tour at the correct time. Besides, for several times, he made some jokes about our physical condition, trying to make us believe it would be impossible to climb the mountain;
- after arriving in the hotel, when I asked him to confirm the departing time (when I confirmed the climbing option), he changed the departing time to 07:30 AM, saying that this time would be ok;
- considering the previous item, later he said that, for climbing to the top, it would be really needed to leave the hotel at 5 AM, but since he didn't believe we would succeed, he said it was ok at 07:30, not giving us (in advance) the possibility of completing the climb;
- during dinner he once more asked me if we really wanted to climb the mountain, since he was not prepared for that and he said he had not been told (when he was hired for the trip) that he would have to do this task;
- he clearly demonstrated that he wanted to go back to Uyuni early, since that, without the climbing option, he said we should be back at close to 2 or 3 PM (later we have heard some conversations, by mobile phone, when it was possible to see he was setting a meeting with a woman - maybe it is a clear indication about his hurry);
- after arriving to Incahuasi Island, he told us to make the tour around the place, have lunch and, after that, he would be waiting us in the car, but it didn't happen, since we didn't find him and, besides, he was DRINKING beer with some other people and, worst, he asked me to wait a little more and "take some other pictures" in order to give him the necessary time for drinking the opened bottle.
I know that the Salar has normally a clear way and driving there is very easy, not considering how to get oriented. Anyway, driving under effects of alcohol and putting in risk six other people is nothing but unacceptable. I really don't know how much he has drunk, but for a service like that, it is not acceptable more than ZERO, since my whole family was on board.
You know that this tour is not so cheap and everything has been paid at the right moment and, from my point of view, paying 50% in advance, like you asked and I DID, with no other guarantee than your word, is too much and really requires trust to someone or to a service that I don't know too much about. Besides that, reaching Uyuni or some other places in Bolivia is not so easy. From my side, I tried to plan the trip in the most details, in order to not having unnecessary stress. I don't have any complaint about our previous dealings but, for sure, in Uyuni, Colquetours services was example of disorganization and lack of consideration to the customer's needs.