Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
44Trip End Jun 10, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We arrived in La Paz in the afternoon, early enough to appreciate the crazy overcrowding, air and ground pollution (Adar gasped as we passed a drain pipe spewing bright purple Barney colored liquid), and high altitude (13,000' - La Paz is considered the highest administrative capital city in the world). Not knowing much about the city and slightly hesitant to leave the bus station (Yes, La Paz is that crazy on first encounter), we booked a night bus to Potosi, a mere 10 hours away in hopes of finding a smaller town. We learned later that La Paz did have some gems but were glad to arrive in Potosi, the highest city in the world (13,300´ - apparently there are higher towns, villages, etc. but this is the highest city). Potosi is at the base of Cerro Rico, a large mountain of silver and zinc that provided Spain which much of its current precious metals and is still an active silver mine
Since our apparent love of buses was not yet satiated, we jumped on another multi hour bus ride to Uyuni to get to our primary destination. Uyuni is an old rail town, with wide dusty streets perched on the edge of the world's largest salt deposit. This is impressive in itself, but the high altitude (12,000') makes the surrounding landscape all the more bizarre. The salar is so large and so flat (with less than 3' deviation in height over its 4000+ square miles) that it is used to calibrate earth observing satellites. Interesting as well it that the salty meter thick crust holds about 60% of the world's lithium. When researching the salt tours online, all the threads mentioned that none of the 80+ tour companies that have sprung up to attend to the increased tourism was worth its weight in salt and the most important aspect was the group of people you tour with as you would be confined 5-6 to a jeep for three days. Again, the motif that people make the world go round popped its little head
We ended up finding an amiable British / Australian couple, Gareth and Kylie, that we walked around town with in an attempt to find a tour company. A short while later we booked with Oasis Odyssey and had six to our car. Our group ended up being Adar and I, Gareth and Kylie (a chemist and teacher), Stephen (a good humored and endlessly entertaining world traveling Brit), and James (a student) another Brit who had such a strong resemblance to Ronald Weasely that we almost slipped a few times and called him Ron. We could not have asked for a better group and the next three days were extremely fun. I don't even know where to start with the stories. There were near constant jokes between Stephen and I, hilarious accounts from Gareth and Kylie about their volunteer experience in the Bolivian jungle, and travel anecdotes from all of us. The soundtrack for the first two days was a single six song tape of japanese style pop with a Bolvian twist that played incessantly. After the 10th time, we began to cringe when we heard the title track. After the 30th time, the first track would cause maniacal laughter to spread through the jeep. In the end, we were not sure if it was in our heads or actually still playing. If we heard the song again, I am sure we would be instantly transported back to the salar.
The scenery was otherworldly with the first day being a train graveyard with huge rusting engines followed white salt expanses as far as the eye could see, dotted with small islands that appeared to float because of the mirage effect