Uyuni - Some Home Comforts, But Still No Water!

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
Trip End Apr 21, 2004

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Spotting a decent looking hotel over the road, we said our good byes to the others in our group and made our way to the reception, passing the local market stalls; displaying all manner of wares from pots and pans to bottles of pop. We were able to nab a vacant room, but took no time settling in as we were desperately hungry. With food on our minds, we wandered back along the market to the town square in search of some appetizing fare. It was a Sunday, and many restaurants were closed - we managed to get a surprisingly decent meal at a little cafe, complete with dogs and small children running in and out of the legs of tables, chairs, and customers!

Happily returning to the comfort of our private room, we stretched out on our beds and spent a considerable part of the afternoon watching the world go by from our window. The market was bustling, and Andrea especially, enjoyed her time spent 'people watching'! As the afternoon drew on, we began to ready ourselves for our evening meal, and discovered we had no water whatsoever - the toilet refusing to flush, no water to wash with, and no shower seriously hindered our progress (at least we had the wet-wipes still!). Slightly chagrined with this turn of events following the discomfiture of the previous few days, we made the best of it and headed out for a brief spell on the Internet. With the town of Uyuni possessing one of the world's slowest Internet connections, we soon dismissed that plan and went for some food instead.

Thankfully, a couple more places were open in the evening and we had a lovely meal at an Italian restaurant named 'Kactus'. They too had no running water, however, but a large water barrel (with jug) in the toilet, served its purpose well! With the evening only part way through, we returned to our room (still no water) to read - at least we had electricity!!!

Waking up to the sound of gurgling pipes, we turned to each other in mock disbelief - could it be that the water was returning? Delighted to find that indeed, this was the case, we took full advantage and rushed to shower and flush and generally appreciate returning to a civilized 'plumbed in' world. We had planned on spending a couple of nights in Uyuni in order to catch the 12.15 pm train to Oruro, which the guide-book stated only ran on a Tuesday. We had timed the length of our stay in the previous few places with this in mind so that we did not have to catch an overnight train - the only other option available. Upon asking around, we discovered that there was no 12.15 pm train, and we'd have to take an overnighter after all. 'The best laid plans of mice and men...' and all that!

We purchased our tickets for the 1.30 AM train and then mooched around the town for the remainder of the day, returning to the Internet (with a little more success) and resting up in preparation for the journey. Luncheoning at a decent looking restaurant, we realised that the Internet connection was not the town's only slow acting thing - after ordering our food, we waited 50 minutes before the waiter (who seemed seriously out of his depth) returned to our table to state that Andrea's pasta was ready, and would she like to have it while I waited another 10 minutes or so for my pizza! Ordering a second round of drinks further complicated the poor waiter's day and we missed out until we caught the attention of the owner and re-ordered.

After our evening meal, again at Kactus as our other choice of restaurant was closed because of what we assumed to be a death in the family (we peered through the window and saw an open casket adorned with flowers) we adjourned to our room for a little bit of kip. We arose at midnight, ensured we had fully packed our bags, and made our way downstairs in order to check out (even though we had paid for two nights). Unfortunately, there was nobody at reception and the front door was firmly shut and locked. We tried a side door, but without success. We were trapped! We knocked on all the doors on the ground floor (they were not numbered, so we assumed they were offices) in a vain attempt to locate someone who could let us out, but to no avail. Purely by chance, we came across an unlocked door that opened out into a room that was undergoing some kind of renovation. Moving swiftly through debris and scattered building materials, we found a sliding window, and opened up a portal to the outside world! Andrea climbed through first and I handed her pack, before doing so with mine and clambering out myself. Like a couple of thieves in the night, we stole out of the hotel, shutting the window behind us and striding quickly to the train station. As we walked, we both thought how lucky we were to have managed to get out, but soberingly thought how dangerous it might have been, had there been a fire, with no evacuation route available.

We checked our bags in at the station, and after a relatively short wait, boarded the train for Oruro. We had paid a slightly higher premium to travel in the 'Ejecutivo' class, and were rewarded with reclining seats and plenty of leg-room. We both managed to doze off during the night, despite the stifling heat in the carriage and did not feel too bad when we pulled up at around 9.30 the following morning.

Quite a number of our fellow passengers decided to head straight on to La Paz - a further three hour bus ride - and we seriously contemplated doing the same. Since we had finalised our travel plans for the remainder of our trip, we decided to stick with our itinerary and stay for a night in Oruro. We took a short walk round to the 'Gran Sucre Hotel', where we were both pleased with the room we were allocated. Crashing out on the bed and switching on the tv, I was delighted to see a Premiership round-up programme being beamed halfway across the globe! It was the first football I had seen in absolute ages, and I sat rapt, gleefully enjoying catching up on some deeply missed sport!

When the programme had ended, Andrea and I ventured out for some breakfast, but were again victims of exasperatingly slow (almost non-existent) service - it seems that Bolivia is not the place to indulge in eating out. We spent a fair portion of the day back on the Internet (we had a lot of catching up to do!) and chilling out in our room, before we went out for dinner. Our first choice of restaurant was closed (as seemed to be the fashion) and so we eventually ate in a 'no frills' establishment, that 'did the job'. Whilst dining, we saw on the news that there had been a bombing in La Paz, and that two bombs had exploded at a government building, killing three people. We looked at our guide-book to check the location, and with a slight chill, realised that if we had continued on to the capital, and taken the walking tour that was detailed, in all likelihood, we would have been in the vicinity at the time of the explosions. We counted our blessings.

With the day ended on a melancholy note, we returned to our hotel and slept, grateful that we were safe from harm.

Dan and Andrea
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