Uyuni & Tupiza, Bolivia
Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
43Trip End Jan 06, 2011
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We had drinks at the Extreme Fun Club and the photos tell the full story. It is a crazy traveller thing to do as this is the base for the Salt Flats and only travellers stay here
On the Sunday morning, we set off to see the Salt flats. Stopping at the train cemetery gave us an excellent photo opportunity with beautiful skies and rusty, salt damaged trains. Bolivia had a massive fleet of trains at one point, but many lines have been decommissioned as the use of trains has significantly declined over the years due to the faltering economy. We stopped at the local 'table salt factory' (for want of a better term), where they manually process the salt and add iodine. Hard work for little money once again. 10kg of raw salt is processed and sells for 3 BOB (something ridiculous like $1). Seeing how many people scrape by on such little money reminds me of my travels to Africa - especially Malawi - where people earn minimal wages, but are still happy and helpful and enjoy their lives regardless of material possessions.
Our next stop was the infamous salt flats and to a salt hotel - yes, you guessed it - a hotel made entirely of salt bricks
Lunch time came and it was time to drive to the 'island' in the flats. There are loads of tourists there obviously, and I met a South African couple from Cape Town who were really nice people. I kind of wished they were staying the night in town - as by this point it would have been a nice to have some alternate conversation and have some more South African interaction
On Monday 13 September, we rose at 4.45am for the bus ride to Tupiza. It was freezing – we had to wear all our thermals as we had to walk through town to the bus station. We arrived at the bus station to small room of locals waiting for the bus, also rugged up - and a gas heater fired up. There are stray dogs everywhere - we have noticed this through all of South America so far, and they follow you around, but are not aggressive at all. At 4.45am we had something like 5 dogs following us - all nicknamed 'Rabies'. Catching the 'chicken bus' to Atocha wasn't as bad as expected only taking a meagre 4 hours. It was freezing on the bus and therefore I had no catch up on sleep. This is going to sound terrible, but luckily we had no smelly locals on the bus that day... Meg had her fair share the bus ride before. After much discussion on the topic, it turns out that Bolivians don't use toilet paper. So - without saying anything further - you can imagine what poor Meg had to put up with, and the reason we were very happy not to encounter that again.
We stopped in a little village called Atocha for an hour or so, and Sharyn and I (being the two coffee addicts on tour) went in search of a hot coffee to wake us up and warm our bones
On the Tuesday, we went horse riding for 3 hours in the place that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were finally caught by the US Marshalls after multiple train robberies. They got greedy and wanted to rob one last wages train travelling through Bolivia – but only got a fraction of what they wanted and were then caught at the border. The story goes that one of them (not clear which one) shot his partner and then shot himself rather than survive a trial and the imminent jail term.
The scenery here is breathtaking and I managed to get the most amazing horse, he was very kind to me – trotting, cantering aand galloping at a whim and not hurling me into any passing thorn trees for a laugh. Fantastic horse ride – and the mountains and the pancho we were wearing made us all feel like real cowgfirls. Well - we were all walking like cowboys the next day... and Jo had been thrown off her horse when the local dogs decided to take on the horse. Luckily for Jo, the only injury was a badly bruised thigh.
In Tupiza there are no real restaurants other than 5 pizza and pasta places – all the same chain – so we had no choice but to eat at them 4 times
Bolivia has been an interesting country to visit. It is still very rural, very very poor, but exceptionally beautiful with lots of tradition and culture still alive. We considered it so poor and still so far behind the times that it could be called a 4th world country (as opposed to 3rd world, which is now considered politically incorrect – 'undeveloped' is the correct term). The strange thing is there are numerous gaming arcades with a lot of young people playing for hours, internet cafes galore - one where they built a double storey inside to cope with the demand. So Bolivia is very far behind the times on most levels, which is actually quite nice and refreshing, and at the same time the youth are moving to games and internet with gusto. A place of contrasts.