We managed to find our train carriage (one of two sitting on the track without an engine) and climbed aboard, finding our seats in the dark with the trusty torch
. Eventually our train carriage was shunted along to join the end of a long line of carriages from the arriving train and the rest of the passengers climbed aboard. We definitely recommend the train as a much more comfortable way to travel between La Paz and Uyuni. Arriving in Orouro at about 10AM we headed to the bus station for some breakfast with some fellow Aussies, Birgit and Brett, who we discovered were on their honeymoon (congrats guys!). After some shopping around for the best price we caught the bus to La Paz. We're obviously not "in the know" as the four of us were the only people on the bus. We'd paid our bus station tax and what we thought was a reasonable fare. As the bus left the station it pulled over a few times in the surrounding streets. This is when the bargaining began, as people negotiated cheaper fares, with no departure tax. After about ten minutes the bus was completely full!
Arriving in La Paz we went our separate ways promising to catch up the following day for a meal, with us heading out for dinner to an Arabic place they recommended. Megan enjoyed her meal, Rick however discovered the downside to not speaking Spanish and managed to order (and very heroically eat) tripe! He was less than impressed when he realised though.
We did manage to meet up with Birgit and Brett for dinner the following night and they had a bit of a giggle at Rick's expense while he safely tucked into chicken and humus. It is always a highlight to make friends with fellow travelers and these guys were really fun to have a chat with and exchange stories.
After our bumpy experience on the bus from La Paz to Uyuni we decided to catch the smooth train back to Orouro then a shorter three hour bus to La Paz. As the only way out is at 2.40AM, we imagine most tourists have to do what we did and pay for a whole second night in a hostel but leave at 1AM to catch the train. Sometimes we think that hostel owners and the various transport companies get together and strike up deals that cause the most inconvenience to travelers and the most extra cash for the companies. When we arrived at the station we realised there was in fact a second option. That was to sit at the train station until the train arrived and drink as much as possible, as evident by the many tourists hanging around the station's bar.