Salar de Uyuni - San Diego with a hint of Brazilia

Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
Trip End Apr 03, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I had been looking forward to this trip as everybody marks it as a highlight and I was certainly not disappointed. I grabbed a 6:30pm bus from Potosi - I was feeling a good bit better at this stage. Wasn't feeling too hot in the mines but after lunch I was ok. Supposed to be a 5 hour bus trip so I get the cheapest bus I can - not point spending money if it's only 5 hours long. Some lovely scenery as we leave Potosi and I try to learn my spanish notes while its bright - gets dark here around 7. About 9pm the fun starts - we get stuck. I go out for a look and the scene is not pretty. It's a sand road and half of it has been washed away in front of us. Out we all go to help the driver - Takes 3 seperate attempts to fiinally free us. In the meantime another bus has managed to get stuck right beside us as well. Actually very funny - if it happened at home you would be pulling your hair out but you learn to leave with these things here (if you can't then South America is not the place for you).
   Outside I meet 4 Brazilian dudes and also meet my tour guide from the mines earlier in the day. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere has never been so entertaining I think. We all pile back onto the bus and away we speed. Well for about 10 mins until we stop again - the road ahead has been completely washed away and is unpassable (its wet season here in Bolivia and it rains alot in wet season). So it looks like we are sleeping on the bus so I settle into my corner and am just nodding off when the bus driver comes down to tell us that we have another bus waiting for us at the other side of the impass. Away we go walking in the dark trying to negotiate the water to the other bus. That works out well and in 30 mins we are back on the road again. The road is terrible though and less than 20 mins later we are all back off again as the driver speeds through a problem area minus the passengers. That works ... barely. After that its plain sailing to Uyuni. Arrive at 3:30am - four and a half hours late. A classic South American bus journey. Now getting accomodation at 3:30am in a town quieter than Dunmanway on a sunday, that's a story for another time.

I sign up with my new Brazilian buddies to do a tour of the Salt Pans starting the next morning. Bit tired but better than losing a day in a town as quiet as this. They don't have much English so when an American also signs up for the tour I'm delighted. Good to practise my Spanish but somethimes you just want to have a normal conversation without having to constantly rack your brain for verbs and vocab.

The 3 day trip is special - hard to describe. You see so much cool stuff and there is never a minute of boredom. Six of us in a 4X4 with a guide called Santos who drives and cooks for us. Santos is a top man in fairness and the food is fantastic - I though it would be pretty crap as the trip cost about $70 US for 2 nights / 3 days - that is really cheap, even for Bolivian standards, when it includes accomodation and food and transportation. We had T Bone steaks for lunch on Day 1 - enough said. The sights are impressive - from Blindingly white Salt Pans to Hotels made of salt to cactus covered Rock islands to Green Lakes to Blue Lakes to Red Lakes to Flamingos to Geysers to Thermal Springs to Snow Capped peaks to hot, dry plains to cold, windy plains. In three days you see it all and experience every type of weather. If you can't enjoy this trip then there must be something wrong with you.
      Throw in some Keepie Uppie competitions (Brazilians, unsurprisingly, kicked our butts here), a bit of a Bacardi session with music thrown in (Brazilians liked Bacardi and the American guy, San Diego as the Brazilians called him, was unbelieveable on the guitar, some top grub, a bottle or two of Singani (Bolivian spirit of choice), some good wine and you have all the ingredients for a memorable tour.

So that was Bolivia - Country Number 3 on the list done and dusted. The poorest country so far but the best traveling experience because it is so different to home. The cheapness and value for money makes it very easy to stay here - but the other side of that, the poverty makes it easy to leave as well. Great travel destination if you want to go and see and experience something a little different. Perfect for backpacking because its cheap and safe (at least I thought it was anyway but now I have adjusted to being here which helps in that department).
  Hasta Luego Amigos
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