Jeep Jeep

Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
Trip End Mar 19, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, December 9, 2005

What do you get when you cross a Jeep, two Bolivians, two Mexicans, two Canadians, a Fin and a Brit (me!)? A very squashed but spectacular trip through the south west corner of Bolivia!

I got the train to Tupiza from Villazon, where I bumped into John and Jim from Canada, and Kathina from Finland, who were all planning on doing the same tour of the south west of Bolivia and the salt flats (the Salar de Uyuni). So, we decided to go together. After a minor delay of nearly two hours, the luxurious train made it to Tupiza in the middle of a spectacular thunderstorm, and we legged it to a hotel and organized a trip to leave the very next day.

I think I was really lucky to meet them as over the next couple of days I bumped into Sabrine from Germany and Nicole from Corsica, who I had met in Tilcara and Salta respectively. They had both left earlier than me to get to Tupiza to organize their tours, but had to wait around for a couple of days to get enough people to form a group.

Just after breakfast we got the welcome news that two Mexican girls, Usi and Yelen, were wanting to do the same trip, so they joined up with us and we got US$30 of the cost back before we had even left.

After the first couple of hours, I don't think I was alone in wondering if 4 people squashed into the back of the jeep wouldn't have been a better idea than 6 of us, but still, I've decided to use the extra money to splurge on a hotel here in Uyuni instead, and stretch out my poor knees.

Sebastian, our driver, and Jim, the cook, did a fab job of keeping us happy during the 4 days. The tour took us right down to the Chilean border, to lakes, the biggest salt flats in the world, geysers, flamingoes and 12 metre-high cacti. The scenery was truly stunning, very remote and very high!

I think the highest we reached was 5,000 meters above sea level, and on the last day we came down to 3,600 here in Uyuni. It was realy odd to see Volcan Licanabur from the other side, as I had already seen it when I was in San Pedro, in Chile. Some of the roads were pretty awful, but it was great to get onto the salt flats and not be bouncing around quite so much. And we only had one flat tyre, and only had to get out and push the jeep a few times to get it started.

We stayed in two pretty basic places the first two nights (I will definitely not take running water for granted now!) and the third night was spent in a Salt Hotel which was much more luxurious. Literally everything was made out of salt, walls, beds, chairs, tables. Everything except the showers - and it was SO nice to have a shower for the first time in 3 days!

I've tried a couple of times to attach photos of the last few weeks but the connections have been really unreliable so there are only a couple so far. Will add more as soon as I find a decent computer, which can take the cd.

So now I am in Sucre, after a fairly hideous 12 hour journey which made me long for the lovely buses in Argentina. Its completely different here - much more of a bus than a coach. You chuck your backpack up on the roof and hope it is still there at the end. Then I spent 12 hours squashed between an old lady wearing the traditional layers of skirts (clearly just to annoy me and take up loads of room!) and a bowler hat, and the kids in the aisle who don't have to have a seat and just loll around on the rest of the luggage which is blocking the aisle. Plus, the first 6 hours were on twisty, turny, unpaved roads, climbing up to 4,000 metres. Even the Bolivians were being sick which was lovely.

Anyway, assuming I like the town, which I am going to have a look at in a minute, I will be sticking around here for a while to try to learn a bit more Spanish. Also need to find a place to live which should be an adventure!
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