After yet another long bus journey that ended up being stuck in traffic for what felt like half the day, we ended up having to spend the night in Oruro. Our plan was to keep on going and catch the train to Uyuni, but we arrived too late and missed the next train out of town. What was supposed to be about a four hour bus ride from Cochabamba, ended up being one of the most painful bus rides we have experienced so far. You can just never predict anything in Bolivia! During our trip so far we have caught a sixteen hour bus ride in Argentina that was very comfortable and no hiccups along the way. You would think that a four hour bus ride would be fairly smooth sailing, but not here! We have learnt to expect the unexpected here though so we hadn't booked our train tickets out of Oruro yet and spending the night here was the only option.
The four hour bus ride had been stuck in traffic due to the very poor conditions of the roads here. A bus at tipped slightly into the gutter and no other buses, trucks, gas tanks or any vehicles could get past. The roads are so narrow in some parts that it makes it very difficult for vehicles to pass each other. We were also the only foreigners on the bus and were cramped up the back sharing five seats amongst ten people. Families often don't buy tickets for their children and they sit on their laps. One couple had four children cramped on their laps and on the other side a lady had her restless child on her lap. Dustin and I were cramped in the middle complete with coughing and sneezes coming our way. However this is their way of life over here and a family may only be able to afford two seats for six people. It surprises me though that the man in front had to have his seat fully reclined the whole way leaving barely enough room for them at all. It was a very hot day and the air conditioner was broken and the window opened about 1cm.
Eventually we got going and slowly we made our way only the long dusty dirt road. We passed through small country towns where the most basic way of living was everywhere. Small houses made from what looked like mud bricks with donkeys, cows and llamas roaming around. When we slowed down, women come over to the bus selling hot meals in plastic bags and drinks. We were all so thirsty and desperately try to buy drinks from them, but the bus driver is only interested in driving and we have to be quick to make a purchase.
So after about seven hours or so, we arrive in Oruro! We don't know much about this town and don't have accommodation booked since we were not planning on staying here. Times like this it is very handy have the lonely planet book in our pack. We were able to look up accommodation and before we have barely jumped of the bus, a taxi driver is asking us if we would like a lift. Yes please! Within a few minutes we have checked into a nearby hotel for a cheap price. We wanted to be fairly central and near the train station so the hotel we picked was our best bet. Driving to our hotel was again a whole other experience. We pass through markets and stalls all so tightly cramped, yet all selling very similar things. I noticed about ten stalls in a row all selling juices and other strange looking drinks. There doesn't appear to be any other travellers anywhere and the people living here are all very busy going about the daily routines.
Just staying in a town, city, village or anywhere for one night can still leave you with so many memories and thoughts. We wouldn't normally only just stay somewhere for one night, but when your bus is late this is what can happen. As we wandered around the town trying to find a laundromat and something to eat, it was like someone had turned back time. The old buildings, fashions and way of life here make me feel like I'm living life in the past. It is fascinating to see a place so different to home that feels so foreign to me, yet this is home to them and there nothing foreign about it at all to them.
The men here dress neatly in suits and some carry bulky old vintage suit cases. There are many stores selling suits where inside the stores you find vintage interiors and old wooden floors. The interiors of the cafes we ate at reminded me of old buildings in Ballarat and took me back to a time when I lived there. Yet amongst the old charm, there were plenty of modern stores about but they didn't have the same character as the old buildings in town. Crossing the road it was not uncommon to see a young boy or a lady selling selections of chocolate covered treats on a cart. On some corners lady's would be selling saltinas which were very tasty, just a like a mini pastie. We bought one and then went back for another!
We didn't have much luck finding a laundromat, there is an abundance of dry cleaners though. We discovered that what we thought was an iced chocolate, was not an iced chocolate like we know back home. It was a glass full of chocolate ice cream and whipped cream. Cream and ice cream! It was a delicious but guilty treat.
So after taking in a little slice of this chilly city, we wake up the next day to pack up our hand washed clothes and make our way to the train station. The train we catch to Uyuni is used by the locals and travellers. We are surprised by the level of comfort on board and there was even a dining cart serving up a decent meal. The only setback is that the train leaves at night so we miss out on what is supposed to be beautiful scenery on the way and we arrive at 2.20am. However thanks to a taxi driver waiting for people getting off the train, we were taken to our next new home for the night. After a few rings of the bell, we are let inside and before we know it we are fast asleep and finally we have made it to Uyuni.