The rest of Bolivia and hitchhiking in Argentina
La Quiaca, Argentina
After a night in bus the four of us arrived Sucre sunday morning. Sunday. The worst day for travelling, as everything is closed. But we did manage to find an ok hostel after walking around trying to bargain at places and trying to find a place with a kitchen. The day was spend walking around, drinking some coffee and enjoying a beautiful city. In the evening Lizzy and I went to the dinosaur park were we saw loads of plastic dinosaurs, fossils and 100 million year old dinosaur walking tracks. Exciting enough. The following day we met up with to other travellers, one israeli and one german, and we all went for a half day at the cliffs outside sucre for some rock climbing. None of us had ever done it before and so we had a lot of fun the whole morning. Got on a bus to Potosi to do a tour of the notorious silver mines they have there. We got to Potosi in terrible rain, but managed to get some take away pizzas and book a tour for the mines the next day. Piss wet we got to the hostel and had our pizza before falling asleep early. We booked our mine tour with "The real deal tours", exminers that have made their own tour company offering tours to where the other agencies go and all the guides have actually worked in the mines. So they knew what they were talking about and where to go and we had a great tour of the mountain. Spent about 2 hours walking through from one side to the other, seing miners pushing carts and carrying 100pound bags of rocks. A real hellhole. The dust and toxic water was at times pretty real, but for tourists it's not a problem. But the guides do claim that there is only an average of 20 deaths in the mines every year. With 10 000 miners inside every day that seems like pretty good survivalchances if you ask me. Worse is it with lung diseases and cancer fatalities years after. Out of the mines we had a chill rest of the day and our israeli buddies made us shakshuka for dinner and it was excellent. Early next morning we were on our way again on a small bus going to Uyuni. Had some great views of the mountain flats from the bus and we must have seen millions of llamas happily feeding on the vast grass fields around the rivers. Once there we walked around looking for tour companies and after we had finally decided on one, we got some dinner and crept to bed. The Uyuni salt flat tours are a must for any backpacker down in this part of the world and I think EVERYBODY does it. And there is a lot of packers here cause it is so damn cheap, and the result is hundreds of people doing this tour every day. So we weren't alone, but with a group of 6 we could bargain some and got a fair price for the 3 day tour. Drove around at 3800msl, visiting an old train graveyard and the huge Uyuni salt flat. It is so big you can barely see the other side of it, and it is totally flat. And it is pure salt. So walking around on it in many ways felt like being on a huge frozen lake, just like home in Norway. Even the sound the salt makes as you walk on it is the same, that crunching sound. The only difference is that without sunfactor your skin will be in flames from the immense UV amounts. And it is warm. On the fish island we stopped for lunch, walked around and took some salt flat pictures.
Because of the vastness and shadelessness of the salt flat, there is no depth perception on pictures and it is superpopular to play around with this effect, making things look bigger or smaller by putting it far away or really close. We played around for a good hour or more and when our driver told us to get in the car, we weren't nearly done. Of course, we were all like kids. Having found an awesome thing to play around with, I bet we could've stayed there for the rest of the day but we had to get going so we could get a room at the salt hotel before the other tourists beat us to it. We got to the village of San Juan and got rooms at the salt hotel before taking pictures of the sunset and having some rum while at it. The next day we drove the whole day, stopping at several lakes, train tracks and volcanoes. The lakes we passed by were all filled with different minerals, salts and algees making them colorful and surreal. To see thousands of flamingoes on over 4000msl in a big toxic salty and red, orange, blue, green lake with mountains of salt on its shores was something out of a different planet. Of course, we took millions of pictures. That night was our last night as a group of 6 and therefor we had a goodbye party at the hostel at night. Next morning we got up at 4 am to drive over to some geysirs for the sunrise. The stars up here at 4500msl, in the middle of the desert, was quite amazing, and could even compete with the sky at home during winter. And the temperatures as well. Must have been around minus 10 as we got in the car. By sunrise we were up at the geysirs. Didn't stay there more than 5 minutes to get the photos, cause it was freezing cold still, and we soon headed down to some natural hotsprings for breakfast and a dip in the sulfuric water. That was great!
But they said we shouldn't stay in the toxic water more than half an hour so we were soon on our way again. Visited a big green salt lake right in the middle of to volcanoes before we reached the chilean border. There two of us, Tal and Lizzy, was going further into Chile as the rest of us was to return back to Uyuni. 8 hours in the car later we reached Uyuni again, glad to be alive. Our driver was so exhausted from driving 3 days and we kept a good eye on him as his eyes kept shutting. After a good break in a small miners village he seemed fine again and we got to Uyuni without him falling asleep. There we got our stuff and jumped on a bus heading for Tupiza. Some of us were sleeping on that bus, but being in front I could see the road we were at and I'm glad it was night because I have a feeling the cliffs on our side was a lot bigger and steeper than they looked like. And with the speed they were manouvering this old piece of crap bus I didn't have a minute of sleep. So we got to Tupiza around 2 am and walked around one hour in the people empty streets looking for a hostel. Partly lost because there was so street names anywhere and no people to ask, and the map was inaccurate and we were tired, some of us were more grumpy than others, but we did manage to find a hostel and everything turned out just fine. Next day Kirsten and I went on a half day of hiking in the mountains next to the city and it was great getting to move our legs a bit after way to many days in jeeps and busses. Next morning Kirsten and I decided to head to Argentina, while the 2 others went on a two day horsebackriding trip. We got there early morning and walked to the edge of the border city La Quiaca to try to hitch a ride. We sat there by the side of the road the whole morning, and with little to no traffic it was impossible to hitch a ride. So we walked back. Busprices was obscenely expensive compared to the country we had just come with, so we decided to try to hitch for the next two hours until there was another bus leaving. And would you believe, after 5 minutes we sat in a 30 ton truck full of sugar going south. He wasn't going the right direction for us, but could take us two hours down the road and we were thrilled with this. Listening to techno music the whole way and getting first class info on Argentina and truck driving knowledge our spirits were lifted as we reached Humahuaca. Our driver was heading up to the salt flats of Argentina with his suger and to bring back 50 tons of salt. "No problema" he said. Apparently they just pay of the cops and the controls, as the limits for the trucks are 29 tons. Even though we were now in a more western area of south america, it was still evident in which part of the world we were. Corruption is the way of living down here for many. So we spent the night in the tiny and very relaxed Humahuaca. Great little colonial place with cobblestone streets and people walking around at night, not during the day when everyone has siesta.
Next day we tried the same. Got up to the road and sat there waiting for traffic. Hitchhiking might be hard anywhere around here, but when there isn't traffic, it's impossible. But we got lucky. A pickup picked us up. We had begin to wonder why they're called pickups, as most of them just fly past you, without even thinking of picking you up. Pickup my ass. Being lucky only to a certain extent, he was just going 40 minutes more south, but anything goes. Being now outside the village of Tilcara, the traffic had picked up a notch and we felt more lucky than ever. After two hours, and quite some time in rain, our motivation wasn't that great anymore. But we were right next to a gas station so every now and again when there was a lot of cars there we would go and ask people directly. And of course, Kirsten found two dutch people. I'm hunted by dutch people. But they're usually great people and I have gotten a liking to them. They had a rental car and was going to Purmamarca. Of course, we weren't going there, but they could take us another 30 km down. Left us at the intersection there, and with even more traffic now if only took us another 30 minutes until we were in another car. This guy was a doctor working in Volcan, another 40 minutes down the road. He left us there. And as the weather was getting worse and no one would pick us up we did, after an hour more maybe, begin to feel like we should fine a bus to take. Lucky again. A woman in another pickup picked us up and that was a car ride almost matching the busrides in Bolivia in terms of danger. She could not drive. And it was raining very hard. Luckily she had the wits to not drive over her own capabilities and so she drived superslow and even let the evergrowing line behind us pass from time to time, ripping the car of the road onto the sides. We did offer to drive, but she said she didn't trust other people to drive. Feeling lucky to still be alive we reached San Salvador de Jujuy later afternoon. We decided to stay there but the prices were horrific so we went over to the busterminal trying to find a bus and the prices there was equially horrific. Being to late to hitchhike(we didn't want to do it in the dark), we decided to just bite the dust and pay for the bus to Salta. There we found a cheap hostel, got chocolate and argentinian wine from the local supermarket and had a very chill night at the hostel. Learned that Lizzy and Tal, whom we left behind on the chilean border in Bolivia, were also there. So we met them the next day, had coffee and cake and walked around before eventually having do dodge the rain and retreated to the hostel to see a crappy movie, eating cake and drinking wine. This was wednesday 7th of december and with my flight out of Sao Paulo, Brazil in 15th I was getting into serious time issues. So I walked over that afternoon and bought a bus ticket towards Paraguay. Later we went to a typical argentinian barbeque and had an awesome beef and red wine before enjoying the rest of the night out at bars and such. Perfect last night with the group. Hungover all the following morning. I followed Lizzy to the terminal, as she had decided to follow me to Paraguay and Sao Paulo, herself going to Brazil for christmas. Called Norway and had a wonderful chat with my father before we said our goodbyes and got on the bus. We had great seats in the front of the dobbledecked bus and enjoyed the ride going through vast flat landscapes of the Chaco. Reached Resistencia at 5am, got on another bus to the border of Paraguay.