Sooooo when we last wrote we were in La Paz!
We planned to leave La Paz on the firday night, even though we had been warned against, getting a night bus in Bolivia we had little choice as there was only night buses leaving La Paz. We booked out tickets with Flo and Chrissy through the hostel and got royally ripped off. However at least we were getting ripped off in the cheapest place on earth so it didnt seem so bad. Unfortunatley the Americans Tim and Charles couldnt get on our bus and had to get another one (all i can say is lucky for them!)
That day had been spent recovering from the previous nights excesses. In the morning, well early afternoon to be correct, Turl, Chrissy and I who actually managed to wake up in time for checkout went for some breakfast. Flo couldn't move after shaming herself and the Americans only got in at midday when check out was at one! Dirty stop outs! We were luckily enough to find a great place called Olivers Travels, which served full English breakfasts! Hallelujah! It had proper bacon and real sausages (not chorizo like everywhere else) Fried bread and baked beans! AMAZING. However it did make me feel pretty sick for the entire rest of the day, so we mainly sat in the bar of the hostel playing mario kart.
When we did get the bus, as we got ripped off we had dreams of a luxury coach to take us on our 12 hours journey. However when we got to the stop all we could see was a tiny battered old banger covered in mud. Even though we were promised hot meals on board we actually got this BEFORE we got the coach, so we ate it on the street outside. This was when some other people asked "Is this our bus? Are you sure its going to make it?" This seeemed funny at the time, but little did we know that these words would come back to haunt us!
On the bus it wasn;t so bad, it was made up by a really nice English speaking assisant who had a great range of films Slumdog millionaire and The boy in the striped Pyjamas. However the BITSP didnt work so we only had Slumdog! Luckily we'd seen it before because the screen was to small to read the subtitles! Then however our friendly assistant, told us he was only going to be on for 3 hours and change to someone else! Anyhoo as it was late I (Fran) fell asleep pretty much straight away whilst Turl stayed awake all night (again) I was woken regularly by the bus stopping and starting literally every fifteen minutes. Then at around 5am everyone was woken by a huge thud as the bus hit something and everyones bags fell from the top and change out of there pockets! To which Turlough shouted out Yeeeha, as the bus rocked from side to side until eventually coming to an abrupt stop. Everyone was like whats going on? but pretty much fell asleep again as it was 5am.
I rewoke at about 9 am to bright sunshine suddenly realising the bus wasn't moving. Then Turlough told me that we hadn't moved an inch since 5am!! We were still in exactly the same place! No one knew what was going on as our nice English speaking assistant had got of and been replaced by god knows who. So we got off the bus to find that the wheel was off and one bloke on his own trying to fix it. It wasn't for about half and hour or so that we found out that this bus was going nowhere and the replacement was going to be another 4 hours away, as we were in the middle of nowhere! 4 Hours!! we didnt even have any breakfast or anything, just one carton of juice and a small pack of oreos. It was baking outside and once again i only had my fleece for protection from the sun. Turlough decided to stay on the sweaty smelly bus breathing in all the dirty air from everyone else! Eugh. As Flo Chrissy and I had 4 hours to kill we thought we'd explore abit. As you can see from the photos theres not too much to explore other than dirt and rocks. But we walked back up the road for a bit and saw the river that we must have hit losing our wheel, and then further up the road to a sign. It was pretty exciting stuff. We then spent the rest of the time throwing stones at a piece of chrissys gum she'd tried to throw in a puddle but missed. Woop.
After about 3 and a half hours they had obviously managed to fix the bus and we all got on only to find we were heading back the way we had just been. Apparently we were heading back to meet our bus, obviously i know what you're thinking, why can't the bus just come and meet us!? Yeah god knows we were all thinking the same thing. So we went back to village, which took about half and hour where we stocked up on some crisps and things and waited another hour and a half. It was here they told us that the bus we were on was going BACK TO LA PAZ as the 10 minutes of rainfall had apparently caused a river to overflow and the bus couldn't get over it. We couldn't believe what we were hearing we had been on this bus for 16 and half hours and they were trying to tell us to go BACK to La Paz and risk it all again?! No chance! Had it not rained on this journey before? They do it every single day, so what do they usually do in this situation? We we're only hearing this through other peoples translations as non of the actual bus people spoke any English. Luckily we made friends with a bloke behind us who spoke both Spanish and English and tried to resolve the situation. Apparently the bus that was coming to meet us would try and go to Uyuni if people wanted too and the bus we were on was going back to La Paz. However one girl translated to us that there was no chance we could get across the river and that we would have to hire jeeps when we got there to get across. Luckily our bilingual friend already had head office of the company on the phone and was chatting to the bus driver. Apparntly they said that the journey was possible and if the river was too deep to get over then it would be a case of waiting for it to go down. No one knew where the jeeps part came in to it at all?! So we decided that we were going to give it a go and hope that it doesn't rain anymore! Chrissy and Flo however only now had two days to get down to Santiago as there flight was on the morning of the 3rd, so those poor souls had to get the bus back to la paz!!! I'm pretty sure they were the only ones on that bus as everyone else decided to give the river a go!
So we plodded on and luckily when we eventually got to the river we drove straight over it no problems at all! And it was just another six hours until we finally arrived in Uyuni! The bust that was supposed to take no more than 12 hours ended up taking 24 hours making us totally miss our day. We thought we were in for a treat as it was gone 9pm by the time we arrived the bus company had put us up in a hotel for the night, however when we arrived at the aptly named Tati Lauras it was like a war scene. Without a doubt the most disgusting place i had ever seen let alone stayed in. When we arrived to our cupboard the door was open, this was obvious, when we stepped in the owners trying to get rid of the stench of urine. Oh good. When we got inside we counted about 11 flies in our box room, and I without thinking desperate for a wee ran to the loo without checking it. It was in this disgusting little bathroom thing which stank, with wet everywhere and what could only be faecal matter on the floor!!! Then i realised that obviously the thing didn't flush, in fact it had no water in at all!! Turloughs toilet situation was a little bit more serious than mine however, and i told him there was no way i was sleeping with that manifesting in practically the same room with us! So it was time for Turloughs breakdown number 2, after killing 11 flies with the money belt, he realised he had to use the hostels communal toilet that was already full. Suddenly i was greatful I hadn't eaten in what was nearly two days!! That night there was no chance i was going anywhere near those sheets so i slept in my clothes, in my sleeping back liner, in my sleeping bag and still felt like there were things crawling on me. Turlough being leather skined slept under the blankets and cried himself to sleep.
We very awoke early to try and get a one day tour of the salt flats as we had missed a day! I foolishly left Turlough to go sort out the tour and get a bus down to Santiago as soon as possible, while i packed everything up in the room of death. The sooner we got out of there the better. Turl came back about an hour later and had done really well with getting a one day tour with a mickey mouse company, but it still turned out to be great. With the bus however he opted for the cheap route. Baring in mind we were in Bolivia, so if you're going the cheap route in the cheapest place on earth, then thats bad! He had booked a LOCAL night bus, leaving at 3am. Obviously the first question i asked was is there a toilet to which he looked down and answered (god it makes me mad to think about it) "I don't know."
Anyhoo it was all paid for and I tried not think about it as we set off on our journey to the salt flat. We got in a Jeep with a Spanish speaking driver and 4 other spanish speaking Argentinians. Only now did it dawn on Turlough that this was a Spanish tour. Luckily for us though after about an hour of us silently smiling and nodding through everything the driver said, the Argentinian couple in front of us were like "do you speak Spanish?" and luckily translated everything he said to us! Thank god for them! The first stop was to the train cemetary. This was where my camera DELETED MY PHOTOS AGAIN. Time for my breakdown this time. It took all my might not to throw the thing at one of the old metal trains. This was quite a sad place though as it had these once great huge engines just rusting away, old shells turning to ruble.
We plodded on driveing around Uyuni about three times for a reason we still dont know where i realised I should have warn my sports bra the roads around there are so rough! Then we luckily drove out of the rough roads of Uyuni to the long straight flat road to a little villiage near the salt flats. About 80 families lived here and they lived soley on the income from there salt factory. Nobody did anything else! We paid 12p for a tour of the salt factory spoken by obviously a spanish spoken guy, and then visited a salt museum, which had loads of statues made of salt, and the walls themselves were made of salt (see photo of Turlough licking a giant salt llama) Shaaaaalty! It was one of the hottest days we'd experienced so Turlough and I had to buy sun hats, as Vivs hat had left us and Turl lost my cap! Unfortunatley in this tiny village the only hats available were the ridiculous ones that you can see from the pics. Mine was a big green floppy thing, (however it did turn out to be AMAZAING at keeping the sun off my face and shoulders!) and Turls AWFUL Liam Gallagher esq old 90s beach hat thing. Just before leaving for the Salt Flat another jeep drove up and to our horror we saw Tim and Charles our American friends who keep following us around, who we had left in La Paz! They were also in a jeep with our bilingual friend from the broken down bus!
When we got to the Salt Flats they were 100% totally worth the horrific bus journey and awful hats, they are amazing! The first part we stopped on was where the locals dug out the salt and where water had created a film over the top of the salt, creating a mirror effect. This was really surreal as it looked like you were in the sky as that was what was reflected. When driving over this in the jeep, its felt like you were in a plane! It felt amazing to take my shoes and socks off and waddle through the warm shaaaalty water. Turlough was being stubborn at first wading around in his boots but then eventually took them off to wash his sweaty skank feet. He did foolish just leave his boots on the roof off the jeep so when our driver drove off they obviously just fell off and soaked themselves. Gave them a well deserved clean if you ask me. I think the Horasteads should all go on a family holiday to wash their rotting feet in the Salt flats, to clean them properly.
We then drove straight forward for about an hour to an island full of cacti. On the way however our driver had obviously driven this long white journey everyday and, as you do, fell fast asleep whilst driving! He must have been in a pretty deep sleep as one of the Argentinians had to physically shake him a couple of times before he would wake up! When he did wake up he just pretended like nothing had happened and starting rambling on about the volcano!! We should have got a picture!
We arrived at the island and had a chance to walk around it before we had lunch, which we were told was going to be llama, so i was trying to think of a good excuse to not eating it the whole way around. It was weird being on an island surrounded by salt as you kept expecting to see sea! But everywhere was just so dry! It was absolutley boiling though and there was NO shelter what so ever from the blistering heat as there was only cacti. When we sat down to lunch to my absolute joy it turned out to be chicken, pasta, and my favourite giant cucumber things they have in SA. It was delicious! We then had about an hour or so to take photos and things. We took some but then I had to go find shelter for my poor skin. Everyone pointing at us saying "red" didn't help either! We realised the only shade was by the toilets and so headed over there. When we got there we noticed a large group of Japanese tourists all crying so we were like "What is going on?" It wasn't like floods of tears or anything just more like little sniffles. When we sat down we saw a blanket covering something in the toilets room and because of the crying Turlough joked "huh dead body in there!" Then we looked at each other and how easily it could actually be a dead body. So Turlough asked a girl who was sat there and she said it was! I couldn't belive it! We glanced back to the blancket and made a quick exit from the toilet area. Just outside we saw another girl who had been on our bus, and we told her. She was all nonchalant and like "Yeah i just tried to resuscitate him." we were like WHAT!!! Apparently he's had an Altitude induced heart attack. So you can all stop laughing about me having to get poor old rusty back on the trek. Apparently she had heard him throwing up violenty in the toilet and when she looked she just saw his limp hand, she dragged him out and tried to give him CPR but it was too late! It was a small empty island with nothing, no first aid or anything. so he was just lying there no sign of an ambulance or anything! We were totally in the middle of nowhere! And it was baking hot!
Things did pick up after that downer when we bumped yet again into Tim and Charles! Tim however not believing us about the body went over to check it out. The shame, he only bumped into the dead guys poor bereaved wife! Anyhoo we got a picture with them as we realised it must be the last time we could possibly bump into each other again and said our final goodbyes, before rushing off to get our jeep. On the way back to Uyuni we stopped at the old Salt hotel too, which as you can guess, was a hotel completley made of salt. its not used however anymore so was eerily empty apart from one little old lady looking after the place.
When we returned to Uyuni obviously we checked into a DIFFERENT hostel, lovely and clean only 3pounds a night! However i obviously didnt shower in the previous hostel of death and when we got back to this one, it was 6:30 and you werent allowed to shower after 6!! Nightmare! This was Sunday night, I hadn't showered since Friday morning and we had to get a 32 hour bus journey at 3am!! no chance of a shower ever! Such a wrongen. Turlough didnt mind even though he hadn't showered since Thursday (so he says but it wouldnt surprise me if it was longer!) Euuuuugh! So we went to bed, in the sheets this time and got a couple of hours rest before waking at 2:30 for our bus.
So we'll leave you there and try and finish the rest of South America later tonight. Sorry but we want to get out in the sunshine! yaaay! Thanks for reading again hope we didnt scare you with dead body stories too much. Missing you all! Lots and Lots of Love Fran and Turl xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx