So after my long wait on the argentinian side, I got through to the Bolivian side with no problems whats ever. While at the checkpoint I met and english bloke and an aussie guy, who could only be described as crocodile dundee, I´m not kidding! The guy was 40 and an actual cowboy!! They were heading my way so we jumped on a bus from Villasson to Tupiza and I had my first bolivian bus experience! Well, lets just was that its not ALL the buses fault, the roads (or lack there of) are to blame as well, but my god it was bumpy, cold and dusty! luckily that one was only 3hours long, which was managable.
Tupiza was my base for the start of my salt flats tour, which would end in Uyuni. I decided to spend a day or two hear just to chill out and relax before starting my epic journey. There wasnt a great deal to do in Tupiza but it was a nice little town to stop in for a couple of days.
The I was off on my tour. I got to the tour office and saw that the car was big old Nissan Patrol, I could sniff trouble but I knew that my Dad would disagree if he was there (´best car I ever owned´hehe) It was me and three lovely french girls in my car, and we had 3 other cars (Toyota Landcruisers, Pfft) following us.
We spent alot of time in the car the first day stopping off to see Quebrada de Palala, these big red needle like rock formations and El Sillar (the valley of the moon) which did kinda look like the moon, or how you would imagine the moon to look anyway! We spent the night at little gold mining village called San Antonio de Lipez. It was freezing cold at night, though not as bad as some people have had it, so i hear. At night the temperature drops to about -10 degrees! Others have had -20! so i counted myself lucky that it was relatively mild,
The next day we headed off to the original town of San Antonio, which was abandoned by its villagers because of a high rate of deaths. the locals think that it is an evil spirit that was killing off the town folk but in reality it is the poisonious chemicals in the air from the mines. The ghost town was a very eerie place to be in.
After passing through a couple of inhabitated towns we went to some hot springs in Rio Armargo. After a cold night and morning the 30 degree natural hot water was bliss, none of us wanted to get out!
We saw alot of Lagunas on ths day but the most spectacluar one was Laguna Verde. At the righttime of day (which we were there at, thanks to our guides) it is the most amazing turqiouse green with a beautiful voclano as the back drop. Apparently it has the colour due to a high amount of magnesium and arsenic.
After that little treat it was just alittle trip down the road to desierto de Dali, a dry sandy desert which, as the name suggests looks like it just came out of a Dali painting! then it was another quick trip to Sol de Mañana, a geothermic hot spot with bubbling mud pools and geysers everywhere.
Our last stop of the day was Laguna Colorado, which was a brilliant shade of pink, and our first sighting of flamingos! After a loooong day it was time for dinner and the bed not long after that! And up in the morning at 6am.
Our third day was pretty relaxed as we headed off to see a stone tree, Ooooh!! and many, many more smaller, less exciting lagunas. But we saw lots and lots of flamingos and a random fox! I even saw and managed to get a picture of a completely white flamingo,which I found pretty exciting! lol.
This was our third and final night on the tour and we stayed at the edge of the Salar (salt flats) in a hotel made completely of Salt. It was great, even the tables and chairs were made of the stuff. I did laugh alittle at dinner when one ofthe girls asked if there was any salt.
Our last morning we got up at a ridiculous time of 5am inorder to get to the Salt flats in time for sunrise. despite the cold, early morning it was well worth it. watching the sun come up over the completely flat, bare salar was just beautiful. Once the sun was off it was time for breakfast and then to take so obligitory perspective pictures or people standing on your hands and with massive objects like mine sitting on some playingcards.
And that was pretty much the end of our tour.
At the end of my tour we ended up in a horrible little town called Uyuni. I was originally planning on staying here for a night to recover from the extremes of the tour but upon seeing it I decided to book myself on the next bus out of there. So I took yet another night bus to Potosi.
I got to Potosi very late at night and went straight to bed, the next day the altitude hit me like a brick to the head! Potosi is the highest town in the world and you could tell! I was having headaches, dizzyness not to meantion getting out of breathe at the simplest of tasks. So I spent a day of trying to adjust, I wandered around the town and got completely lost because the altitude was making me feel so disoriented and confused!
I decided to bite the bullet and do the ominous silvermine tour. I had heard of this from a few other travellers and got mixed responses. Basically it is a working mine cooperative that you can go into with a guide. I knew that the conditions would be undesirable and cramped but I was still shocked when i got in there. At times we were literally crawling on our hands and knees to get through small passages. It was very claustrophobic and scary. i dont think I would do it again, but I am glad that I stuck it out and did it. The conditions that the miners work in are terrible. The work for arounf 12hours a day and cannot eat in there because of all the poisonious chemicals that would make them sick, so they just drink fizzy drinks and chew Cocoa leaves. Its a Very sad exsistence, most of them start in their early teens and don´t live past the age of 45.
Leaving Potosi was an ordeal to say the least! I got on a bus at 11:30am, was on it for about 20minutes before they told us that there was a road blockade between Potosi and Sucre (my destination) so we had to go back to Potosi. After waiting around in the bus terminal for about 6hours we found that buses were starting to go again, so we got on with our fingerscrossed. It didnt work, we got the road blockade, which was full intact and pretty much just sat there. Some of the locals on the bus told us that a bus was coming on the otherside for us. however, many of the locals lie through their teeth just because its funny for them, so we took a risk, got our stuff and walked across the protest lines and jumped into a minivan heading for the next town, here we (well a girl i was with who was fluent in spanish) bartered with taxi drivers, who all wanted an exthoranent amount, to take us to Sucre. Eventually we found a nice guy who took us in for a reasonalbe price and ended up getting to Sucre at about 10:30pm. The journey should´ve taken 3hrs but ended up taking 11!! But thats Bolivia for you!
Once I eventually got to Sucre I spent a few days hanging out with the people I met on the bus there, looking at dinosaur footprints, windw shopping and eating lots of chocolate (they had amazing chocolate shops there), then it was off too the party town of La Paz :)
La Paz defintely was a party town, and to be honest there wasnt a great deal else to do there, unless you want to risk your life cycling down a road aptly named the death road (which I didnt really fancy doing). My Hostel was great and I met up with some girls from my Salt flats tour, so we had abit of a reunion, which was really fun.
We did do some things other than partying, We visited the infamous Prison (read the book Marching Powder if you want to find out about it) and got told off by the gaurd for getting too close to the entrance gates! I wasnt going to argue, she had a big gun and didnt look afraid to use it. I Also did a fair bit of shopping in La Paz aswell, as bolivia is the cheapest country I have been to since thailand! so it was only right that I stocked up on Alpaca gear :) I only stayed in La Paz for four nights because I had a fear that I could have easily gotten stuck there, like many others have. So I moved onwards and upwards to Copacabana (Que Song...)
Copacabana was my last stop in Bolivia before heading to the wonderful Peru, and me being me, arrived in a town with no ATM with practically no cash on me.... So after a little panic I realised that I just had to wait a couple of hours until the bank opened and i could get a cash advance, phew! The town was tiny and very touristy, it felt like it was just there for the tourists going to Isla de Sol. You can stay over night on the island but I decided to stay on the mainland and just do a day tour which involved getting a boat to one end of the island and then walking to the other. I was a nice walk although abit tough in places. but the views were stunning and made up for the hard work!
And that is pretty much it for Bolivia, Sorry this one is s long, I guess I did alot there!! Hope it wasnt too boring to read.