We arrived in La Paz in Bolivia which is the highest administrative city in the world… It sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains and is 3650 metres above sea level. We wandered around the town which certainly had some charm to it…we came across the witches market which is run by local witch doctors…there were potions, powders, dried plants and animals…the most famous items sold are the dried Llama foetuses which are buried under the foundations of most houses as a sacred offering to their goddess.
It was time to take the bumpiest bus journey in history…..it was an over night bus on dirt roads to a very small town called Uyuni which is basically in the middle of nowhere. Imagine 12 hours sitting on a bumpy rollercoaster whilst trying to sleep!
The reason for going to Uyuni was to do a 3 day tour in a 4WD to see some of the most amazing sights yet on our journey. We set off in our 4WD knowing the next 3 days were going to be the roughest we have travelled yet. Our first stop was at the train graveyard where 19th century British trains were left to rust after becoming redundant. Andy had fun clambering over them! We then saw a salt hotel where everything is literally made of salt even the beds!
We then made our way to the Salar de Uyuni which is the worlds largest salt flats at 10582 square kilometres….being the rainy season the whole salt flats were covered in a couple of inches of water which combined with no wind acted as a huge mirror with no end in sight. We walked around in the water and even crunched our way through what looked like snow flakes which were in fact made out of salt…. The salt was drying on our legs and clothes and we were soon covered in white crust which was impossible to remove! The scenery was amazing… We have never seen anything like it before!
Our first nights accommodation was interesting, there were 24 of us fighting for hot showers as we knew the second nights accommodation didn’t have any running water. Day 2 consisted of driving across the Atacama Desert (the driest place on earth), seeing a red lagoon, flamingos, volcanoes, geysers, the stone tree / desert of Salvador Dali.
We arrived at our refuge for the night where we had to sleep in mixed dorms….for the first and last time of the holiday! Our refuge was literally in the middle of nowhere, had electricity for two hours of the day from a generator, no running water to shower or flush toilets….instead we were greeted with holes in the ground which smelt rather rank the next day after 24 people had used them! The only positive thing was a small hot spring which everyone crammed into after dinner… It was zero degrees outside, 39 degrees in the springs, pitch black, all you had was the stars in the sky to guide you. We were at 5000 metres above sea level, which was uncomfortable as it really felt like we were gasping for air through the night.
We finished our last day by seeing a green lagoon and more volcanoes and then made the 8 hour journey back to Uyuni. We were dirty, tired and very stiff! We grabbed a quick shower at a hostel and had a ten hour train journey to reach the Argentina border… Followed by queuing for three hours in the sun at the Bolivian border to get our stamp out of the country, followed by a 7 hour bus journey to get to Salta in Argentina….. We have done an epic amount of travelling the last few days with not much sleep….its finally nice to be in civilisation again and to stretch the legs….oh and no altitude problems!
Next up Salta / Buenos Aires.