La Paz - Uyuni
15.01.2009 14 °C
We got to La Paz at around 8:00 a.m.. We met with a guy from Laquay of Tours, the tour operator in some Dutch recommended to make the trip to Salar de Uyuni (3 days, 2 nights). The trip includes all meals, accommodation, Spanish guide and transportation (in a 4x4 Land Cruiser). The group would be made up of 6 people, so were going to get to know 4 more travelers. The coach left for leave Uyuni at 9 in the evening, so left our bags at the bus station, and had the day to explore La Paz (the highest capital in the World). Sadly by now both myself and Adriana were suffering from altitude sickness, we both had banging headaches and nausia so I wasnt in the best of moods in La Paz!!
La Paz was not very impressive. The city was dirty, noisy and gray. So we Decided we did not want to spend Christmas there as we had planned. We went to an Internet cafe where we studied where to spend Christmas. We thought about Lake Titicaca, and tried to find a good hotel on the Bolivian side. I found a hotel (Hotel Rosario) that seemed to have everything we needed, good views of the lake and a relaxed environment. We spoke also about the Amazonia and Decided not to make the trip, as all the routes were exactly the same as we had done in the Pantanal, they were just a lot more expensive.
We walked by the markets, but we both did not feel good. so we headed back to the bus station to wait for the bus to Uyuni. By this time the change in hight (we were now over 5000 metres above sea level) and the change in climate (from around 25degrees in Santa Cruz to around 10degrees in La Paz) made for a miserable experience!! but it was nothing compared to what was to come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The night bus to Uyuni was the worst bus journey i have ever been on and will ever go on! Most of the journey was not on roads so we physically jumped in our seats, as well as this the noise of vibrations were like no other. the only way i cant get close enough to describe it is like sitting on and next to a workers drill (jackhammer) for 12 hours!! this coupled with altitude sickness was enough to send anyone slightly mad. During the night even I had to open the window to throw up!!!
We reached Uyuni around 7:00 a.m.. We found out that that the tour started at 10 so we had two hours to have a shower etc.. we ended up showering in a hostel while getting dressed etc in a room being referbished but only after I insisted on that instead of getting naked in the hallway where they wanted us to get ready!!!, it was a slightly sureal experience, we even had to wait about 20 minutes until there was any hot water.
After this and a bit of breakfast we met the vfirst two people on our tour, Gareth (an Australian) and Shioban (an Irish woman who lived in Australia for 8 years). We finally left in the 4x4 at 10.30 to visit the Salar. Lunch was on the salar in an inn where we met the other two people that would be on our tour. Emma (an English girl that was teaching English around the world for the last 5 years) and Richard, (another Australian, who worked and travelled at the same time).
Adriana was now suffering from altitude sickness like myself and could not eat, and as we kept travelling into the salar The effects got worse until she was the one being sick. Adriana layed down in the jeep while myself and the other guys took pics of the salt pan. The Salt pan itself is a sight to behold it is so bright you have to wear sunglasses to look at it for a long time and it seems to go on forever, making the horizon melt away.
In the middle of the salar is `fish Island`, so called because its in the shape of a fish. however it looked amazing to me because of the huge saguaro cacti (the largest cactus in the world) that totally cover it from top to tail.
After the salt pan we travelled to various lakes which were inhabited by Flamingos!! they were very beautiful and some of the lakes were covered it hundreds of them. Each lake we visited were different colours which were created by various chemicals found within them. there were gree, blue and even red lakes throughout the tour.
The first night in the salar, we stayed in seperate rooms, but the altitude was still affecting me and i found sleeping very difficult. having a THUMPING HEADACHE at 4 in the morning when you have to be up a 7 is not nice. however we continued on across the desert to lagoon after lagoon which did start to get repetitive. On the second night we stayed in shared room with the rest of our group which would have been fine but again my headache came back and I found myself up all night sitting outside on my own while everyone else slept. As i finally shook the headache anf got into bed again it was time to get up as on the last day we had to get up around half 4 to travel to the natural geezers and hot springs.
The geezer itself was impressive with bubbling mud coming out of the ground (stinking of egg) and a man made steam geezer pumping steam out of the ground. After the geezers we continued on to the hot springs. Sadly I was very disapointed with the springs, there were too many tourists there (around 50) who were all getting into what seemed to be a little man made hottub, simply because it was water heated naturally. to me the attraction was spoiled and any natural beauty had been lost. however the lake in which the spring overlooked was very special so myself and Adriana decided against getting into the bath full of sweaty tourists and opt for a sit down and a great view of the lake.
On the way back from the tour we ran into some lightening storms which were amazing, with a last stop in a train graveyard with lightning hitting the ground all around us which was amazing. then it was back to Uyuni where the heavens had opened!!
Basically these 3 days of travel by Uyuni were reasonable. We arrived back on December 23 in the evening. We were all went to a restaurant famous for its pizzas before getting the same bus we got into Uyuni back to La Paz. Again the bus back to La Paz was a journey full of jumps in expected. However this time it was raining hard with lightening! the bus got stuck as well and at onepoint I thought the bus was going to go off a cliff when one of the wheels on my side went off the side of the road!! However our biggest concern was that we had another bus from La Paz to Copacabana, where he wanted to spend the Christmas. The bus to Copacabana left at 8am. If everything went well with the bus to La Paz we would get there around 7am, giving us 30 minutes to catch the next bus ...
However the bus to La Paz stopped many times during the night. We feared we would miss the bus and have to stay in La Paz for Christmas.We finally arrived in La Paz at 7:45 a.m.. We ran off the bus I opened the door to the bags and grabbed them, then we ran!! We found a taxi but it could not take us all the way due to the market blocking the street to the hotel where the bus was going from. From the taxi we ran through the market knocking people out of the way until we reached the hotel. When we finally got there our reservation had not written down ... but there were still had 2 spaces left. Finally on the bus we could enjoy the 4 hour trip from La Paz to Copacabana on lake Titicaca (the largest lake in South America).