So many buses later and we finally made it to Bolivia. From Mendoza we had a 17 hour bus ride to Salta, where we stayed at the Loki hostel for a couple of days and formed an amazing group of new friends. Together with our new friends, we travelled to for 8 hours on a bus to the border of Argentina and Bolivia. I’m so great full that we had some guys traveling with us, because arriving at the bus terminal on the Argentina side of the border at 5am was a frightful experience.
The Argentina side of the border is called La Quiaca. It’s a dingy bus terminal where there are heaps of people bundled up in blankets sleeping on the floor trying to stay warm while they wait for the border to open at 7am. We all huddled up, hungover and grumpy, with our backpacks very close to our sides, and sat out the wait. Eventually it was time to try navigate our way to the border, so in my best Spanish (which really isn’t very good at all), I asked for directions. The border crossing itself was fine. Passports stamped. HELLO BOLIVIA!
Finally a culture shock. Argentina was nothing special, the landscapes are similar to at home, cities are cities wherever you go. But Bolivia. Amazing! The ladies are all dressed in their traditional attire, with long pig tail braids down their sides, carrying all and everything in hand woven, multicolored blankets on their backs.
With our pack of friends, we managed to get a minivan taxi to take the 10 of us (plus a few locals and a dog and our backpacks strapped to the roof) to a town called Tupiza (2 hour journey). A night in the hostel there and a fresh shower, then Sam and I separated from the pack, and took yet another bus, to Uyuni. The scariest bus ride of our lives, praying to every higher power in existence that we would arrive alive. A dirt road for 7 hours, no toilet, most likely a drunk driver (as is common in Bolivia) and lots of swerving to get back on the road. We arrived alive, only just, at 1am. Another town. Another hostel. Another shower. Hello Salar de Uyuni. The famous salt plains. Words cannot describe.
I’d been recommended by various people to use a tour company called Red Planet to take us on the tour of the Salar. We thought it’d be quite pricey with them, but it turned out to be one of those perfect days where everything just worked out perfectly for us. Red Planet had two spaces free on their day trip of the Salar with an English speaking guide inclusive (this is very rare and normally comes at a hefty extra fee) and it didn’t even cost that much, not nearly what we were anticipating. We hopped in the jeep and the rest is history.
The intense brightness on the salt plains is something that cannot be described. If you take your sunglasses off, your eyes scrumple up and burn from the brightness. Unfortunately it’s not rainy season at the moment so we didn’t get to see the mirrored reflections, but still we got the photos. You know, those photos playing with perspective. The vast white background. You know, the ones with toy dinosaurs chasing people. People seemingly eating each other off spoons etc. if you’ve been living in the dark ages and don’t know what I’m talking about… see more pictures on the Purple Wanderlust Facebook page 🙂
Another bus ride… 8 more hours. At one point the bus was driving us at 5000m above sea level! Again no toilet and no toilet stops either. My bladder isn’t built for this. But now we’re in Sucre.
I’m sitting at a lovely restaurant overlooking the plaza, waiting for my Bolivian soup to arrive. It’s beautiful here. In the plaza, all the colonial buildings are white, in fact, most of the town is painted white. The town was developed as a warmer place, at a Lowell altitude, for the rich miners of Potosi (a town nearby where they mine silver) to live.
We’ve started formal Spanish lessons, and I plan to stay here a week or two to get my Spanish to a reasonable level. I can get by, but I really want my Spanish to be great. When I lived in Spain in 2006, I hardly picked up any Spanish, and it’s one of my biggest regrets to date. So now is my time.