After we left Copacabana we rented an apartment in the capital of Bolivia, La Paz, and there is not much to say about adventures here. The city is located in the bottom of a bowl surrounded by snow capped mountains and volcanoes. It is home to about 1 million folks so the city was definitely more hustle and bustle. The air is thin at 12,000 feet and we used this time for some good old fashioned rest and relaxation.
Our next main goal was to get to Uyuni, Bolivia, which it home to the world´s largest salt flat called the Salar de Uyuni. We took what was to be a simple 4 hour bus ride from La Paz to Oruro. As we were bumping along in our much-in-need-of-a-bath bus someone made an announcement very quickly in spanish which neither Keith or I could understand. People were clearly agitated and as we drove about 5 more minutes we started seeing lines of tour buses, cars and trucks stopped on the side of the road. Some folks were hanging out bus and car windows looking clearly annoyed and other people were walking with their bags in the direction we were driving. I was getting quite anxious as I tried desperately to hear what people on the bus were saying. Our bus pulled off the road and everyone started filing out. I found the only other gringos on the bus and thankfully one of them, a French woman, knew how to speak English. She proceeded to tell us that there was a political road block which, come to find out, is quite common in Bolivia. Your choices were to stay on the bus and go back to La Paz or grab your luggage, walk about 15 minutes along the road and another bus will be waiting for you on the other side. I´m thinking “are you flipping kidding me? And what is the likelihood another bus will be on the other side?” BUT we proceeded to do just that. Walking down the middle of the road with Bolivians screaming on both sides of the road block was quite surreal and there was a lot of commotion. I can now look back and laugh but at the time I have to admit-I was a bit scared. Sure enough on the other side was our bus and the driver clearly seeing my eyes wide open stated, “it´s okay.”
With that behind us, the next day we had an 8-hour train ride to Uyuni. The ride was quite beautiful as we passed lakes with flamingos and a beautiful sunset. Uyuni isn´t much to write home about either. Only a destination where most people pick up their tours to Salar de Uyuni. These are done in 4×4 Land Rovers and the reviews were such that I was a bit anxious about picking a quality tour company. You have to ensure the drivers are sober, food and water are provided, you go into freezing weather so accomodations are key. You are also in a car for almost 3 days and who you end up with could make or break your trip. Thankfully we went to lunch and heard an English couple talking next to us and asked them if they had booked their trip yet. Long story short together we found a tour company and by paying a bit more only 4 of us were in the jeep versus the usual 6 they stuff in, and Ben and Jen were super fun jeeping partners for our 3 days.
Day One – In my opinion this was the coolest day! We jeeped through the salt flat which I have never seen before so the beauty and uniqueness made me smile. For lunch we stopped at an island called Isla Pescada where we had an amazing lunch made for us and then we did an hour hike to the top of the island where you had a 360 degree view of the salt flats. Unbelievably beautiful. We played and played with pictures on the salt flats. That night we arrived at a village where another jeep tour met up with us with four folks from Australia and we all had a ball together as our drivers were friends so we caravaned the rest of the trip.
Day Two – We began by seeing views of Ollague Volcano and many different lakes. The coolest thing was that each lake was pristine in its own right. One was super turquoise blue, one was green and one was red. All of the lakes had bunches of flamingoes which seemed so abnormal considering in many of these places we were as high as 14,000 feet and it was COLD at night. The second night we stayed in a dormitory style room that didn´t even have running water so we were happy to oblige to the 4:30 wake up call.
Day Three – In the morning we arrived at Sol De Manana where there were steam vents which were fun to touch. Not hot-it surprised me. Then we went to Lake Verde which was stunning as well. After that the jeep took Keith and me to the Bolivian\Chilean border and dropped us off to meet up with our transport to Chile. We said goodbye to Ben and Jen and are so thankful we met them!
All in all we spent two weeks in Bolivia. It was the poorest country we have been to thus far and in that respect I saw some tough things. We were ready to move to the country of Chile.