A Travellerspoint blog

Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Lunar, 4x4, mountians, Donkies, Sunshine and Flamingoes

sunny 12 °C

Here finally!! Arrived about 4:00pmish, found a hostel for the night, then headed out to choose which Salt flat tour took our fancy. Unfortunatley all the three day tours were out of the question due to heavy snowfall over most of the lagoons, so we settled for a two day tour. Uyuni is bloody freezing at night, it drops below freezing, no where has heating or heaters, so wearing all our clothes at once we heading out for dinner and some warming drinks.

We found a bar called 'the fun pub', it was awsome! The floor was salt and the tables and chairs were blocks of salt. The food and drinks menu were llama theamed, drinking games were encouraged, loads of books and photos. I really wanted to stay much longer but early morning and all that, plus the millions of blankets were apealing!

The salt flat tour was out of this world! We set off in our Toyota 4x4, there was 7 of us in total, first we went to a 'train cemetery', loads of old rusty steam trains from 120 years ago, I think Phil liked it more than me! We then went to a little crafty market, I think I liked this more than Phil. Then we saw what we had come for...salt! Just set hard on the floor, as far as you can see, blending into the sky, and reflecting the mountains. In places there was little mounds of it ready to be harvested and sold. It forms a hexagon shape, something to do with the chemical compound, I didn't understand the science bit in Spanish too much, but it looked like it had all been laid there especially for us. Like a new floor.

We headed further over the flats and went to an 'Incahuasi' and Island full of Cacti. Sounds rubbish, but it was brilliant, and the view from the top was breathtaking! The climb up to the top literally was. You could see for miles and miles, couldn't tell where the salt stopped and sky begun. We then made our way over to Volcano Tunupa where we stopped for the night. It was a families house, with dorm rooms on the back, totally in the middle of nowhere (bizarrly got phone reception though, couldn't even manage that in our kitchen at home!)

Before dinner we went on a little explore round the island, very cool, even the donkies were rocking red tastle earings. We watched the sunset over the Salar and volcano with the donkies, realised that it was freezing and went back for dinner.

The next day, we got up well before 6:00am to watch the sunrise, again with the donkies. The sky went every colour possible before settling for a gorg blue with a nice big sunshine. After brekky we headed out in the 4x4 to the base of the volcano. We then walked up it. I say walked, we were just over 4000m above sealevel, so we huffed and puffed our way up. Very much worth it at the top though! 360 panoramic views, picture postcard perfection. Going down was much easier!

On our way off the Volcano we saw some flamingoes just chilling in a lagoon. I was the most excited! I had never seen a real flamingo in the wild, never mind a whole bunch of them!

Later that day we had lunch right in the middle of the Salar de Luner. I know I have been excited about the whole trip and used the word breathtaking a lot, but what a priceless experience! Lunch was yum too, our driver even got us chocolate for pud! On our way back we stopped off at the salt hotel, which is now a museum, full of salt sculptures, and the biggest llama ever (obvs made out of more salt).

We arrived back in Uyuni, assesed our sunburn...the salt really reflects the light and even with liberal amounts of suncream on, we were a lovely shade of lobster. At least we would be warm that night.

At 8:00pm the same day we boarded a bus, we would be waking up in La Paz.

Posted by Big Adventure 13:57 Archived in Bolivia Tagged sunset volcano 4x4 lunar sunrise de salar flamingoes toyota incahuasi tunipa donkies Comments (0)

Potosi, Bolivia

Don't go there!

sunny 15 °C

So we got the bus from Sucre to Potosi, nice easy trip. Arrived into the the swishet bus station ever, jumped in a taxi to the not so wish 'X-terminal' were our connecting bus went from. We then tried to get another bus to Uyuni, no such luck. The buses were all too quiet and had been cancelled that day. Not to worry we thought, just stay the night here and get the first one out in the morning. Booked our tickets and had a quick scan in our bible (Lonely Planet's South America book) and off we popped in a taxi.

We chose our hostel as it was HI affiliated, all the others had been great, good facilities, clean, hot water, the works! This one was the polar opposite. I called it 'rustic', Phil said 'Shit hole'. The walls were bright pink with black zebra like patterns on them, which would have been cool if there wasn't names and rosie hearts jim idst etc scratched in them. The beds felt like they would collapse any minute. I had to work myself up to go to the loo and we went and bought baby wipes rather than face the showers. Only for one night though.

Potosi itself is a mining town, not the prettiest, nor friendliest, nor anything really. We went out for dinner, had a 'chifa' then hit the sack.

Salt flats here we come again!!

Posted by Big Adventure 13:44 Archived in Bolivia Tagged hostel potosí crap Comments (0)

Sucre, Bolivia

Buses in Bolivia ain´t so great.

sunny 23 °C

Now we had been warned by everyone that the bus journey from Santa Cruz to Sucre was pretty tough, and had been advised to take the money hit and fly. Of course we knew better and being veterans of a previous 23 hr journey, were fairly confident that us seasoned travellers could handle it.

We arrived at the bus station to buy our tickets, and its not easy when there are over 30 ticket touts shouting at you for business, but we were confident!!! Having been scared by several grown men almost fighting for our business, we were approached by a younger chap, maybe 15 or 16 and the tickets that his office had sounded promising. There was some pretty impressive pictures of fully reclining seats, space in abundance and the price was good. There was no way he would lie to us......

All four or us arrived back at the station a few hours later with our bags and sat waiting for our luxury bus to depart. We even sat outside watching the other poor people boarding somewhat dodgy looking buses. 8pm arrived and our bus still wasn´t here, but still we knew it would be ok. Then the bus pulled in, now it didn´t look too bad from the outside however nothing like the picture we were shown. When we boarded it became very apparent that maybe, just maybe we had been stiched up. The seats barely reclined and worst of all no toilet!!!!!!! Now i found this quite hard to deal with at first however after grumping myself out, got on with the idea that it couldn´t get any worse.

It did.

I always thought that buses required a road to get from one place to the next, not so important in Bolivia. After a few hours of some of the rockiest and bumpys roads i have been on we started to climb. When i say climb i mean the bus was driving on the smallest mountain roads ever. Credit to the driver, i couldn´t have imagined a car making it.

We had our first toilet stop after about four hours and the scenery was lovely, in the middle of mountains and on a dirt road. Hang on i said toilet stop, thats not exactly accurate, hole in the ground stop would be more fitting and Nic decided against that little extra.

So off we go, and its dark now so you can´t see the sheer drops out of the window and it got to about midnight when the bus went bang and stopped. Although the driver tried his best, all the bus would do is roll backwards, which was a corner and a huge drop. Again being the only English speaking people on the bus, we had no idea wgat was going on. Everyone started to get off the bus, so like sheep, we followed to find the bus driver carring the drive shaft to the side of the pitch black mountain. He tried everyting, hammer, shouting and even found a random piece of steel lying around, but of course it didn´t fit. While all this was going on, there was one hell of a traffic back log and eventually, patience isn´t a virtue, they started to attempt to get past us. I was sure the road was only big enough for a car however trucks and buses still squashed by. Everyone got back on the bus, unsure of what was happening, it looked like we were here for the night. The driver and his assistant dissapeared and well, we attempted to sleep.

10 Hours later the driver returned with what looked like a fixed drive shaft, and amazingly it looked like that scrap piece of steel he found was attached to the end!!!! Finally on our way, and it was beautiful outside, it was all over. Of course we had another 12 hours of unbelievably hot bus journey and even more terrifying mountain drops, but nearly there!

On arriving in Sucre, we were shattered and went to the first hostel we could find, outside the bus station. It wasn´t particulary nice so the next day we had a wander around the town and checked into a nicer place. On the night time, the four of us prepared a huge dinner and ate it in the courtyard along with a few drinks.

The following day we hit the bus station to get to our next destination Potosi. We hadn´t planned to stay in Potosi as nothing really appealed about it, but as the last bus to Uyuni, our planned destination, had already left we had no option but to stay. The hostel we ended up at was horrible, metal camp beds screwed to the wall and padlocks on the doors. Never mind, it was only for one night.

First thing the next morning we caught a bus to Uyuni. Salt flats, here we come!!!!!!!

Posted by Big Adventure 15:52 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bus mountain potosí broken sucre Comments (0)

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

All you can eat and drink BBQ and sunshine

sunny 24 °C

Well i guessed it would happen eventually, Nic has handed over the blog to me and i can only apologise now for the grammer and giberish.

So we headed for the bus station in Asuncion and booked the 8pm destined for Santa Cruz, estimated time of arrival, 23 hrs later!!!! For the first few hours, apart from it being freezing, it was fairly uneventfull. Then the clock struck midnight and so began the never ending police checks, passport stamps and terrible roads. At first it was quite fun, however as the night wore on, and the cold got worse it slowly started to get boring. In hind sight it was great, however at the time i could put a few more choice words to describe the feeling.

When we finally began to arrive in Santa Cruz it was apparent that this was a very different kind of city to anything we had experienced before. The roads were packed, the heat was sticky and when we pulled into the bus station, well put it this way we had been spoiled with luxury in the previous countrys. Getting off the bus was manic and it felt like there was thousands of people waiting both in the station and outside. Of course common sense would have said that we would have some local currency with us, however this time( and lesson learned ) we didn´t and this made trying to get a cab a little difficult. After a very broken spanish/English conversation with a taxi driver we were on our way to the hostel we had seen on the internet. I say on our way, however as the taxi driver had no idea where it was, it took some time.

So we arrive at Jodenga hostel and after approaching the reception, realised that we would have to experience our first time in a dorm. Dun dun duuun. The first night was ok, after having a shower we went for some drinks in downtown Santa Cruz with some of the other guys in the hostel. As we didn´t have any Bolivianos the night was short but lots of fun.

After a good nights sleep, we headed off around the city and what a difference from our initial thoughts after arriving. The city is lovely and the people are very friendly. On top of that we went for the biggest knickerbocker glory ever in one of the many ice cream parlours. That night the hostel had the offer of an all you can eat and drink BBQ for only 70 Bolivianos pp ( just over a tenner ). Of course it would have been stupid to pass this up and both Nic and i joined in with gusto.... After drinking them almost dry and eating our own body weight in meat ( there was others by the way) we headed back into town for some more drinks with our new found hostel chums. Now i swear we only had two half shandys each, however the next day i felt terrible. After dragging ourselves out of bed, we headed for the plaza in the centre of town to walk up the bell tower of the cathedral, and it was beautiful. To add to that we were there at the top when the bells started ringing, it was very easy to get caught up in the moment!

So having stayed at Jodanga for 3 nights, it was time to move onto our next adventure. We had got along well with a couple from New Zealand, Richard and Rebecca, and decided to travel onto Sucre together. Now there was two options, a half an hour flight costing 300 Bolivianos pp or a bus trip lasting 19 hours and only costing 100 Bolivianos pp.

Bus it was.......

Posted by Big Adventure 15:18 Archived in Bolivia Tagged santa cruz hostel catherdral bbqs bolivianos jodenga Comments (0)

Asuncion, Paraguay

Epic bus journeys, Action Men Police, Scary Taxis and Whistle stop in Brazil.

sunny 19 °C

We booked the only bus that would take us to Asuncion in Paraguay from Puerto Iguazu, leaving at 1:30pm, they said it would pick us up from our hostel. So there we were sat, in the reception, and this chap in a 4x4 plush black pick up turns up for us, both a little perplexed, we hopped on in, he didn't speak any English, and our Spanish was not strong enough to understand his answer to our 'where are we going?' We didn't worry too much (to be honest I had chocolate milk and was far too excited about this to think about much else!), until we arrived at Brazillian Immigration and he asked for our passports. We were in Brazil! He then took us to a random bus station, showed us a ticket window that was closed and told us to come at 3pm with our voucher to exchange for a bus ticket. Okay, so we sat down for an hour watching people hump around the most enormous sacks of random knocked off clothes and fleecy blankets. It was mental!

Went to the ticket office, the chap spoke Brazillian Portugese.....great, got our bus ticket (again with the universal hand signals, broken Spanish, English words said with an accent) and was told to come back in another hour. So we went back to people watching, we had no Reals so couldn't even get a coffee or use the loo!

At 3pm, the chap put us into a taxi (again we just got in without too much thought) that took us through Brazilian Immigration and then through Paraguayian Immigration. We continued driving, then pulled off into a side street into a bus yard, we got onto an old old minibus type bus, but with better seats. This took us to the bus station, past streets where people lived in tents made out of bin bags, boxes, whatever they could find. There was still washing on a line though! It was a touch heartbreaking that people still live in these conditions in 2011.

After picking up more peole from the bus station we had an uneventful trip to Asuncion, arriving at 11pm the same night. We went to the taxi rank in the station, being a little too late and dark to try the local buses, and got in the oldest taxi you have ever seen, the boot didn't latch, my door didn't close properly, Phil's window was held in place with a piece of cardboard...it sounded rough as balls and went at one speed, slllooowww. We stayed at the Hotel Miami for the night, which was nice enough for one night. Clean, big room with a hot shower (oh how we have changed!).

Asuncion was beautiful in places, scary in others and huge. There were action men looking police with guns everywhere you looked, not sure if this made us feel safer or wonder why there was the need for them. The Plazas were gorg, water fountains, lights, sculptures you name it, apart from one which had the same binbag tents and fires as we saw the day before.

We flipped a coin wether to stay for another evening or to go and get on a 8pm bus to Bolivia. Bolivia it was.

Phil says 'stay chooned for Bolivia' (he finds this even funnier now!)

Posted by Big Adventure 15:50 Archived in Paraguay Tagged plazas police buses men action asunction Comments (0)