On the morning when I was leaving La Paz, the sun finally came out and it was actually quite warm. Muchas gracias, La Paz, you really didn’t want me to like you, did you? The highlight of my two days in the city was getting a free chocolate ball (okay, two) at the Café del Mundo, run by Swedish Elin – a nice little taste of home. And I also picked up an amulet at the witches’ market for good luck in work, travel and love; she added health for good measure but unfortunately that’s already fallen off. Oops.
I turned up to the bus terminal at 9.55am and at 10am I was on a bus, heading to Oruro. In that sense, buses in South America are actually very efficient. I was glad I was on the warm bus as outside it grew colder. We passed houses made of adobe brick but with snow on their thatched roofs, quite a strange sight. Even more strange, on the other side, a castle with a turret and a rainbow slide. Random. At one point we stopped for a toilet break in the middle of nowhere – for men, of course, it’s no problem, they just face away from the bus; but the women managed to protect their modesty equally well, their long skirts hiding everything from view as they squatted right in front of the bus. I was wearing jeans. I stayed on board.
In Oruro, I awaited the train to go down to Uyuni. The police were checking everyone’s bags at the entrance to the platform, but I walked through the middle of the queue to find the baños and nobody stopped me. How reassuring. The entertainment on board: a local country singer first sitting on the stage on a bale of hay and then riding a horse in time to the music: “Un viejo joven, un joven viejo”… Very catchy. More entertainment came from the American students sitting behind me, discussing the seven wonders of the world which, I grant you, is a complicated and often contentious topic, given the many different versions of lists that exist:
“What’s it called, Stone…?”
“Yeah, where is that?”
“It’s, like, in Scotland.”*
Outside, I could see flamingos on both sides, a double rainbow on the left (“Wow, double rainbow!”) and a golden sunset on the right. Then it was dark.
So, Uyuni: on my first day, it was quite warm and sunny, which was a nice change after grey and rainy La Paz. But it was incredibly windy, which soon caused problems in the form of a partial and then total power cut. What do you do in a city where there’s nothing to do when there is no electricity, the wifi not working in the hostel and Internet cafés in town not working either? I went for lunch in a dark restaurant and wandered aimlessly around town. There weren’t any cafés where I could sit with a nice latte either, darling. And without the electric showers, of course, were cold. Uyuni seems to exist for tourists for one sole reason, which is to send us off on 4WD tours of the salt flats. And based on advice from Lonely Planet and online forums, I hadn’t booked the tour in advance and instead waited to talk to the agencies in person. Great idea, except that I found the good tour agencies were fully booked!
“No, please, I can’t stay here another two days!”
Thankfully, my chosen agency took pity on me and somehow managed to fill a second jeep so I could head out the next day. Details of the tour itself next time!
*For the record, Stonehenge is actually, like, in Wiltshire, which is, like, almost as far from Scotland as you can get.
I managed to buy my train ticket already in La Paz; although I arrived at the office in the far end of town at 12.15 and they were closed for lunch 12-2.30pm. I waited with an Apfelstrudel and cappuccino in a nearby Austrian café, which wasn’t so bad.
Flamingos on the left
Flamingos on the right