9th Jul 2012 - 16th Jul 2012 - Last Big One
Day One Hundred and Fifty Five (Bolivia)
...contd 7hrs later we´d arrived at the border town, already noticeably poorer and Andean. Not a clue which direction to walk, so followed a group of backpackers. Whilst waiting for the formalities we got chatting to an Irish couple on their honeymoon. Crossed in Bolivia, and got stung by one of the few Cambio (change) blokes. Walked to the bus station and got tickets to the next big town Tupiza for $5 2hrs away (a significant change from the Argentine buses $300 for 20hrs). The other guys tried to get the train but it was sold out so joined us on our bumpy ride. In Tupiza we´d booked two nights in a hostel, but decided to do the Salt Plains tour with the Irish couple the following day, so had dinner at a local steak cafe and early to bed.
We were picked up at 8 by Dennis and his wife Palmella, our cook for 4 days. A little disorganised to start with, as we had to buy first aid supplies and a fire extinguisher to be allowed past the check point. Saw some amazing scenery, but it was a long old day in the back of the jeep and didn´t arrive at the digs till 20:00. The other groups had already eaten, but our food was definitely worth waiting for! Roughing it a bit with no hot water (i.e far too cold to get your bits out so a wet wipe sufficed), and our honeymooning couple John & Roisin were very accommodating sharing a room for the next three nights. I think their romance was dampened a little by the fact you had to wear every item of clothing to bed to stay warm.
The following day was packed full of stunning lakes with a variety of minerals and ice, and a dip in the hot springs before lunch was great! At 5000m altitude we experienced the most powerful mud geysers we have ever seen. If that wasn´t enough we finished the day by a brilliant red lake with grazing flamingos. Had a good crack (picking up the Irish lingo already) playing cards and a few beers with another group. Then another uncomfortable night in the dorm, confirmed by the frost on the inside of the window the next morning. Our last full day was spent at surreal Dali-like rock formations, a smoking volcano and more stunning lakes. Our digs were a little more civilised in a salt hotel! With a hot shower to boot. Another great three course meal with wine, and a few games of cards and dice before retiring. A 5:30 start was required to watch the sunrise over the Salar de Uyuni. Then a short walk up the hill of an island in 10,000km2 salt, all before breakfast. The obligatory silly tourist photos were taken with our group of 8 before we had our last supper and said our tearful goodbyes to Dennis and Pamella (as best we could in Spanish). Had a relaxing afternoon in the sun drinking beer, then after a group pizza fest 6 of us got the night bus to La Paz. One of the worst journeys to date... note to self = never get on a 12hr Bolivian night bus on Friday 13th.
Arrived early the following morning, traumatized but alive, and we walked to a nearby hostel. Couldn´t check in till 14:00 so had a shower and walked into town for a beer in the sun. After a recovery afternoon nap we met up for our free beer (the hostel is also a microbrewery), then a curry, then it got messy! Ending in a bar with the girls dressed as spiderman and the boys in dresses, with far too many free shots of vodka and a crawl to bed at 5:30. Needless to say yesterday was hangover central, and we made it out of bed to call home and eat one meal.
Today we have been a little more productive, booked a motorbike tour for tomorrow, and bought the tourist llama jumper. Hoping the free beer will appeal in an hour and a half.