10.03.2010 - 16.03.2010 32 °C
We caught the bus over night to the border of Argentina and Bolivia and walked across the border as the sun was rising. It took a couple of hours to queue and get through the crossing. As we crossed we immediately saw the difference between Bolivia and Argentina, it was amazing how quickly everything changed. It seemed a lot poorer and the women were in traditional Bolivian dress that we had never seen before. They wear big thick velvet or silky skirts, waistcoats and blouses, they all carry their things (as well as their young children!) in brightly coloured blankets on their back tied over their front. The most unusual thing about this traditional costume though (which Josh still is shocked at whenever he sees it) is that they wear bowler hats that are too small so they just balance on their heads!!
There was a train available to get to Tupiza so as we hadn't been on a train once in our trip we decided to take it, plus it was supposed to be a lot more comfortable than the bumpy bus. So we waited in the little town of Villazón which really had nothing in it for non-locals, at the train station there were some rumours that there was a problem with the train but there was no conductor or anyone in the ticket office, so we all waited for them to return and I went to ask what the problem was. He told me that the bus was going to be at least 7 hours late but to my astonishment he wasn't announcing this and was still selling tickets without telling anyone this!! This was our first experience of holding back the truth or just plain lying that seems to heppen a lot in Bolivia. It has happened so many times to us now that it seems to be part of their culture. Like Brasil and Argentina, if they are not sure about something you have asked they never tell you, they just make a wild guess! But in Bolivia it just goes one step further and they just lie to your face; about the price of something, how long a journey takes, if something contains meat or not or anything you can imagine asking really!
Anyway, so we got a refund and caught the very bumpy bus to Tupiza, 3 hours away.
Tupiza was a sweet little town/village altho had been taken over with crappy comercial Italian restaurants for tourists, who served bad Italian food at high prices - very strange. We went to Tupiza Tours; a tour company we had heard good things about, to book our tour of the Salt Flats to Uyuni and to see if we could do some horse riding in the 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' region. We paid for a rather expensive tour but got horse riding at a discount and had been advised by many people that the price you paid for this particular tour really did represent how good the food, vehicles and guide etc were. We later found out this was very good advice as our tour was AMAZING and we heard a lot of other people telling stories of disappointment and lots of problems along the way.
We opted for the 5 hour ride through the canyons and headed off a couple of hours later. We laughed as were handed our protective hats, which were actually cowboy hats to protect from the sun not from falling off, lol. The ride was wonderful. The horses were responsive, the scenery was breath taking and there was just me, Josh, our guide and another girl, Dand, whom we had met that morning - oh and the foal of the horse i was riding who came along for the ride! Josh showed himself to be a true natural on a horse, galloping through the canyons with me whilst the guide stayed back with Dana. To finish the ride me and Josh cantered all the way back to the town along the old railway lines and stumbled back to the hostel achey and tired but very happy.
The next morning we arrived at Tupiza Tours office at 9am and set off on the mountain roads out of Tupiza to start our 4 day tour of the Lakes and Salt Flats (Salares).
(Baby llamas where we had lunch!)
This photo of sunset in the desert was taken whilst we were waiting in the rather cold desert for a lift in the other jeep to the place we would slepp for the night, because or jeep broke down. All day we had to keep stopping to fill the radiator water up and then finally the gear box broke!!OOPS! We did have to wait 2 hours in the desert but we amused ourselves by watching Ricky Gervais on another girls laptop and then another jeep was driven to us over night so when we woke up we were ready to go along with the other half of our group in the other car.
DAY 4: Sunrise on the biggest salare in the world and Inauassi Island (or Isla del Pescado)
We woke up at 5.30am to see the sun rise over the salar - it was well worth the early wake up!
We had breakfast by Inkauassi; an island in the middle of the Salar de Uyuni where people used to sleep when trying to cross the salar on foot!
Time for some fun on the salar:
We arrived in Uyuni on day 4 in the afternoon and had fun for 4 hours trying to get money out of a very temperamental ATM to pay for the tour! We stayed the night in Uyni, even though it was as Rob had described; a tin pot town with nothing to do, but we hung out with Dan, Safo, Marie, Nico and Saj who had been the other half of our group in the other car and ate some delicious mexican food Then headed to Potosí the next morning on the bus to catch up with Yoni and Idan there (2 guys we had met in Salta).