Whos for dinner?
So the crazy-weirdness of the salt flats (which are, coinciedntally, very very flat) allows for all kinds of crazy optical illusion photos to be taken. In this photo, I am dinner. :)
Despite warnings from people that Bolivia was closed due to protests involving burning cars and barricades, I made the crossing from La Quiaca to Villazon (by foot, over a bridge) very easily and found myself pretty shocked by what I found on the other side of the border.
( Note: Shock when you are traveling is actually a good thing, so I must make a note here that when I use words like Â¨strange,Â¨ Â¨weird,Â¨ Â¨crazy,Â¨etc, that they are part of the experience and in reality describe the sorts of things that I enjoy coming across while traveling. This note is brought on by my experience of getting yelled at by a neurotic American girl from California to describe an aspect of South America culture as Â¨strange.Â¨ I like strange things, just for the record)
Bolivia is strange. Very very strange. It smells funny. The women wear bowler hats and huge pleated skirts made of upholstery-like material. People here suddenly LOOK South American (as compared to Argentina, where people mostly look like me, but smaller and more beautiful). The buses are crap and slow and crowded and cost absolutely nothing (US $3 for an 11 hour journey). The
View from inside the Jeep
This is what I stared at for about 10 hours a day.
food is incredibly cheap, and although sanitation is an issue, SO much better than anything I have eaten in other places in South America.
As soon as I crossed the bridge to Bolivia, I suddenly felt like I was traveling again. Everything was new and weird and fascinating. I didnÂ´t have to shop for my bus ticket at 100 different bus agencies because as soon as I walked into the bus station there were 20 people shouting at me trying to get me to buy the $1.25 bus ticket with THEIR company. I didnÂ´t have any Bolivianos, but no one seemed to mind, they took whatever money I brought out of my pocket (which was both Argentinian and Chilean pesos).
So I caught a bus to Tupiza, which is one of the towns from which you can do tours of the Salar de Uyuni, which is the largest salt flat in the world. Once in the town, I did the usual or approaching other people carrying the massive backpacks and speaking some sort of English, and walked with them to the hostel. At the hostel I was approached by a traveler looking to fill his tour for the
Flags on the salar
After leaving the Island of Pescadores (or whatever), we drove for what seemed like AGES across salt flats to the salt hotel where these flags were. Aside from the crazy horizon, this was the only time when I really felt like I understood the scale of the flats.
next day, and since I was alone and wanted to go I agreed to join 5 men who I had never met before on the tour. THIS was a stupid idea.
I canÂ´t really say much about the tour. I will let the pictures tell the story. I will say that for US $100 I got to spend 4 days in one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. The only downside was that in my car of 8 people (1 awesome Bolivian guide, 1 awesome Bolivian cook, and 6 tourists) 4 of them can be counted among the most obnoxious people I have ever met in my entire life. I donÂ´t care how gorgeous the landscape is, if you are stuck in a car with 4 people shouting continuously in a language that you canÂ´t understand, you would do what I did which is to put in your ear plugs and read your book.
The salt flats are surrounded by a surreal landscape of volcanic desert. Its really hot during the day, and super cold at night. The main attraction is getting to see places that are pretty remote and that you can only
Dali took his inspiration for many of the weird desert landscapes in his paintings from this desert in the Altiplano of Boliva. According to my guide, Dali never actually came to Bolivia, but saw it in pictures.
get to in a truck that can manage some pretty intense unpaved roads. I ended up with altitude sickness (an incredible headache and nausea) for the first two days because most of the time we were over 4,000m, and at one point the road was at more that 4,900m. My head hurts just thinking about it now. But, I got to see colorful lakes, many many volcanoes, flamingos, crazy deserts, a rock that looks like a tree, and at the end, the spectacular Salar which is essentially a whole lot of white nothing.
I have two recommendations for people who want to do this trip: You should pay the extra $30 to be in a jeep with just 4 people (much much more comfortable) AND you go with people who speak your language and donÂ´t shout from 5 in the morning until 11 at night. Oh, also, you should take some altitude sickness pills, as you spend most of the first 2 days at over 4,000 meters.
After the tour I spent a night in Uyuni chilling out and speaking lots and lots of English with the other gringos I met. Then I caught a bus to Cochabamba,
Jeep with Volcano
This is the trusty jeep, behind which is a volcano. Duh.
where I spent the day and in a moment of compulsion I decided to catch a bus to the 11 hour distant city of Santa Cruz where I met up with long-lost Carla (remember my travel buddy from the beginning of the trip?)
Next installment will be called: Â¨Getting Off the Gringo TrailÂ¨ or Â¨Tori and the Hippies.Â¨
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