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Published: October 27th 2005
sleepers view of the sale
I´m starting to be concerned about my impact on the road and rail infrastructure of Bolivia. Much as when I´m at work, I only need touch a computer and it will immediately freeze up, Bolivian Infrastructure seems to be doing an alarmingly similar thing as I use it.
On the way to the world´s most dangerous road, I remember driving through a large crowd and not thinking much of it. We were told by the vehicle directly behind us (when they caught up later) that the crowd had closed the road off immediately behind us and they´d had to detour to find another way out of the city.
We caught the 8:00am bus from La Paz to Oruru the next day, and found out afterwards that all buses after ours took hours to get out of La Paz because of more blockades closing in behind us.
Oblivious to this chaos we caught, what has since turned out to be, the last train to Uynuni, because after our train left the station, the railways were blockaded, and we met a couple who had had to fly from La Paz to Surcre because they were told it might be days
Worlds Most Dangerous Road
before they could get out of La Paz ...
Then again, maybe it´s not me. It could be Christie causing all this chaos ...
Our luck finally ran out three days later when the 4WD we were in for our Salt Lake tour spluttered and died (for the seventh and final time) 70km short of Uyuni at around eight o´clock at night and Christie and I were thrown in the back of another passing vehicle for the final stretch into Uyuni with a very drunken Bolivian who knew enough english to say ·"Australia - Kangaroos 😊" and "I´m very drunk, but the driver he is OK, we are all friends in Bolivia". He said this many, many times.
As we pulled into the outskirts of Uyuni 45 minutes later, the vehicle stopped and he kicked about a dozen beer cans out of the car. At this point he further explained "My life, it is very unhappy ... the company it does not let us drink alcohol". I´m not sure the two were directly related, but I was glad that he hadn´t told me that sooner. I liked the bit about Kangaroos more.
However, I´m getting ahead
View from the Train to Uyuni
of myself, our trip to the South of Bolivia was a huge highlight. The train ride from Oruru to Uyuni crosses this amazing shallow lake filled with Flamingos and other birds with the reflections of distant mountains in the background and all of this framed by the most amazing sunset.
The next three days we did a 4WD tour of the "Salar De Uynui" (Uyuni Salt flats) with a company called Olivio Tours. It was supposed to be a four day tour, but the other four people we set off with all hopped off at the Chilean Border, so Christie and I opted for a long day back on the third day (which as mentioned earlier turned out to be longer than planned due to frequent breakdowns and running out of fuel).
However, There is just something very very cool about lying down on this rock hard salt in the middle of ... well pretty much nothing but more salt ... and staring off at the mountains sitting like mirages in the distance.
Add to this some amazing lakes filled with more flamingos (I haven´t seen flamingos before so I got very excited), hot springs, geysers, incredibly
Sunset from the Train to Uyuni
barren landscapes, a night in a hotel built entirely of salt, weird snow drifts, a night in a military bunkhouse where I spent more time being sick in the very smelly bathroom than lying in the very narrow, very short, bed being very, very careful because I´d already broken the first bed I´d lain down in and the roughest track I ever want to go on in my life and I´d put it up there in the list of things you have to do in your life ... definitely in the top five things you´ll ever do with $US70 and four days.
My only tip would be to do it from the south, not the north. That way you skip the long drive back on the final day (perhaps even the vehicular breakdown) and you also apparently get to see the sunrise on the salt flats which we missed.
The next few days were just travelling and resting ... seven hours by bus to Potosi, the world´s highest city (4070m), where I did a mine tour, and Christie stayed in bed. If you want to know why we have occupational health and safety laws ... go do a
Cactus on the Salt Flats
Koala Mine tour in Potosi.
I had some liquid flicked into me eye from this machine in a factory as the guide was explaining to me to be careful because some of these vats have arsenic in them. This was then followed by several hours of crawling through step narrow mines filled with thick choking dust. We each got to buy the miners a bottle of soft drink, some cocoa leaves and a stick of dynamite. Then we got to sit there in these mines as they used them to blow up rocks.
You had to be there to truly appreciate what fun it is as these explosions are going off somewhere around you, and the guide is saying "do not worry, it is OK, trust me", then two more explosiosn went off somewhere else close by and all the miners near us started chattering like crazy and two of them dashed off up the mine, and our guide, looking a little elss assured, again repeatd that we should "trust him". We didn´t. We had a freaky moment on the way out as well when all of a sudden small rocks started falling out of the roof above
us, and we just heard somone shout "go, go, go". We went, went, went but it was all a false alarm.
A short bus trip to Sucre that night and we spent two days chilling out in a veyr nice hostel, waiting for our flight to Santa Cruz (we´d opted for a 30 minute flight rather than a 16 hour bus drive).
I took a few spanish lessons, we learnt that it is cheaper to go to a restaurnt than a supermarket for meals, and we went out to a quarry to see some really cool dinosaur footprints which themselves face extinction because they are still actively mining the quarry for limestone to make concrete despite it being one of the largest dinosaur sites in the world. I love Bolivia.
It´s a great feeling standing 30 metres from these prints (which due to techtonic folding are actually on a vertical cliff face in front of you) with heavy machinery rumbling around behind you ... you can literaly hear the cliff face tumbling down from above as the footprints erode in front of you. Our guide was even nice enough to tell us how lucky we were to
Typical Views on Tour
see some off the footprints, because they were only uncovered by blasting a couple of weeks before ...
Oh, and I spent a lot of time coughing up the dust from the Potosi mines. Actually, two weeks later and I´m still coughing up dust form Potosi mines.
Photos to follow ...
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