July 5, 2015 by kimberlyfenton
Expect the unexpected… strikes and protests completely blocked the streets of Bolivia preventing all journeys from La Paz to Uyuni, so we had to take a detour up to Potosi (highest city in the world,) then back down. At one point we all doubted whether or not we would make it to the beautiful Salt Flats, Salar de Uyuni…
This was a 4 hour drive and then we arrived at the bus station and took another long bus journey 6 hours to Potosi. In Bolivia, and South America for that matter, these journeys are considered short, and these places are considered close. However, for an English girl, these journeys were long.
On arrival at Potosi, the highest city in the world, man, did I feel the altitude. Altitude sickness completely hit me- my head felt like it was going to explode and I felt like I needed to throw up any minute. The past 3 days I have also lost my appetite- all I’ve eaten is one twix!!! Anyone that knows me well, would not be able to believe that. At Potosi bus station people ate burgers etc (most had travelled from Peru and so had time to acclimatize to the high altitude) but my tummy just wasn’t feeling it… we then took a private bus to Uyuni which took 8 hours and we finally arrived at 3 am and it was FREEZING. I cannot describe it, freezing! Additionally, Uyuni had a blackout because of the strong winds so there was no electricity.
As we continued to travel south, again, due to the altitude it was freezing! On arrival at the Salt Hotel, it looked pretty dull from the outside, just a standard bricked house with a corrugated iron roof held down by stacks of rock… When we entered the hotel it was made entirely out of Salt! It was crazy, the floor was big grains of salt, and the tables, chairs, beds, headrests were all made out of salt! Time for the head torches and sleeping bags tonight! It was so cold that I wore pretty much all the tops I owned. We all sat around the salt tables and chairs and played cards, multiple games of uno had a lot of laughs.
We had another 10 hour journey from the Hotel of Salt to our next hotel, but this wasn’t a problem at all, I loved the company and our driver had an iPod connection cable which was ideal! Playing and singing all of the classics in our 4×4.
We stopped off at loads of amazing places along the way to break up our journey which was amazing! So many beautiful lagoons with flamingos. It was so so windy and we all had our hoodies and coats zipped up all the way to the top, with our hoods firmly on, partly to prevent our hair being blown away and to keep the smell of fish at bay! The scenery was amazing though, from the mountain formations to the plants lining the lagoon, with the sun doing what it does best, reflecting off the water made for some amazing pictures- truly breathtaking scenery.
At one of the smelly Lagoon stops filled with flamingoes, we enjoyed lunch made by our cooks who were travelling with us. They made a traditional Bolivian dish- pasta with this mix of onions, potato chips, frankfurt slices and shreds of chicken- it was really nice but so filling.
We finally got to our next hotel at around 6pm and it was the coldest night that we had ever experienced, we were 4700m above sea level and it reached -23 degrees! Unbelievable! I had no idea it could be so cold! I had to put loads of layers on, basically all of my clothes- I looked like the michelin man. We played cards while we waited for dinner- llama bolognaise and asparagus soup with peach halves for desert. Which, despite the fact that it was Llama, I actually ate.
Although we were again surrounded by blue skies and glorious sunshine, which sometimes meant we forgot about how cold it was, the number of rivers which had turned to ice we passed reminded us just how cold it is in the Salt Flats. Here I was in the Salt Flats of Bolivia, driving in a big 4×4 jeep battling the ice, carefully crossing the iced covered rivers, all the time being surround by llamas- amazing!
We then continued our journey back to Uyuni with various stops along the way, including toilet stops. Just before we arrived at Uyuni we had one last visit to make- the train cemetery. Pretty impressive and so cool to climb on old steam trains just rusting away with graffiti sprayed across it.