Salt flats day 1
With great regret we left the beautiful and non stop BA and headed on a 24 hr bus to the Bolivian border. It definitly wasn't the best bus we'd been on but we paid only £43 and recieved two meals and snacks so couldn't complain. Other bus companies offering the same trip covered the same distance but in 12 hrs more... This became apparant the longer the journey went on. Most bus companies will stop for u to stretch ur legs, go to the toilet and buy food every two hours... Ours stopped twice in 24 hours! Once we passed salta the bus headed into the Andes with spectacular results. Huge mountain ranges with rock of all colours, little settlements popping up in the most unexpected places and llamas running freely. Once at the border, we all had to leave the bus and queue at immigration, something that normally takes no more than 15 minutes at an airport even with a large queue... We waited for 5 hours in line to recieve a peice of paper allowing us to cross the border, something not fun whilst all suffering a bit from the altitude (at 2000m) and unable to get away from the heat of the sun. Once in though villazon turned out to be very quirky and cheap! We headed into a "chicken restaurant" (it had a picture of roast chicken outside anyway) and asked for chicken. 30 seconds later a plate of chicken, fries, noodles and rice appeared on the table. Against all odds it was actually very good and we ordered another to share. Altogether, three meals, a litre of cerveza (beer) and a bottle of coke came to the massive total of £4.90! When getting off the bus once crossing the border we were literally dragged into an office and offered an overnight bus to potosi, from which we could get another bus to uyuni where you can access the salt flats. This 11 hour bus was £4 so we paid it, however whilst eating we realised that it was a long way round so went around asking for direct buses to uyuni that night. This wasn't possible however we were told by a private taxi firm that buses ran from tupiza at 8pm, and that they could get us there in an hour. We accepted and for £5 each we got to tupiza in an hour and a half, only to find no buses ran to uyuni in the evening... we were beginning to realise that ppl would tell you anything to make money! However the journey to tupiza is worth remembering. All started well on a nice road through stunning country side with dusty canyons and cacti all around to the back drop of massive mountains. However the road seemed to be very intermittent, possibly damaged by water coming off the mountains during wet season... And the taxi driver had no problems plummeting off road, never reducing his speed, down steep dust tracks and along precarious edges. We were fairly alarmed at first but proper parts of the road seemed scarce and we even had to drive through a river twice. We paassed through very run down settlements that appeared deserted until you saw a solitary person wandering through. Once we found out there were no buses we headed to the nearest hostel to find they offered 4 day tours. This is for one day longer than we had planned but we would have to spend a day travelling to uyuni anyhow so seemed like a good option. The tour includes 4 days of transport in a jeep, 3 meals a day with water and snacks, a tour guide, 3 nights accomodation and countless opportunities for seeing incredible sights. I am writing this the night before we leave - more to follow!