Heading from Puno, we crossed the Peru/Bolivia border and arrived at the town of Copacabana (not that song). We left the bus and were told to come back in 30 mins for the next bus. We were then moved on to what appeared to be a local commuting bus (read tiny and cramped with no air conditioning). Not ideal but will do the job.
About an hour in, we were woken up by everyone being told to get off the bus. Totally unaware of what was happening, once we’d gotten off we saw our bus head towards a strange floating boat with our bags loaded on it. Turns out we had to get a different passenger boat to cross Lake Titicaca. After we had paid our fare, our boat followed it over before rejoining the bus and heading onwards, all very bizarre.
Heading in to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, I was reading the Lonely Planet, which I’m quickly going off as they are so inconsistent. After praising the country at the start of the book, the following is highlighted for La Paz:
La Paz is not a safe city, especially at night. Violent attacks, including strangling victims and assaults with weapons like clubs, is on the rise.
In the last few years there have been many incidents of ‘express kidnappings’ by taxi drivers, where the driver and his accomplices (who board later or jump out from the trunk) kidnap and beat you until you provide your ATM PIN details.
Not surprisingly, this put Annie and I on high alert, and our first impressions of a ridiculous traffic jam (due to, inexplicably, a lane of our motorway being taken over by on coming traffic) and then a lady peeing in the street where our bus dropped us off, didn’t help. However, this is not a true reflection of the city. Although El Alto, the city just above La Paz, can be dangerous, speaking with locals, they said that there isn’t that level of danger in the main city, and it did not feel any less safe than any other part of the continent.
We came to La Paz to get through to Uyuni and see the Salt Flats, something that everyone kept saying is essential viewing. It’s a three day tour and a bit of a journey for us to squeeze in, but we thought it would be worth doing. Arriving in Uyuni early in the morning we caught up with our tour group. We initially tried to get on a tour with an English speaking guide, but this was not going to be an option. These tours come with a jeep and a tour guide who is also the driver, mechanic and cook. The rest of the group were not native English speakers, which initially was disappointing but turns out they were a great bunch of people, all dual or tri lingo, putting us to shame.
First stop was the train graveyard just outside of the town. A desert area filled with old abandoned trains for climbing around, plenty of ways to hurt yourself, great fun.
Crossing the land we passed plenty of Llama’s before getting to the Salt, massive deserts of white salt as far as the eye can see. Due to the white flat, this is where everyone plays around with their cameras and perspective shots, took us a while to get the idea (I won’t post the photos that didn’t work) but with a little guidance from the tour guide, we got there.
The next day we headed to see Flamingos in a large lake, which in season can be as many as 30,000 – just now there was a lot less on display, but we got close enough to snap some pictures and soak up the views.
More driving and seeing lakes and massive views, a stop at the Tree of Rock was a nice highlight, more time to climb and explore.
The final day started at 4am; before sunrise, we headed up to 5000 meters above sea level to the hot springs and geysers, after three nights without a shower this was an amazing start to the day, 30 degree spring water to clean and sooth. The geysers were strange, hot natural gas pouring out of the ground forming a misty cloud around the area.
Finishing the tour, we headed back to Uyuni and then back up to La Paz for more fun and games.
Full photo set (there are loads) are here on Flickr.