There are bus journeys and there’s the La Paz to Uyuni bus journey. Much has been written about the latter but it really has to be experienced to be believed. Leaving La Paz at 9pm in the evening it arrives in Uyuni around 7am the next day. For £23 you get an onboard meal, pillow and blanket and a reclining seat. Good value, we hear you say. But how much would you pay to visit the dentist?
The first few hours of the journey are uneventful enough, even allowing passengers to get some much-needed shut-eye. But around 2am everyone receives the wake-up call to end all wake-up calls. A round of what can only be described as machine gun fire rings out and the bus begins to shake and rattle uncontrollably. Everyone expects this to subside after 30 seconds or so. It does not. It continues for the next five and a half hours.
It’s remarkable how resilient and adaptable the human body is. After an hour or so, most passengers return to a fitful sleep. And after a few hours it is only when the bus stops occasionally that people begin to feel sick. Eventually the bus pulls into Uyuni and everyone staggers off to find solace any which way they can. Most bus drivers count the number of passengers at each end of the journey; the La Paz-Uyuni driver counts the number of teeth.
Once in Uyuni we had a three hour wait before being picked up by our driver/guide Alejandro. After being squeezed into his 4×4 Landcruiser along with two other couples – Tom and Anna and Raul and Sylvia – we were off.
The next three days saw us drive through an incredible range of landscapes: from blinding white salt flats to marsian-red plains to honey-coloured deserts. At times it felt more like a tour of the world rather a small country in South America. En route we visited ‘islands’ peppered with cacti, volcanoes spitting sulphur and flamingo-filled lagoons of red, green, blue and white.
If the days weren’t unforgettable enough then our two nights accommodation will prove equally hard to dislodge from our memories. The first night was in a salt ‘hotel”. Yes, that’s right, an hotel made entirely by Mr Maldon. Even right down to the beds.
With only one shower between forty people and no power after 9.30pm, it could only be described as one-star accommodation. Still, we quickly developed a blitz mentality and ourselves, Tom, Anna, Raul & Sylvia laughed it off. At least it hadn’t been built of pepper.
If the first night was one-star then the second night didn’t register on any hotel ranking system. This time there was no shower, we all had to share the same room and the power lasted two hours. Never has a pack of cards been so welcome.
Spare a thought for Tom and Anna though. Recently married, they were on an eight-week honeymoon before emigrating to Melbourne. No Four Seasons hotel for them.
We can’t really complain about the sleeping arrangements though. For little over £150 we got a 10 hour bus trip to Uyuni, a three day tour of the salt flats, two nights accommodation and all meals included.
As you’d imagine, we took an enormous amount of photographs during the tour. Below is only a small selection. Once we get to a PC, we will add some more landscape shots to the blog’s headers.