Jumping Off Point

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
1
38
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Trip End Aug 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hostal Girasoles
What I did
Salt Flats 3 Day Tour

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Uyuni

For some reason the Bolivians consider Uyuni an oasis. Maybe they mean an oasis of post-consumable trash floating atop a Bolivian wasteland? (Sorry, we do notice our Bolivian posts becoming more and more jaded compared to when entering the country) Whatever, it is a jump-off point to get to the Salt Flats and other local sites, as well as the last Bolivian city we will visit.

The 9 hour 6 de Octobre bus ride from Sucre through Potosi to Uyuni is absolutely breathtaking (where it has not been trashed, literally). We passed through massive mountains, expansive valleys and ghost mining towns. Well worth the $9 admission in every regard except the ridiculously obnoxious and inconsiderate group of Israelis that were on our bus. The group of ten or so young people went off the bus to smoke every time it slowed to pick someone up and refused to get on until everyone had finished all their cigarettes. They had absolutely no concern for anyone else on the bus and would even light another cigarette right in front of the driver while he was telling them to get on so that we could leave. At one point we were even stopped in the middle of the street and they all just stood aro und the bus refusing to let it leave. It was absurd, yet fulfilling the funny stereotype you might see on The Simpsons or Don't Mess With the Zohan. "What, I smoke now, you wait. Forget it. We will leave in five more minutes. You all wait now. Shut your mouth," you can imagine them saying in a comedic Israeli accent.

Upon arriving in Uyuni at about 5:30pm we were immediately bombarded by tour guides. The city is basically made up of a street of pizza and breakfast restaurants, a couple interesting bars, a ton of hostels, and two tons of tour offices. We decided to push them all to the side for now and check into our hotel. Hostel Girasoles is, like every other hostel in Uyuni, overpriced by Bolivian standards but very comfortable, so we’ll give it a decent recommendation. The room was tiny, but comfortable.

After checking in, the hunt was on. We tasked ourselves with finding the best tour amongst the masses. The problem is that they all advertise and offer almost the exact same thing. It is important to check all the offers before making a final decision but even then you really have no idea. After an hour or so of this constant repetition and bidding wars we decided we needed to get a bite to eat and forget it for the night. The town is pretty cool and worth checking out for an extra day so we decided to wait to make a decision the following day.

Our first stop in town was definitely the best place in Uyuni – The Extreme Fun Bar filled with  llamas. The bar really delivers as advertised. The menu is full of crazy drinks & drinking challenges and the drinks are served in crazy glasses such as the zorro, that required you to plug all the holes in order to drink it without spilling on yourself, and another glass with six shots around the outside pouring into one main chalice so that the flavor changes as it is tipped in different directions. The staff was fun and the walls were covered in mesmerizing salt flat pictures as well as contest winners. Although some fun drinking challenges included speed and/or sucking from a glass boob or penis the best was the Extreme Challenge Drink that required you to drink eight shots and two liter sized cocktails. If you break the record it is free – currently standing at 33 seconds.

Raymie said he didn’t have enough support around to go for it so we just had a couple drinks and a bite to eat before calling it an early night. We also were going through another climate change-related cold so we took the responsible route (for a change?)

Uyuni day 2

After a good rest and some blogging notes we made it out to the main street for pizza at about a quarter to noon. However, in Bolivia, “no”. We really weren’t up for breakfast so we took care of a couple other tasks. A super important tip to know is that you can get your exit visa early in Uyuni so we walked to the office and had an exit stamp entered for three days later when we will be crossing the border. The cost was 15 Bolivianos (a little less than $2) for which we didn’t get a receipt but I didn’t have to mention that. Then we needed a little cafe con leche at the coffee hut and some playing on the giant slide in the main park. The city is really run down and that is evident in their parks and cemetery on the edge of town. We walked to see the deserty cemetery but spent more time taking pictures of the vast fields of trash that lay at the edge of town. It is absolutely ridiculous what these Bolivians do to their beautiful environment.

Finally, at lunch time, we grabbed a pizza at Italia Pizzeria on the main street. It was very good but don’t worry about finding it because a lack of creativity training has led to every pizza restaurant being named the same.

Guess what time it is?????? Nap time!!!! Woot woot!!!!!

Now back to work, selecting a tour. After sifting through the differences we did our best to select what seemed to be the most honest one before the sun set. We held our breaths, made the reservation, and that was that. We selected Expediciones Estrella del Sur. (If you are reading this looking for a recommendation, I suggest not using this company as they swore to the heavens there would only be seven people in the vehicle and there was no way they would put you with another company. There ended up being an extra person cramping our passage and we saw one person getting transferred to another company. And the driver busted our laptop. – discussed in the next blog)

After that accomplishment, we wanted to walk to the West side of town to see the sun set over the vast planes. It was not the salt flats but the edge of town is literally like stepping out onto the moon – nothing more than dry rocks and of course more fields of random trash. (So shameful). We walked quite a distance into the openness as the sun dove towards the earth and took hundreds of amazing pictures of trash, salt trucks, shadows, and the  earth.

La Loco (off the main strip) was a really nice spot to end our evening. High recommendation. We had a really nice meal and happy hour drinks before packing up our supplies for tomorrows adventure to the Bolivian wilderness.

Uyuni day 3

Woke up plenty early to be at our truck on time. Our hotel even managed to have water after about a 20 minute wait. We are in Bolivia, you know. A quick (well quick as possible in these parts of the world) breakfast at the Mexican restaurant and off to the tour agency right on time. Naturally, the door was locked and we would have to wait half an hour before someone got there but they did, our truck arrived, we met the four other passengers on our adventure (Jeroen and Denise - Dutch, Emma and Matt – English), and we were off.
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