Something different, something immense, something magical. A place I had never been before and knew that I would never see anything ever compared to that again, because there just is not something like this: Uyuni, Bolivia. Far, far away. A 4-day tour by car from San Pedro and back to San Pedro, booked by Denomades.
So, I got picked up in the morning at the Hostel in San Pedro, hadn’t slept much. After all, hostels aren’t my favourite places to stay. I was the second last one that got picked up and after we got our stamp at the Chilean border and we drove to the Bolivian border and had breakfast. Surprisingly, the same white bread as during the tours of San Pedro, but now we got avocado and cheese instead of egg, deliciouuuusss. After we changed to our new car, made groups of six because we were with 24 people in total, and had our new stamp, we were ready for Bolivia!
I was in a car with five Spanish speaking people (perfect for practising my Spanish): Two Chilean friends, a Spanish couple, and another individual like me. He is Portugese, but spoke Spanish, too. We had a great connection and although, I sometimes couldn’t understand everything, they were always willing to translate it to English.
The Bolivian basic life
If I thought that the offline days we had in South-Africa were basic, I think I didn’t know yet what the Bolivian way of basic meant. We drove all days during the day mostly and arrived around four at the accomodations. Everything was in the middle of nowhere. To give you an impression, after three days of driving we saw the first little supermarket, after four days of driving bumpy we finally had our first normal paved road (I was sleeping and from the moment we changed from the unpaved to the paved road I woke up, because I felt something had changed) and after four days, we also saw our first normal town and traffic lights. I hope I have given you an idea how isolated and inhabitad everything was. As you can maybe think then, is that everything was also very poor. The people had nothing there and the woman in the little supermarket was happy she finally had some customers. Shocking and overwhelming…
In the papers of the reservation it was said that you should take your own toilet paper and sleeping bag, of course, I did not take both. A sleeping bag I just did not want to buy, because what should I do with it after, and besides that, I brought enough clothes with me to sleep in if I were really cold, and for the toilet paper I just thought that they probably would have it somewhere or where I was able to buy it… Yeah, right. Wrong thoughts, because only once in while we had a public toilet in the middle of nowhere with toilet paper. You see the picture with me “stealing” all the toilet paper from the public toilet, in order to have enough with me for at the accomodations. Cause that was how it was ha-ha. The toilets were, by the way, not so luxury and normal as you would think. We were never allowed to trash our toilet paper in the toilet and the flush never worked. I included the picture from beneath so you have a visual, but what we technically had to do was that the bucket which was in the water basket, fill it with water and empty it in the toilet so that it could flush in this was. Besides that, the sleeping bag wasn’t a problem because they always gave us enough blankets.
And yeah, that is not all. The refugio’s (name of the accomodations) only had electricity for two hours per day, which was, for us, always around dinner. I actually should have taken a photo of the table were all photo’s and the batteries of camera’s were laying. It looked like a Digital Island. Wifi also wasn’t available, I didn’t even have service those four days. There were two times that I could buy Wifi. It was like two euro for an hour, so yeah, that is what I did and had. Two hours of Wifi in four days and honestly I loved it. Rest in my mind and some quietness, although, I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family through Whatsapp, how amazingly beautiful it was there, and of course, post something on my Instagram.
The trip to Uyuni
Like I said, we usally arrived at the refugio around four in the afternoon. We had to wake up around five every morning and had breakfast on our way. Pretty early and, therefore, everyone was already in bed and sleeping around nine o’clock, besides the fact there wasn’t really lots to do. While we were in the car, some were sleeping, some Netflixing, talking, or just looking out of the window.
During the day, we visited many different places. I have seen many, but many lagunas, extensive landscapes, lakes, flamingo’s, and much more. I hope again, that the pictures hopefully give you an impression of how the landscape in Bolivia looks like, hundreds of kilometres away from the normal world.
The weather was by the way, pretttyyyy good. At some places we had a fresh wind, but, most of the time, I was just wearing a t-shirt or a sweater. No jacket needed! Sun cream needed! Happy me.
The cherry on the cake
I actually have no idea if the title is only an expression in the Netherlands (De kers op de taart) or also in English, it sounds weird. Nevertheless, right or wrong, it is still the perfect title for the last bit of my story. The reason for sitting all those hours in the car were for only one thing: The biggest Salt Lake in the world, called Uyuni. A must see in your life, in my opinion. Pictures cannot give you the feeling of really being there.
That morning we had to wake up at 3:45, because the drive to Uyuni was going to be around one and a half hour. Again, pretty early, and I honestly, was now really looking forward to just be able to sleep in a bit longer. However, this is were I came for, so happy mindset and go.
After those one and half hour driving through the dark we arrived at the Cactus Island in the middle of Uyuni. It was so funny and exhausting, too, because we had to climb up the Island to the top in order to see the sunset. Due to the altitude and having no breakfast, I ended up without a breath and dizzyness, which is normal for most of the places here.
After we had breakfast, of course, white bread again ha-ha, you, by the way, can probably already guess that because of all that white bread I couldn’t really go to the toilet for a long long time… But yeah, we had to eat something. Another thing I wasn’t really prepared for was the food. The others all brought cookies, salty nuts, and chocolate bars for the energy. What I had were only a few muesli bars which I took with me as the intention for when I would just be in the mood for it. The altitude in that way changes you quite a lot I think, because even if we didn’t moved a lot, if we walked a bit around outside, uphill for example, having some sugar or salt helped a lot against the dizzyness.
Now, the real fun is going to begin. I don’t know whether you already knew about Uyuni or the typical Salt Lake pictures instead, but of course had to do them, too. One of the greastest is the head picture which you already have seen, but I will add some more to make you smile. First of all, this one:
The only way of making the picture in the way you can see at the others also later, was laying like this on the Salt Lake. I didn’t mind, because it was all so fun and actually even quite difficult sometimes since the perspective for you is so different than for the others who are posing.
Here is my “zen picture”, because gosh, this place, made me so zen.
But there was more. Although, I was with five other people all day long, I still felt so lonely those days. I enjoyed my time and like I have said, has it all been so magical, but I had never been so homesick than when I was there. It all felt so far away from everything, more than it feels when I am in Santiago, cause I am still in a city, it also felt so far from home.
So, this picture beneath presents that feeling. Although, I may live in Chile now and travel around, and maybe will live in more different countries in the future (only closer to home, I am sure), that little orange bag besides me says it all. I carry it, day in, day out, with proud. My routs, my home. Always.