After a tasty breakfast at La Paz’s finest hotel, I checked out ready for a nice walk. I nipped across the bridge into Miraflores (thats 2 I’ve been to now), walked to the Hernando Siles stadium and found them resurfacing it, walked through the gardens which are also being worked on, up past the University and a quick look at San Pedro Church and prison, before finding Hostal Naira, where I would be staying for 2 weeks.
Despite its name, its more of a hotel, and the shower was one of the best yet. The only slight concern was the see through door, but after dark this wasn’t an issue. My room opened up onto a square balcony, overlooking the cafes courtyard.
I wanted to see the salt flats in Uyuni (worlds biggest salt lake), and I had picked out Kanoo Tours as they seemed professional and they also did the flights La Paz to Uyuni return. I found Kanoo and paid around 5,000 bolivianos for a one day tour of the salt flats and return flights (I fancied 1 hour flight over 12 hour bus after the days I’d just had!).
They were pretty helpful, especially as my nose began to bleed heavily and they ushered me to the toilets and made me a coca tea. I left Kanoo alot poorer, dropped my laundry off at a local lavanderia, then went exploring. I found myself in Olivers Tavern, where I indulged in a few coca beers. I watched Man City v Liverpool and left to pick up the laundry. I got back to the hotel and endulged in a little nap before going out to see San Francisco church.
On the way I saw a clown at work, making passers by laugh and a breakdancing troupe vying for coins. I entered the church and was surprised to find that I had interrupted some late night mass, with a priest at the front preaching loudly in Spanish. I scarpered.
It was nice to lie in the next morning, and as I took a leisurely stroll to the supermarket I found the main road blocked off both ways by protesters, angry about increased wages for miners and not for them.
My shopping was pretty good, stocked up well for £15. The only complaint I had was soy milk only comes in bags. How you’re supposed to use it more than once is beyond me.
I had a walk around the markets that evening, and bought a punnet of strawberries for 5 Bs. Having not yet linked dodgy belly with Mexican place, I returned for a 2nd night and had the tacos this time. I headed back and packed for Uyuni.
I woke at 5.30, ready for a 6am cab to the airport. I was cold and tired, but the pain in my abdomen was the worst. I got on the smallest plane I’ve ever been on, with 20 seats including both pilots. No air stewardess, not even a door between passengers and pilots. We flew at 21000 feet and it was a bumpy ride, the last thing I needed today.
The tin can landed and we taxi’d into central Uyuni, found the company ‘Al Extremo’ and tried to force down some breakfast. Bad move. At 10.45 (15 minutes late), a 4×4 picked me up and I thought what a bonus, there are only 3 other people, I was told there would be 4. I left my bags at the office and headed out towards the white desert.
First stop was the salt hotel, built entirely from salt. It was here that I realised my jubilation regarding the seating arrangements was short lived. We were picking another couple up here, and the cramped 4×4 became the ridiculous, nowhere to put your legs 4×4. Couple this with me wanting to be sick and it was a bad start to the day. If you had told me then that it was going to get worse I would not have believed you. More fool me.
Then we headed for the ´train graveyard´, which needs no introduction. Next stop is out in the open, all you can see is white salt for miles around. Cue standard pictures where things that are far away just look tiny…
Next stop was lunch, and I took one sniff of it and puked everywhere. I now had a gut that was constantly wrenching and a banging headache. All in all, I felt like crap and needed bed. I had 3 trips to the loo, at 5 Bs each time! I asked the guide what time we would get back and he said 6pm. Kanoo had said 5, this guy said 6. Great.
We left the flats and made some stops at nearby villages, each stop far longer than necessary. The most interesting village had a lot of human bones on display, some up to 800 years old.
Next stop was Fish Island, back on the flats. Its called fish island because of its shape, not because there are any fish. Just cacti from what I could see. 4.30 we got here, with the guide making it very clear that we need to be back in the vehicle by 5.30.
I was back in the vehicle by 4.45 and the other passengers by 5 o clock. It wasn’t until 5.45 that the guide re emerged. Angry was an understatement. 6pm came, and I asked once again what time we would get back. ‘6.40’ he said. Great.
6.45 came and still not back. By this stage I was ready for violence. Not content with how messed up the day had been, we pulled into the airport and were met with another 4×4, that told us they had my bags ready for our flight. I’m not sure how far away our Uyuni based hotel was, but a flight to get there was ridiculous. After yet more empty apologies the new 4×4 drove us to the Amaszonas office, where we were told our flight for the next day had been moved from 9.50 to 7.30. More good news. I gave the woman an earful knowing full well it wouldn’t make a difference, and told her abruptly that her apology didn’t make up for over 2 hours less sleep.
Eventually I made it back to my hotel for the night, Le C’iel D’Uyuni. 385 Bs is pretty steep but I’d heard good things, so I did it. After walking the 5,000 steps up to the room I found no running hot water and a twin room, despite booking a double. The saving grace was the shower head, which was a head/heater so the showers were warm. Of course this meant that the shower head had wires coming out of it, and what better way to ensure their waterproofing than a bit of tape, eh? I risked it and fortunately with a bit of luck didn’t get electrocuted.
I pre ordered a cab for 6am and flicked the large SONY tele on, which not only worked a dream and was big enough for your lounge, but also had every channel going. I couldn’t help but think the room would be better with comfy towels and a shower that isn’t a deathtrap instead of FOX News on a cinema screen.
Remember folks I cover La Paz extensively throughout these posts, but if you want to check out the “other” capital, you can find it at Sucre, Bolivia.