Our first Bolivian night bus took us from La Paz to Sucre. The experience was quite different from Peru. On the positive side, we got beds for the same price as half-bed seats, on the negative side the toilet was locked and the bus was really overheated. Luckily there were windows and we stopped at a (very disgusting) public toilet on the way in the middle of the night. Still, we made it safely and okay to Sucre, without any road block or problem (they are really common in Bolivia, more on that later).
In Sucre, we stayed in beautiful comfortable The Beehive hostel with the best travel breakfast so far (a choice between veggie omelette, fruits with yoghurt and oats and fruits, mhhh). The people there were really nice and we had some chill days. However, as everyone else was studying Spanish there, we were a little bit bored because there is not too much to do in Sucre. It was mostly a got place to enjoy some sunlight, eat the freshest fruit and vegetables from the local markets and do some excursions.
Sucre is a colonial town so it really reminded me of Granada, Popayan or Cuenca. If you want to study Spanish, this is THE place because Bolivian Spanish teachers are even cheaper than Nicaraguan and the local accent is much softer and easy to understand. We also went to a cafe and played the funniest game ever, the Bolivian version of Monopoly which is seriously called Evopolio (after President Evo Morales)… The streets are cities and regions in Bolivia, the stations are taxi companies and the action cards are about narcotrafficking or roadblocks. The rules are also really mean. Being caught with the narco-card basically means you lost – real life lessons I guess (even though this card also brings you a lot of money).
Together with some of the other guests in our hostel, we took a local bus and went to the very cheesy Dinosaur parc close to the city… There we could admire the huge wall on which you can find over 5000 dinosaur footprints, the largest site in the world. That was interesting, however the tour we took was less so as the guide was exaggerating about the greatness of this place so much that he sounded like a priest. Yes, it was interesting, no, this is not BOLIVIA, as he was claiming proudly. If you are in the area, check it out but stay outside the fence, look from a distance and don’t pay the 30 BOB entry fee.
The nicest excursion in Sucre was the 7 waterfalls trip. Chris and I went on our own with a local bus and then walked through a small village before climbing over rocks quite a bit. Unfortunately, the water was brown when we came there (sometimes it is crystal clear we heard). Instead of swimming, we watched the locals, chilled in the shade and Chris did some more rock climbing which is very easy there due to the layer-like rock structure. It was a nice day there.
After four days, we decided to move on and took the bus to Uyuni together with a funny Aussie group from our hostel. The trip took forever (8 hours approximately) and when we were finally 6 km from town, our bus suddenly stopped behind a long line of trucks and cars. Roadblock…. In the middle of the desert. We decided to walk to town and couldn`t stop laughing about this ridiculous situation. We were nearly there! Why on earth would there be a roadblock? A storm was coming up and the rain quickly started. Even greater to walk for 6 km… Luckily, some taxi drivers from town smelled business and picked us up after we had walked only a little.
Arriving at a hostel with space for us felt great and we could quickly start our search for a tour agency. We went with the first, Cordillera Traveller, as we had heard a lot of good things about them from people at The Beehive, they had great Tripadvisor reviews and wanted only 950 BOB, so about 135 Dollars. The decision was made and we would leave the next morning on the three day tour through the famous Salar de Uyuni saltflats and continue through the desert to Chile.
I honestly have to say, this was by far the best tour we took on the whole trip! Our jeep consisted of our young, calm driver Ariel whose biggest passion was his car (which he cleaned thoroughly all the time), Mexican-American traveller Juan who has been to 40 countries already, the Swiss and Korean couple Simon and Jayeon from Luzern, and Barbara from California who was on a study trip to Bolivia with her International Affairs class. A great group! We had a lot of fun together and many great conversations. Ariel was a great driver who never speeded and was in really good control of his car. The places we stayed in were basic but comfortable and the food was quite good and diverse, considering that it was all brought from Uyuni and warmed up. We even got a bottle of wine to share every night! We were also the only car from this company coming from Uyuni (it is a Chilenian company), so we would often drive completely on our own which made the experience even more otherwordly. Cordillera is definitely to be recommended to anyone doing this tour!
Now to our experience: I really cannot describe what we saw during these three days of driving through the most remarkable landscapes. I still cannot believe that this was real. They were so diverse, colourful and beautiful and we even saw a lot of wildlife, even though we were mostly above an altitude of 4,300 m. Here some impressions of the deserts, colourful lagoons, some landmarks and wildlife from this trip.
The best day was definitely the first when we actually saw the salt flats. These are 12000 km2 of salt reaching 95 m deep! That is astonishing in itself but we got even luckier: The crazy storm rain on the day before was now a perfect 5 cm of water on the flats!!! This meant that we were standing on the biggest mirror one can imagine so the sky and clouds reflected in it and it looked like I imagine heaven. Breathtaking, astonishing, the most beautiful view I have ever had in my life. The people on the next day had only a little of water left and we heard that if it rains several times in a few days, the tours get cancelled because the jeeps can’t drive through then. This was the first rain of the season also. Yes, we have been so so extremely lucky! Here, finally, the pictures:
We reached the border on day 3 after having woken up at 4 in the morning to a beautiful sky full of stars (we saw milky way!). Having bathed in hot springs and seen a huge geysir as the last highlights, we said goodbye to Barbara who went back to Uyuni.
The rest of our group continued to San Pedro de Atacama and got the stamp of our final country on this trip: Chile. More on our experience from there soon! Bye bye Bolivia, you have been one of my favourites for sure!