We left La Paz and our friend Robin behind :(
Landed in Oruro, Bolivia in the craziest thunderstorm, tossing bags out of the taxi while standing in 3inches of rushing water. The name of the hotel on the piece of paper was all the info we had on the place, but the weather had us trapped...of course it happened to be the most expensive hotel in town, but it claimed to have "agua caliente" so we went for it (claimed, is the key word here). It was a funny hotel, old creaking wood floors, and a grand dinning area looked like it had seen better days back in the 40´s, but it was quaint, quiet and it served up a great breakfast in the morning. Unfortunately we stayed longer, since I woke up with a nasty head cold, congestion and high altitude are not a good combination.
Oruro´s only thing to offer is the train station, which everyone takes to Uyuni, yet another speck on the map...but this is where you take the salt flats tour. Now, we had been warned that when you come to Bolivia it´s best not to have a schedule. Bus lines close, roads get blocked...and trains, well they get delayed. We booked the 3:30pm, arriving in Uyuni at 10:30pm....easy, roll into a hostel, get a decent nights sleep for the tour we booked for 10:30 the next morning. Sounds a little too smooth for Boliva´s standards they thought, so instead we were delayed in the train station until 10:30pm, arrived in Uyuni at 4:30am, only to "rest" in the station until someone opened up a cafe.
Eventually the morning has to end...which it does, finding us, crammed into a 4x4 with 4 others plus a driver on our way to the largest salt flats in the world. It´s a good thing that this place is SO incredibly beautiful, it made it all worth while.
The salt flats tour is a jeep tour, 3days, 2 nights through some of the most beautiful terrain I have ever seen. It was a mix between Death Valley, southern Utah, JTree and the Moon, with flamingos! The tour gives you the option of looping back to Uyuni or moving on with a transport to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Bolivia, albeit beautiful was not the easiest, so our route was to go to Chile, then the nest day bus it to Salta, Argentina.
It all just sounds so easy...what we didn´t know was what summer means in Argentina and Chile....it means all the buses are booked....way in advance! And Chile is EXPENSIVE! Yes, we had heard this...but hadn´t lived it yet...it´s like the states, and coming from Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia it was a shock! And we wanted to run.... but ahh, things just kept going, now Michael has my flu and we are willing to turn around and go back to Uyuni any way we can...but even that isn´t easy. San Pedro Atacama is a really cute town, but you can´t get any buses out, you gotta go to Calama (more like Calamity). So here we wait, while Xylia is feeling left out of the flu experience and decides to join on. So we sleep a lot, in an overpriced hostel, who shares a wall with a prison, and wait for the first bus to ANYWHERE but here!
We decided to just go for it, enjoy Chile, ignore the budget and go to Santiago. The 24 hour bus ride was actually not that bad... yet I´m still not sure what I am still doing here! I am still seriously considering calling it off and going home, or at least back to Cusco! But Michael and Xylia think we should check out Valpariso fist....and really I´m numb...whatever! So we go, and hour and half more to the coast, to the famed city of Valpariso.
Valpariso, I love you! I love you for having a comfortable hostel, with HOT water and an
f-ing BATHTUB!!! You have the charm of San Fransisco with a south american flair. You have food!! Good Food! You have ascensors (my new favorite thing)!!! and street art, cool street art everywhere! You have a Pablo Neruda house (although everywhere in Chile has a Pablo Neruda house)!
Valpariso, thank you....thank you for saving our trip. You are not helping our budget, but we can now go on with inspiration, and renewed body and spirit.