View from the hill!

View from the hill!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Leaving La Paz In Luxury

It was finally time to leave La Paz once and for all and I did it in luxury. Now, I will admit my definition of luxury has definitely been skewed since coming to South America, it seems like a lifetime ago that I stayed in a truly luxorious hotel or felt the luxury of a first class plane ride from London to Baltimore. But today, my definition of luxury means a 12 hour bus ride on a Todo Turismo bus instead of the local Bolivian bus. As I said good bye to the shouting street vendors and jam packed micros (crazy mini vans packed with 20-30 people) I was handed a pillow, blanket and dinner of chicken and rice. I was headed to Uyuni, Bolivia in a seat that reclined and on a bus with no puppies or chickens...sheer luxury!

Of course there were still no paved roads, so I recieved a 12 hour massage in addition to the ride to Uyuni. As the sun began to rise we ventured further into the middle of no where. It is amazing how vastly different the scenery on this ride was from the 19 hour trip to Rurrenabaque, with no flaura or fauna to be seen we were surrounded by dirt and moutains.

I was headed to the isolated community of Uyuni to head out on a tour of the Salar De Uyuni. I had not booked anything in advance, hearing that it was cheapest to book the tours in Uyuni. I arrived in town at 7am and had originally thought I would spend one night there before heading out on a tour the following day. However, after a quick walk around town I realized there was absolutely no reason to stay here any longer than necessary. The town seems to exist soley for the hoards of tourist that come through on their way to Uyuni.

So, I had about 2 hours to find a tour and get on my way to the Salar. After storing my bags at a hostel I ran around town like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find every tour agency listed in my guide book. In addition to the ones I was searching for there were dozens of other tour operators trying to sell me their tours. There are over 100 tour operators within a 4 block radius and most of these tours have spanish speaking guides, packed 4x4's, run down vehicles, drunk drivers and horrible food. I wanted to choose my agency carefully seeing as choosing the wrong tour could be a deadly decison, according to Lonely Planet at least 16 people have been killed in jeep accidents on the Salar since May 2008. After about an hour and a half a had setteled on a tour agent that had 2 other English speaking couples and had promised to have an English speaking guide. The Land Cruiser was set to pick me up from the hostel in a half an hour. Just enough time to grab a quick breakfast before heading to the Salar.

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