South America 2010 - Facts and Information
Day by Day 2: Bolivian Border to Potosi
Across high desert and salt flats to the highest city in the world

S AMERICA 2010


CHILEAN ATACAMA

 Atacama Villages
 Altiplanic Lagoons


BOLIVIA to POTOSI
 Into Bolivia
 To S Pedro de Quemez
 Salar de Uyuni
 To Potosi
 Potosi Streets
 Potosi Churches


SUCRE
 To Sucre
 Sucre Streets
 Sucre Markets
 Sucre Cathedral
 Sucre Churches
 Potolo


LA PAZ & TITICACA
 To La Paz & El Alto
 La Paz Streets
 La Paz Churches
 La Paz Museum
 Tiwanaku
 To Sorata
 Altiplano Farmland
 Lake Titicaca
 Isla del Sol
 Into Peru



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12 April
Away at 0800 to get to Chilean border post (in San Pedro) before large crowd which would be on bus. Good road to start with (goes to Argentina), steady climb then turn off onto dirt road signed 'Bolivia'. Bolivian immigration in shed at border, fast and painless, changed Chilean pesos into Bolivianos for us. No customs formalities. Toilet involved using derelict bus as a screen. Changed to Bolivian car and driver. Quite incredible scenery all around and for rest of drive this day. Still cold after overnight frost but sky clear and sun strong. Picnic lunch in building at Chalberi Lagoon. Went over 5,000m near Solde Manana caldera. Fortunately no sign of significant altitude problems when out and about (although Michael had sleeping problems above 3,000m or so). Hotel El Desierto, Quetana Grande Simple accommodation run by family of six splendidly stuck in the middle of nowhere. Large room quite adequate and clean, beds very comfortable with surprisingly warm and cosy duvet. Food simple with dinner a bit canteenish. Friendly staff with very limited English. No electricity after 2200.

13 April
Less impressive but still good scenery, mainly desert, borax flats and lagoons. Quick look around small colonial town of San Pedro de Quemez then up to the hotel above the town. Explored the old town ruins adjacent to the hotel. Had both imported stomach bug from Chile which persisted, especially with Michael and causing some problems. Stone Hotel, San Pedro de Quemez Similar to El Desertio but with a bit more style and more inspiring food. Good location above village. Staff very friendly and helpful, manager had good English otherwise limited.

14 April
Inspected quinoa fields while leaving. More borax flats then Galaxia Cave (fossilised alga, impressive) and Devil's Cave (pre-Incan graves, interesting). Then onto Salar de Uyuni, quick stop to explore small island then to Isla Inca Huasi for good lunch. Cool breeze but sun very hot. Later saw local salt collection methods then into Uyuni (centre OK, rest a dump) and to train cemetery (good for anoraks like us but helps if you know what's what as guide and driver didn't and seemed utterly bemused by our interest). Out of Uyuni for short drive to hotel. Hotel Luna Salada, Uyuni Impressive setting overlooking the Salar de Uyuni but area around it still resembled a building site. Reception a bit disorganised. First impressions of public areas impressive but later began to seem pretentious. Room small with poor lighting, ridiculous floor made of granular salt (at least it wasn't in the bathroom) which got into shoes, beds and suitcases. Only table in room also covered in salt. Dinner disappointingly ordinary. Staff very willing but disorganised. English variable but generally fair. This may be the best place in the area but we didn't like it.

15 April
Early start to climb up into mountains to Pulcayao (strange and slightly eerie mixture of tiny settlement soldiering on in old mine surface buildings and plant which are slowly mouldering). Interesting mix of scenery on rest of trip to Potosi and lunch. Short rest in hotel then out for quick guided tour of city. As stomach problems not responding to self-medication decided we ought to have doctor who came to hotel to see both of us for 100 Bolivianos (£10). Diagnosed infection with body responses being hindered by altitude, prescribed antibiotics and checked us for other altitude issues but none found. Advised might be good to get to lower altitude sooner than planned so arranged with guide to leave Potosi (4,100m) one day early and have extra day in Sucre (2,750m). Hotel Coloso, Potosi Quite a stylish foyer but generally lacking in local charm. However a pleasant hotel in which we had a nice, large room which was in very good condition. Breakfast was good as were dinners (rather slow but then it was freshly cooked). Staff friendly and helpful but English very mixed. One drawback was that our room overlooked a school sports area which generated some noise at times during the day and early evening.

16 April
Leisurely breakfast then wandered through Potosi, large numbers of kids around in school uniform as was some sort of anniversary for local high school. Pleasant town with interesting streets and buildings, but steep streets mean steady progress uphill is advisable. Sat on steps of cathedral (allegedly closed for repairs) watching world go by in the square then saw small sign saying cathedral open. Went in to find guide who was delighted (and surprised) to see us. Inside bare with restoration work in progress but interesting and will be superb when finished. Afternoon off in hotel.

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