To S Pedro de Quemez
Salar de Uyuni
PAZ & TITICACA
To La Paz &
La Paz Streets
La Paz Churches
La Paz Museum
Isla del Sol
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
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.
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.
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.
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.