Saturday, July 18, 2015
We awaken in our Bolivian ice bucket. Three blankets and a plug-in-fire that doesn't seem to give off heat beyond a 20-centimetre radius only nulls the coldness slightly. Travel certainly has its highs and lows.
Andy and I are up early to try and book our way out of here. The flights out of Uyuni are all full. The chaos east of here means that many people are reaching Uyuni and getting snookered down the south west corner of Bolivia. Hence the flights are sold out for days. The decent (safe) luxury buses are also sold out. Is Uyuni purgatory? Are we destined to stay here forever? Potosi felt like purgatory but at least it was a really cool city.
Uyuni is a barely passable tourist trap. It is cold and overpriced. Standards are mediocre at best.
So many of us are stuck here that you have got to laugh. The camper van couple are driving around trying to come up with a game plan, Alexei doesn't seem to know what to do with himself, the Swiss couple made it here safely although it was a stressful escape from Potosi by all accounts and now they are knackered and just want to lie low, some of the French teenagers are looking to travel to Chile.
A rep from the Ministry of Tourism tracks us down at the hotel and gives us 200 Bolivianos to make up for the evacuation-bus-fee-that-shouldn't-have-been and to cover some of the costs of our hotel room. That was decent of them because they could have got away with never sorting us out.
Almost the whole day is spent hanging around Uyuni's main drag of half a dozen so called ''restaurants". There must be a couple hundred backpackers in town. I remembr a time when I didn't see a backpacker in days when I first went travelling. All of the 'pizzerias' have kids working in them and the hygiene standards are seriously questionable. There are dirty, stray dogs everywhere, some of them casually popping in and out of the restaurants. I have even spotted the very same little rascal who pissed on our backpacks the morning before the Potosi Siege started.
We end the day eating at an oasis of a restaurant in a hotel adjacent to the military barracks. Minuteman restaurant seems so so out of place in this town! The salad bar wouldn't be out of place in a posh European hotel. And the establishment serves as the perfect place to seek sanctuary for a few hours as it gets dark and the thermometer drops outside ahead of our escape from here.
I bump into Alexei outside taking photos and exchange man hugs as we say goodbye. The lad is a legend. I'm not sure I've ever met anybody quite like him before. I thought he was going to get us killed in Potosi but he is certainly a character who wears his heart on his sleeve. Apparently, he is planning to stay on in Bolivia and maybe live in the country for a few months! Good luck to the Russian nutter, haha!
At Uyuni Bus 'Station', where someone is munching on a guinea pig and more local punters are drunk than not, our seat numbers don't equate to our tickets and the bus is overbooked. Luckily, I was afraid of such eventualities and jumped on and bagged our seats.
The road from Uyuni north is less road and more quarry pit.
In the middle of the night they kick us off the bus out into the cold and then we jump onto a new coach bound for La Paz. As the past two weeks has felt like army training such an episode is now water off a duck's back.