Day 70: Bus To The Middle Of Nowhere

Mon. 22nd October 2012

Ready for 11 hours on the busToday we transfer to Uyuni, we have been advised it will take about 11 hours and we have a 10:30am start. This all adds up to a long day but the alternative was the night bus which previous travellers have advised is not good as the last section is on unmade roads and is very bumpy – not conducive to sleep!

All stocked up with snacks we pile into a small bus with little leg room and the suitcases/backpacks piled on the front seats. Fortunately, this is only to transfer us to a coach which is waiting on the outskirts of La Paz, as it is too big for the small crowded town streets. Our actual coach for the journey is much more luxurious with blankets, footstools and enough seats for two each so we can all have window seats and space to spread out.

The first 5 hours are quite comfortable and we enjoy the scenery, iPods and snacks (and some take the opportunity to catch up on sleep). It is even comfortable enough to read and use the laptop.

Scrubland sceneryThe scenery mile after mile is flat scrubland being grazed by a few sheep, cattle or llamas. in the distance is a range of low mountains – we are still at an altitude of about 3,500 metres. A second carriageway was being built from La Paz to Oruru and the construction could be seen out of the window for most of these five hours so goodness knows how many miles this covered.

CheckpointThe only break in the monotony was the permanent police checkpoints, which looked like toll booths, in the road every 45 minutes or so. Apparently looking for smuggled drugs etc. There was even a makeshift one with a coachload of armed soldiers parked nearby all with guns – a bit scary to see as we are in the middle of nowhere, with very few villages or other signs of habitation.

Tasted better than it looked!At about 4pm we stop for lunch at a small village restaurant where the menu is chicken soup (a plate of broth with a quarter of a chicken in it as well as potatoes and rice floating), beef soup (similar but with bits of beef), vegetarian soup (same but no meat!) or a roll with any combination of meat, cheese and fried egg. Dave was brave enough to try the chicken soup and didn’t suffer any after effects.

It was good to stretch our legs before the rough stretch of road which we had been advised was coming up. Sure enough after another hour we left the smooth tarmac behind and turned onto a compacted gravel/sand track which had been rutted. To begin with it was good to have a free back massage whilst being jolted about on the rough surface. It was only 6pm and we were not due to arrive at the hotel until 10pm so we knew we had four hours of this!

The next distraction was when the coach turned off the track and drove parallel to the road as a lorry had broken its back axle and was blocking the road.  This did not make our driver go any slower as he bounced the coach along the rough road.

More sceneryThe sunset was quite spectacular to watch, but once it was dark there was little to do but try and sleep – only a few of us managed this (I always knew I could sleep anywhere, although my sister still holds the record of sleeping through a thunderstorm at Guide camp!).

Finally 11 hours after leaving La Paz we draw to a halt outside our hotel, hungry and glad to no longer be bounced around on the coach. The initial round of telephone calls draws a blank on finding a restaurant open 9:30pm in Uyuni, but our ever resourceful guide, Neil goes on a quick scout around, returning 10 minutes later to say there are 6 large pizzas cooking down the road for us.

We head out down the road into the lovely warm restaurant to hear about tomorrows excitement of bundling into three 4 x 4 vehicles over the salt flats. The air was bitterly cold as we walked home, so it is definitely thermals to be packed for the refuges we will be sleeping in over the next two nights.

Would the night bus have been better? Those that did not sleep said NO. On reflection I agreed when we saw the tired group arrive at 9am the next morning whilst we sat enjoying breakfast.

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One Response to Day 70: Bus To The Middle Of Nowhere

  1. Sheila says:

    You forgot the fact it was a bell tent and my feet were outside!! I only woke ‘cos I was cold. Sheila

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