Okay Melissa and I have survived the wilderness country outside of Uyuni. I will never call Melissa a "princess" again. These were fairly extreme conditions, but we wouldn't have missed it for anything. The countryside was absolutely breathtaking. We left La Paz and took a three hour bus ride to some city I can't pronounce or spell for a quick lunch. I have included two photos of what folks around here consider a quick lunch. Then we headed off to a 7 hour train ride down to Uyuni. We arrived around midnight to a terminal that was sooooo crowded with folks. Backpackers getting off the train, locals getting on the train to go farther south, luggage everywhere, and a full band playing and marching around the terminal. Unbelievable!!
The next morning we got up early and packed ourselves and some of our luggage into three four-wheel drive trucks. The pictures included pretty much show our adventure for the three days. We did the salt flats the first day and then headed off up into the hills for the next three days. It was very cold at nights (-12 degrees C) and we reached an altitude of approximately 16,000 feet, but the views were worth it.
Now Pete I have a little "sprite" story for you. Those of you who know me will understand immediately, those that don't will figure it out. Ellen I will be requiring therapy later.
There were five of us in our vehicle with the Driver, Rubin. Really nice guy, but he understood no English and our Spanish vocabulary consists of "Hola" and few other greetings. So he gets in the car and looks at all of us with two thumbs up and says "Vamonos Amigos", and off we go. Within minutes he smiles and says "musica?" and we are all so excited about our new adventure we say, "si" and he puts in a tape with a quick paced Bolivian beat. Life couldn't be better!!
Okay now let's fast forward three days later. Yes, that same tape with I think 11 songs
has been playing continuously. Now let me add some of the conditions we have been living under so that you can truly appreciate it. We have not showered in three days because we stayed at places with either little or no running water. The dust is unbelievable. Africa paled in comparison to the dust on this trip. In the afternoons when we would travel the car would reach temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees F and we couldn't open the windows because of the dust. We have traveled approximately 600 miles at speeds between 15 and 20 miles an hour. Now that gives you some idea how much time we have spent in the car. The tape has recycled every hour and there are large speakers in the back of the car because Ruben, bless his heart, loves this tape and likes it loud. Merson I am sure that one of the songs is the theme to "Rawhide" in Spanish with the cracking of the whips and the yee-haws. Alana if reminded me of the time we were at the airport down south waiting for our shuttle listening to the taped message, "the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only . . . . "
No, I didn't reach over the front seat and rip the tape out of the tape player. I am the new me now, oh ya, I thought about it, but I contolled myself now that I am retired and more relaxed. Rubin drove between 11 and 12 hours a day under some of the most extreme conditions and was always positive with a smile on his face. He would have been crushed if he knew the music he loved was torturing all five of us! You really can't appreciate everything we have until you spend time with folks like Rubin who is the father of five children and is just barely scrapping by a living for his family.
The final day we drove about three hours back to Uyuni, took a shower and then got on a private bus to Potosi where we have a couple of days to recoup, get our laundry done, do some internet work and relax before we head off to our next adventure.
Take care, Kathy and Melissa