Paz Out, La Paz

Paz Out, La Paz

 

From Uyuni via Todo Turismo, our group arrived at 7:30am into La Paz the next morning, underslept and cranky from the worst overnight bus ride of our journey:

 

Don't let their smiles fool you; we were all pretty miserable

 

We did a 10 minute hike to Wild Rover’s Hostel and freshened up for about a few necessary hours before setting off to explore highest elevated capital city in the world of La Paz.

 

Birds along Plaza Murillo
Plaza Murillo
The Presidential Palace
Plaza de San Francisco
Inside Iglesia de San Francisco

 

We checked out a few markets for which La Paz is known:

 

Where the famous "Witches' Markets" would be, selling things like llama fetuses and dried frogs for Aymara rituals...but it was closed for Easter Sunday

 

And then it started to rain and hail.

 

 

So our group rendezvoused back at the hostel and had one final dinner together:

 

 

And then before we realized it, it was time to say goodbye. Our 10 day journey through 5 countries and 11 cities has finally come to an end:

 

 

While some are staying a few extra days in La Paz and others are heading to places like Lima and Panama, I’m  heading to Quito, Ecuador next!

 

- At time of posting in La Paz, Bolivia, it was 11 °C - Humidity: 100% | Wind Speed: 18km/hr | Cloud Cover: rain showers

 

Salar De Uyuni

Salar De Uyuni

 

A dream come true:

Salar de Uyuni just got served on Jun's palm

Salar de Uyuni just got served

 

I’ve been planning to come to Salar de Uyuni for a few years now, as it’s been on possibly every single “Top # Places That You Wouldn’t Believe Exist On This Planet” (or some variation). However, it has been no easy task. As all 11 of us immediately struggled with severe symptoms of altitude sickness upon arrival at the airport, we pushed through and hailed cabs from the airport to the bus terminal (60 bolivianos per cab).

FYI: When hailing a cab in La Paz, make sure you settle the tab before getting in the car and make sure it has a yellow sticker and 4 numbers on the top of the cab, otherwise you might be taking a risk in getting into a illegitimate car and having all your stuff stolen at gunpoint (no lie…happened to my friend!).

 

At the Todo Turismo office by the Bus Terminal, we then received our pre-booked tickets ($35 USD) for the overnight bus to Uyuni. And having an hour to kill before our bus left, we explored the general area by the La Paz Bus Terminal, most notably Calle Comercio:

View of La Paz from the Bus Terminal

Calle Comercio at night


A few of the people in our group managed to snag great deals for legit-looking North Face jackets (obviously knock-offs but at a great quality nonetheless) for $20 USD a jacket:

 

We then had some amazing fried chicken and chicken noodle soup at a corner mom and pop shop nearby:

 

 

Bolivia wasn’t any kinder to us after that. From a 9pm departure from La Paz to our 8:30am arrival in Uyuni the next morning, hardly any of us could sleep on the overnight Todo Turismo bus. It was as if the vehicle had no shock absorbers or was made out of rocks. Either way it was 11 hours of riding through an earthquake.

Upon arrival at Uyuni, we were groggily picked up by a rep from Al Extremo Tours (which I had organized by Kanoo Tours: They are your only option if you want to pre-book anything internationally beforehand). They then led us through the town of Uyuni to their office on the main road:

The town of Uyuni

 

Waiting for us at the Al Extremo offices were two 4×4 WD that promptly picked us up at 10:30am and drove us about 20 minutes to the nearby Train Cemetery, a graveyard of trains that used to carry miners and minerals up and down Bolivia many decades ago:

 

Afterwards, it was another 30 minute drive to the town of Salar:

 

 

…from where we drove into the middle of the salt flat itself, Salar de Uyuni:

 

Formerly a giant prehistoric lake, Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, and a big giant white desert like you wouldn’t believe with your own eyes:

 

The main spot to congregate in Salar de Uyuni is the Incahuasi Island, a stark piece of land jutting out in a sea of white.

It takes about 45 minutes to drive there from the edge of the salt flat:

 

This is where we spent 2 hours taking it all in:

Flamenco for lunch

 

Because Salar de Uyuni is essentially a giant expanse of whiteness with nothing to give any sort of depth of perception, there are a lot of fun things you can do with your camera here:


 


 



Simply put, this is just a great place to chill out:

 

Salar de Uyuni just got served

Salar de Uyuni just tried to get served

 

At around 3:30pm, we headed back to Uyuni for dinner:

 

 

After having dinner at the famous Minutemen’s Pizza joint in Uyuni (located inside Hotel Tortoni…highly recommend!), we headed back to the Todo Turismo office to catch our 8pm overnight bus back to La Paz, which was worse the second time around. Just imagine riding through two 11-hour earthquakes in one day…

 

Worker's Memorial in Uyuni

 

- At time of posting in Salar de Uyuni, it was 12 °C - Humidity: n/a | Wind Speed: 15km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Leaving For La Paz

Leaving For La Paz

Feeling a little dizzy from the altitude sickness that everyone experiences in La Paz, so I’ll make this entry as straightforward as possible…

The 11 of us woke up at 5:30am this morning in Valparaiso and pre-booked 3 cabs to pick us up from the hostel for the bus terminal:

 

 

Paid about 2400 Chilean pesos ($4.50 USD) per person for the 2 hour bus ride to Santiago via Tur Bus. Left at 6:46am and got there 8:35am:

 

 

There I had my friend from Richmond, VA — Julie Bravo — meet us for breakfast! She’s doing a study abroad here for the year at Universidad de Catolica on Latin American studies, so I figured, why not meet up if we’re in the area?

 

 

Afterwards we hopped on a 1700 Chilean Peso ($2 USD) Tur-Bus for the airport, which took about a breezy 30 minutes. Then we got on our LAN flight and flew to Iquique for a brief stopover:

 

View over Santiago

Landing in Iquique, Chile

 

At Iquique, we were asked to get off the plane to go through immigration formalities exiting Chile:

 

 

Then we reboarded the same plane for La Paz. The whole process took about 45 minutes:

 

La Paz Immigration Control

 

Once arriving into La Paz after 45 minutes in the air, almost everything started to go wrong:

  1. La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, and its El Alto Airport is the highest international airport in the world at over 4000m (11,000ft) above sea level. So all 11 of us immediately started to feel severe symptoms of altitude sickness the moment we got off the plane: light-headedness, dizziness, headache, etc. Some of our lips have turned purple.
  2. They didn’t have enough immigration visa forms for us to fill out so we ended up waiting an hour for them
  3. They took only USD cash for the visa ($135 USD) which many of us didn’t have
  4. When trying to get money out of the ATMs for the visa (which was on the other side of the airport), one of them ate Shanika’s card
  5. Karthik realized he left his memory card (that has all his photos of the trip) back in Chile

On the bright side, their airport has free (and FAST) wifi! Here’s hoping that the rest of our stay in Bolivia gets better.

 

- At time of posting in La Paz, it was 9 °C - Humidity: n/a | Wind Speed: 9km/hr | Cloud Cover: haze