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On the Road to Uyuni

We left Isla del Sol on an overcrowded boat in choppy waters. I was pretty much convinced that we were going to capsize and our captain's behavior didn't help to calm me down. He angrily discussed with his co-captain, repeatedly taking head counts while shaking his head. He must have counted the passengers 5 times, if I spoke Spanish I would have said "maybe you should have counted the number of passengers BEFORE taking off". The boat was about half the size of the one we got to the island on, and it had about twice the amount of people on it. I was pretty pissed off (what's new?) and I had decided that if we started going down I was going to push the people at the front of the boat out of my way. They had insisted on getting on the boat even when the captain had told them the boat was full. Yann and I removed our heavy boots and stripped off layers of clothing in case we had to swim and I had already planned my escape route. Eventually the boat came out from behind the island where the water was calm, and we realised we might actually make it to Copacabana alive. We left on the early morning boat because we were planning to get back to La Paz and get onto a night bus heading to Uyuni, a small town in the southwest and a jump off point for tours of the surrounding desert. The connection was going to be tight so we had bought tickets before leaving for the island on the earliest bus leaving Copacabana. Our connection was perfectly timed and we got seated on the "tourist bus" heading for La Paz. Right before the bus was scheduled to depart, we heard our names called and we were told that our tickets were "for another bus" (completely made up). We were being kicked off the bus to make room for a group of package tourists whose guide hadn't bought their tickets.

I pretty much lost my shit (my only time on the entire trip) at both the bus company employee who kicked us off and the tourists who didn't seem to have any problem taking seats from people when they didn't have tickets themselves. We got transferred on to another bus and we departed right behind the bus we actually should have been on. I was a little bit embarrassed when the two buses got to the lake crossing at the same time. But I was comforted by other passengers from our first bus who were shocked at the seat thieves' behavior. We ended up in La Paz with 30 minutes to get to the bus station and board a bus for Uyuni. We bought a pair of tourist-priced tickets for a non-tourist bus from a tourist agency and raced to the bus station in a taxi (we probably could have walked faster). We arrived to the station on time but our bus didn't. So we lay on the cold bus station floor for 2 hours before finally taking off. Over the course of the day Yann had been getting sicker and sicker and by the time we were waiting for the bus we were questioning his ability to make the overnight bus trip. We had worked so hard to make our connection that neither of us felt like sticking around La Paz. Yann told me that if he died "he loved me" (that's about as much romance that I can expect from Yann, so I was pleased). We were warned that bus rides to the southwest were extremely cold (even the LP guide recommended paying the extra money for the tourist bus due to the unbearable cold of regular buses). So Yann and I put on every piece of clothing we had with us. I had two pairs of pants over a pair of fleece leggings and was wearing 5 layers on my upper half. I was also wearing a toque, mittens and leg warmers. Yann was possibly wearing even more than I was. There was nothing left in our backpacks.

I would say that by the fourth hour of the 10 hour bus ride, I was down to my t-shirt, with no shoes or socks on. The bus was full of tourists and we were all stripped down in a similar fashion. Despite my best efforts (knocking on the driver's cabin 3 times repeating "mucho caliente") the heat kept blasting. Yann and I had the heater at our feet, but it seemed like everyone suffered similarly. We stopped once the entire time (where we got to go to the bathroom on the side of the road, in the desert, read: no trees or bushes). At one point I thought I might be suffocating from the heat. It's hard to imagine that a cold bus ride could have been worse.

After 26 hours of travel we arrived to find it was raining and freezing in Uyuni, which I remind you is in the middle of the desert. We found a hotel room, piled on the blankets and went to bed.

2 comments:

Jean said...

I loved this travelling day. I enjoy the off-handedness of the "I love you" and the irony of the overly hot "cold" bus. Very enjoyable.

Papa

mom said...

I've always been afraid of being stranded in a desert. That picture of you walking across the flats is unsettling.