It was always going to happen. You can’t expect to travel for several months without a bad journey. But after our chilled out stay in Copacabana, we were unprepared…!
On arrival in Copa, we’d diligently booked our onward bus to Uyuni via La Paz, two days ahead so we could reserve a seat. We’d researched the companies and chosen Todo Turismo because from the reviews they sounded as if they got to their destination without the wheels falling off. We’d even picked the most professional looking agent on the small high street. Her name was Monica, and when we turned up to board the bus, she waved and smiled like we were old friends. However, that was very soon not the case. “Full, full, full!” she shouted at us as we dumped our bags down. Apparently there were no seats on the Todo Turismo bus – despite her selling us the tickets two days previously. We would have to go on the poorly-reviewed Omar Bus.
After a few cross words, with useless Monica doing her level best to annoy us further, we boarded our first bus to La Paz. This turned out to be quite an unusual journey. After a couple of hours, we came to a wide river (on the edge of Lake Titikaka) with no bridge. We all got off and got into a smoky little speedboat. We then watched the coach (with all our bags) drive onto a raft, only marginally bigger than the bus itself and sail across! It was bizarre.
Arriving in La Paz late, the bus was then caught in horrendous traffic (we found out later it was something to do with a demonstration and a broken street light). With about 10 minutes to go before our connecting bus to Uyuni left, we were at a standstill with no idea where the second bus was going to depart from. Just when we’d resigned ourself to a night in La Paz, a guy called Edwin stopped the bus and shouted; “Robert and Jessica!” We ran off, not knowing who he was or how he knew who we were. It turns out he worked for the same agency as annoying Monica (but the more helpful branch) and he realised we were going to miss our connection and so he came and found us! We all sped back through the crazy traffic in a taxi, before he sorted out our tickets and put us on the bus. He wouldn’t even take a tip. Definitely one of the nicest people we’ve met.
We were pretty elated to have got the overnight bus to Uyuni. But our elation was short lived as we realised the bad reviews about Omar Bus had been right. It broke down several times in the night and there was a lot of revving, before we’d start moving again (I assume minus a wheel or some such vital piece of machinery). Then at 7.30am, the bus came to another halt. We were literally in the middle of nowhere with no food and hardly any water. Rob & I had only eaten some crackers and a snickers for dinner and we were now starving. The bus driver lay under the coach for a couple of hours, hitting different things with a hammer, which didn’t seem to make a great deal of difference. Just when we’d given up hope, it started! We eventually trundled into Uyuni 5 hours late.
As pleased as we were to finally get off the bus, Uyuni is definitely not the most inspiring place in the world and we won’t be going back! It’s on a huge plain in the middle of nowhere. The streets are permanently dusty and many of the people are rude and unhelpful. The one saving grace is La Tonito Hotel and its awesome pizza restaurant. The food is cooked by an American called Chris, who’s lived in Bolivia for 20 years. The pizzas were fantastic and the next morning he made us some delicious pancakes, so we felt a bit better 🙂
J & R xxx