Our detour into Bolivia was short but sweet, with a pretty big pile of salt in the middle. Although there were options for other places to visit, we decided to keep moving rather than see a mining town or a city full of good food I can’t afford.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we booked our coach out of Uyuni the morning before our salt flats tour. We’ve heard horror stories through the grapevine of dodgy companies involved in all sorts of accidents, but Trans Salvador was recommended to us by the company we travelled through Peru with.
The bus was due to leave Uyuni at 1:30pm, which gave us time to lie in and enjoy not being on a bus for 9 hours just yet. The bus arrived slightly late, but slightly late is always better than not there at all. Although we’d booked seats next to the friends we’d met on Lake Titicaca, the company had given out seats without updating their colleagues and instead we got to sit near a small family instead. The little girl was adorable, but the conversation wasn’t nearly as interesting.
It was a few hours later that we reached the border, which is where things got a little more interesting. Border crossings, especially in remote locations, are notorious for being a bit dodgy in less developed countries. We’ve crossed a number of borders now in a variety of different ways and thankfully Bolivia was the one and only place where the men stamping passports tried to charge us for it.
The men were only asking for the equivalent of £1.50 each for the stamps, but at the moment for me that could be the difference between eating a full meal for dinner or just a bread roll. Of course trying to ask a man why he’s illegally charging for something, especially in a language he doesn’t speak, isn’t going to go down well. We were asked to sit down, possibly because they were going to let us go last once the coach load of people had paid up, or possibly to intimidate us more. When we wouldn’t sit down a guy in the line came to help out and eventually offered to pay the fee for us, telling the men we can’t speak the language and trying to sort the whole thing for us.
It’s so frustrating that people do this, scraping money off the top and getting away with it. We could tell it upset the man would helped us as well, as he hoped it didn’t change our opinion of Bolivia. Mark paid him back when we were on the coach and we had a chat about where he was from and what he was up to in Chile.
When we got over the border, everything changed. The facilities were better, the men were friendlier, they had a whole sniffer dog system with the bags and nobody tried to take money from us. Getting back on the bus was a relief, especially after having our bags thoroughly checked by border control.
The next few hours went slowly, though the views out of the window as the sun went down were so good. The dessert looked brilliant and the volcanoes were a beauty to see. Despite the hassle, I’m glad I got to see the landscapes between Bolivia and Chile.
We were supposed to reach San Pedro at 10:30pm, but somewhere along the line we were delayed by two hours. By the time we finally arrived at our destination we were so glad to be done with the bus. I think that was also the reason we decided to book a flight down to Santiago, despite the cost being high. Give me me two hours in the air over two days in buses and I’ll be a much happier person for it. I’ll be pretty hungry on account of having no budget for food, but it’ll be worth it.