Unfortunately due to time (and money) constraints I had to start heading east across South America rather than venture further north to some countries I really would have liked to visit. As such from Cusco I jumped on a bus towards La Paz, Bolivia.
I must say that the bus journey was super pleasant. Comfiest seats I’ve had since Malaysia and perfectly cupped you so you didn’t slip out of the seats and were the right mix of soft and firm. Not really a key part of the journey but an important thing after many uncomfortable bus rides.
Once arriving near the city of La Paz you could see the clear difference between in and the previous cities. Very built up, chaotic traffic amidst a string of one way narrow streets and constant plumes of black smoke suffocating you. Honestly I felt the pollution was worse than in Beijing (notorious for its high levels) and it was also more visible due to the bursts of black from every exhaust pipe in the streets. It’s probably not too bad a city if you travel to more of the sites outside but in itself it isn’t the most amazing place. That being said it was a decent place just to get to grips with it all and start planning my route through Bolivia.
The first stop after the capital city was Uyuni. A no-horse town that literally has nothing except tour agencies, some houses and a few shops. Mostly people just go there to visit the salt flats as there really is nothing noteworthy within the town (except a nice little pizza place owned by an American). As for the salt flats themselves you can go for a varying amount of days, I opted for the one day as I wasn’t super fussed about the place in general. When you first start driving across the salt flat it is quite impressive just how vast it is, but after a while it does lose impact. One of the main reasons people go here is due to the flatness you can takes lots of photos using illusions created by perspective. Now, as I generally don’t like being in photos I find this even less appealing but it was fun watching other people get really into it. Following this we drove further in to the salt flats and stopped for lunch inside a salt igloo I guess. Still relatively underwhelmed by the whole thing at this point. Nearing the end of the trip we went to a section where there is about an inch of water covering the salt. This was the first time I really felt it was a little special. It’s very simple but the reflection and clarity of reflection on the water was beautiful. From the right angle it looked like you were walking on water and the light in the area played with the water and surrounding white landscape to create a wonderful array of colours. I would almost say the tour was worth it just for this part.
After Uyuni I was headed to Potosi. Known majoritively for its mines of silver (which is shrinking by the day) it’s quite a busy city. I didn’t expect to see so much foot traffic when I arrived and unfortunately I got a rather powerful cold and didn’t really see much of the town. Instead I spent most of my time in cafes planning other parts of my trip and figuring out where I was going to go near the end.
A few more cities to go to finish of Bolivia, Sucre and Santa Cruz were next. Sucre is a very pretty city, still quite busy but due to the presence of lots of little green plazas and being a little cleaner it seems more peaceful than the previous locales. Here I learnt that I had left my laptop charger in my previous hostel and then awoke the next day to find out that my credit card needed to be cancelled (Bolivia suffered from unfortunate circumstances that were nothing to do with the country). So with all these, albeit small, inconveniences happening it did somewhat taint the trip to Bolivia. Sucre was super pretty though and I enjoyed walking around just taking it easy before another night bus to Santa Cruz.
This last bus journey was brutal. The roads were rubbish, the bus was rubbish, most of it was rubbish. It was very cheap however so I didn’t have the heart to complain. Santa Cruz is an interesting place, it’s more western in a lot of ways but still not too overdeveloped, although there are a lot more shiny hotel looking buildings. Being a more developed place meant there was an Apple reseller and I was able to get a cable for my laptop!
I also found some lovely coffeeshops and my hostel was really nice with friendly people. Whilst at the coffeeshop (which I frequented once a day) I got talking to the barista about tattoos. A tattooist from Curitiba (where I will be going in Brazil) was visiting and working out of a local studio when he recognised my tattoo. Ok, not my tattoo specifically but he recognised the style by my artist and asked if he could meet me. We ended up chatting about Japanese style tattoos as that is a specialty of his and my own tattoo artist. He practices tebori which is done by hand rather than a machine and I might end up getting a tattoo whilst I’m in Curitiba.
It was an interested and short time through Bolivia and I think it was more a victim of circumstance in the way I perceived the country which I shouldn’t hold against it. Next in Buenos Aires and I know, it being a metropolitan city, it will feel a little bit more comfortable and relatable.