Recent Entries

December 14, 2004

From Seasickness to Altitude Sickness

Getting from Buenos Aires to Uyuni, Bolivia, my jumping off point for the tour to the Bolivian Salt Flats was an adventure in itself. The flight from Buenos Aires to Salta was uneventful, and I only stayed one night there before leaving on a bus heading north to La Quiaca in the morning. The bus to La Quiaca was about seven hours long and not too bad of a journey, despite the sweltering heat on the bus, and my need to use the bathroom for hours but being afraid that the bus would leave without me if I went. For the first three hours, I sat next to a 12 year old girl named Cynthia who was hopping off in a little village on the way to visit her four brothers. It was good to practice my spanglish with her, and I taught her to count to ten in english. After she got off the bus, I befriended an Argentinian named Jose Luis that had spent six months in Mossuri studying geology and spoke English very well. His destination was La Quiaca also, and when I told him I was planning to cross the border into Bolivia and head to Tupiza, he was kind enough to offer to escort me over the border and make sure I find the correct bus to Tupiza (where I would then have to find another bus to Uyuni). The random kindness of strangers is always refreshing. I must make it a point to be nicer to strangers when I get home.

As Jose Luis saw me off on the bus,he kept shouting to me, "Be careful! Watch your things! DON'T go to sleep!" His concern was very nice, and I really appreciate that he went out of his way to help me out. I have heard stories from other travelers' experiences on Bolivian busses of kids climbing under your seat to get stuff out of your bag and that sort of thing, so I had my eyes peeled the entire time. One thing that I think I have taken for granted being on the "tourist" busses, is that they always have either reading lights or track lighting so that its not totally dark at night. The sun set about half way through the journey to Tupiza and there were no lights on the bus, and since we were driving out in the middle of NO WHERE, it was a little unnerving. I was starting to get worried about arriving in Tupiza in the dark and having to find a place to stay, but in the end, everything worked out fine. There were taxis everywhere and I went to the most highly recommended hotel in my Lonely Planet where I got a nice hotel room with private bathroom, TV and phone... for the bargain price of $5 USD. The altitude in Tupiza was about 3000m ASL so of course, I went to bed with a headache. But I must say, I prefer altitude sickness to seasickness.

The next morning I decided to just press on to Uyuni, instead of waiting in Tupiza for another day to rest, and went to the bus station to find a ride. There are trains and busses that leave everyday that go the long way around via Potosi to Uyuni, and then there is the shorter 4 hour jeep ride that cuts through the dried riverbeds. I wanted the jeep. Organizing the jeep was complete chaos, with locals pushing their way through the line and no one seemed to really know if the jeep was really leaving or not. Everyone paid there 60 bolivianos (approx 4 USD) and our luggage was loaded onto the jeep. Then just as we were about to leave, for some reason we all had to go get a refund from the original cashier and go around the corner and pay someone else. I didn't quite understand what was happening and felt a slight panic when we all got off the bus and the jeep tore off with all of our luggage still on its rack. I got my ticket and met two other travelers that were also going to Uyuni that day, Thomas from Switzerland and Tao from Vancouver. It's always nice finding fellow travelers that are going in the same direction. They crammed TEN people into the car, and we left. We were really crowded in there,but the jeep ride was great! Admittedly one of the more dangerous rides I've ever been on, the driver seemed to round corners without any concern of oncoming traffic. There were two times when we, in my mind, almost hit cars head on coming around curves, but the driver seemed to have it all under control. Went through some beautiful scenery and got to Uyuni in about half the time than if we were to have gone the normal way. The three of us all came to Uyuni to visit the Salt Flats and have organized a tour beginning tomorrow for 3 days! Unfortunately, since I won't be near "civilization" for the next few days, I will miss my moms birthday, which is thursday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! Thanks for having me!

Posted by msshell on December 14, 2004 05:31 PM
Category: South America

Actually I prefer seasickness over altitude sickness... haha.

You probably won't read this until after the standard salt flat tour -- but are you in agreement that Dali is a fraud?

Posted by: Erik in Hue on December 15, 2004 03:07 AM

Actually I prefer seasickness over altitude sickness... haha.

You probably won't read this until after the standard salt flat tour -- but are you in agreement that Dali is a fraud?

Posted by: Erik in Hue on December 15, 2004 03:09 AM

Ten folks crammed in a jeep? Hope everyone was wearing their seatbelts!

Posted by: Ali on December 15, 2004 11:28 AM

Michelle, do you only end up meeting really cute guys while you're vacationing or was this just a spot of luck? :)

Posted by: Michelle S on December 15, 2004 06:57 PM

Happy birthday Mrs Tsai!

Posted by: Kellie on December 15, 2004 09:02 PM

ditto that! happy birthday, Mrs. Tsai. you did a great job w/that little girl of yours!!!

Posted by: el en on December 16, 2004 01:04 PM

You absolutely must go to Potosi and do the miner tour... you get to buy nitroglycerin even, and then set it off on the side of a mountain!

Posted by: Erik in Saigon on December 18, 2004 12:43 AM

ERIK: Why? Altitude sickness got you a lovely scenic flight over the Himalayas, didn't it? :) and yes, Dali = Fraud.

ALI: Seatbelts? There are no seatbelts in Bolivia.

MICHELLE S: Must have been luck, most of the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis are smelly locals.

EL EN: Little girl? Who you calling a little girl?

Posted by: Michelle on December 18, 2004 03:31 PM

Thanks for the birthday greetings!
Happy Holidays to all!

Posted by: Michelle's Mom on December 18, 2004 06:33 PM
Email this page
Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Designed & Hosted by the BootsnAll Travel Network