In the morning we waved goodbye to our Colombian friends who had planned to start walking and hopefully catch a lift to the Migracion office. We packed up quickly and as Teeny put her shoes on she got more than she bargained for as a frog jumped out of the shoe…needless to say she was jumping around the place with the customs officers giving her a very squiff look!
The drive to the migracion office was on beautiful tarmac and the scenery didn’t seem to change much. We walked into the office at 10:30am impressed we were so early and prepared with our Bolivianos to buy our visa for Bolivia. This is the one country in our travel plans through South America that requires South Africans to get visas and all our research had shown it would be easy enough to get at the border. Smiling we handed over our passports to the lady officer who asked if we had our visas. Ummm…no but we have money to buy one here. Her reply shocked us: No you are not able to buy a visa here you should have gone to the embassy in Mirascal, you have to go back to get it, I can not issue you a visa here. OH! So, in broken Spanish we plead with her and to enforce our shock and dismay at this news Teeny started crying saying the road back to Mirascal is “muy malo” (very bad). She doesn’t budge, saying that to issue a visa requires an ID photo, photocopies of your passport, yellow fever certificate, credit cards, proof of accommodation and a letter of invitation. So we head out to the bikes trying to figure out if we were going to travel the 300kms back to Mirascal only to return again. After 20mins of deliberation, she came out to us with a plan. Nick can go into Bolivia to the first town of Villamontes (about 60kms) away and get all the paperwork we need to apply for a visa. Shew 120km return sounds much easier than 600kms, but the fact that Nick had to go alone was not great!! We got a list of everything she needed from us, it all seemed easy except we weren’t sure if the person who we needed to email for the letter of invitation would reply today. Regardless Nick headed out while Teeny sat at the border hoping with all her might that the endless number of negative scenarios running through her head wouldn’t become a realisation.
|future rider in training|
|waiting for the cow to jump out of the bushes !|
So we sit for another 1.5hrs. Then he calls us inside, looks at all our paperwork again closely and then looks at us and says: Its getting late and you need to go. Give me money to buy a gaseosa (soft drink) and I will write the letter for you and issue you a visa….ahhhh FINALLY!! Muchas Gracias Senor! And that was how we entered Bolivia…only 8.5hrs at the border! We laughed as we drove off thinking that of all the borders we have ever crossed, that one corrected our track record of only easy crossings!
Turns out that 20kms of the 60kms to Villamontes is on a loose gravel road, and in sections the road is being taken over by thick bush, not quite the easy 60km into town that she had explained! Arriving in town we went in search of an ATM. We found 4 but all of them would only accept Visa cards…thank goodness one of our cards is a Visa card! We started feeling like Bolivia didn’t want us to visit…however we found a lovely hostal with a very friendly host, and learnt that there would be live music in town in celebration of fathers day. What an excellent way to end a rather trying day!
In the morning our visit to the tourist information office was helpful although the map they gave us of southern Bolivia was very basic. The plan was to head towards Potosi and depending on the road see how far we could get. Climbing up to 3000masl we travelled slowly on the 125s, but then we hit a valley at about 2500masl which was an exquisite red clay colour. The bikes moved along well at this altitude and we were surprised at the good quality road. Before we knew it we were climbing higher again and the temperature dropped as we arrived at one of the highest cities in the world, Potosi, at 4070masl. A mining town at the base of Cerro Rico (mountain rich) filled with silver that has been mined for years. The town doesn’t seem to have been built based on a town plan as narrow roads zigzagged all over the place and some turned into dead ends or sheer banks to the level below. A very interesting town but we could feel the effects of the altitude making us move a lot slower and feel a bit sluggish.
The next morning we decided to look for an ATM that would give us USD so we would be prepared for exchanging in Argentina (your money goes much further if you exchange on the black market and get the ‘Blue Dollar’ rate). Unfortunately no luck, so we got a few supplies we would need for the next week wild camping around Uyuni and beyond.
|Ojo del inca thermal pool|
We left for Uyuni, glad to be on the road again and heading to a lower altitude. As we entered into the mountains the sky got pretty dark and we decided to put our wet weather gear on. Lucky we did because no more than 10min later we were driving through a hail storm!! Brrrr…and wet shoes! Thank goodness the other side was sunny!! The rest of the drive to Uyuni was on a great road sparkling like diamonds weaving its way through the hillside. We turned a corner and there was Salar de Uyuni lying ahead of us! Arriving late in the afternoon we went directly to the train cemetery 2 km outside of town and watched the sunset and set up camp for the night.
|Check the hailstones on the Alpacha's back!|
|protest on the road into Uyuni|
|self timer no......|
|GOT IT !!!!|
|A2A in slat bricks !|
|Shoo she said YES !!!!!|
|Cleaning off the salt|
|The bridge we used to cross the river|
|The road through the river we managed to avoid|
|I'm taking the sheep to bed too bloody cold !!!|
|Frozen water bottle|
|Lunch break hidden from the wind trying to warm up in the sun|
|Bugger that was deeper than i thought !!|
|5020m just to drop off a piece of paper at the aduana (customs) - about a 10km detour off the main road!!|
|Don't hit the sand bank on either side of the road...oh and the middle mannetjie!|