Thursday, February 15th, 2018
We sleep long. We agreed with Elia and Chavier to be picked up at the hotel at 10:30 am. Chavier lives in Uyuni, so he can have breakfast with family. Elia meets her husband there. Tonight she will go home with him to La Paz with the night bus.
According to her information that is super safe and reliable, since the street Uyuni – La Paz is completely sealed. Nobody robbes a bus there. There is tourist busses which donot even stop. They are very comfortable and reliable and need around 9 hours with toilets and food on board.
Local busses stop. They have no toilets on board. She prefers the cheaper local bus. She told us in the evening, she never flew with a plane. She is the same age like we are and has 4 kids. But she is not keen to, either.
So we have good breakfast buffet, pack our things, put them in trunk Chaviers Landcruiser. Chavier has garden furniture on his roof. The Landcruiser is his businessmodel. He pays 50k USD for a semi-new one, keeps it clean and drives tourists. Good business he says. Elia and her husband aim to do the same. The landcruiser is cleaned every day and the windows are supershiny. Chavier is a good and safe driver.
Off we go to the Uyuni salt flats. We stop at a village on the entrace path and buy a salt magnet for our fridge there. We visit a family and watch how they produce salt. Actually they get it, mill it, add jodium, put it in a 250g or 1 kg plastic bag and close it by melting the top on open fire from a propane gas bottle. Then they sell it for 1/8 eur per 250 grms. We buy a packet and write into his guestbook (obligatory) and continue our drive.
And then the road ends …
We change to rented rubber boots (Chavier organized them for 40 Bolivianos – 4 eur). You can get only 500 Bolivianos at once at an ATM. If you find an ATM … . There is no extra charges – the limit is like 55 eur – which is a security action against credit card robbery.
We get back in the car an Chavier drives on into the lake on the salt flats. They all do.
After the first 500 m, where the car got really deep into the saltwater, it gets very shallow.
We go to the first salt hotel inside the lake which is closed as a hotel but open as a restaurant. Its very basic, completely out of salt, 5 bolivianos for toilet (as always here).
Then we go driving around (some impressions):
Now it is high seasons for asian people. Europeans like to come in november. We immediatly learn from a japanese bachelor party why: the fotos
Then we have lunch:
We have to leave somewhen to catch out late flight to La Paz. At the airport we have a coffee with Elia while Chavier drives to clean his car. We hug them, exchange email with Elia, tip the like 30 eur (which makes them superhappy) and off we go.
The airport is mainly a flight field with FREE toilets.
But bomberos (firepower) always there to save us:
FLIGHT 11: Amaszonas Z80309 from Uyuni (UYU) 20:40 to La Paz (LPB) 21:25; duration 1h35; no miles; Old semi-new Lufthansa Bombardier jet; same decoration I used to fly VIE-CGN-VIE in 1999/2000.
We arrive in La Paz late. A German/Bolivian girl is awaiting us with a driver and drives us through dark La Paz 30 min to our Hotel. It is still dense traffic on bad streets. We see the main road and the cathedral and arrive in Hotel Real Plaza/La Paz.
Looks like a Grand Hotel in south eastern europe in the first days after the fall of the iron curtain. Good luck we donot suffer from altidude, the give us a room in the 10th floor:
We set alarm to 4:40 am. At the reception we prebooked a transport for tomorrow 5:30 am for 19 USD (in La Paz all tourist spendings are in USD possible).
In the Hotel they offer breakfast buffet from 4:30 am. Driver and guide recommend to be on the airport 2 hours before intl flight at least because bureaucracy needs it time. Especially our girl guide is super helpful in booking the airport transfers, shows us samples of the form we will have to fill out at the airport.
I do with the crappy WiFi in the hotel the Avianca check in (Star Alliance gold welcome). And go to sleep. In the night it is getting cold, i turn of the heating, it is a noisy machine i donot want to know the technique behind (the switch tells me it is DDR technology – at least it doesnot react to “Alexa, gimme more warm”) …