Twenty four hours on the double decker bus with restless leg syndrom and a terrible sugary cookie to nibble on. In South America you´re not supposed to flush TP. Who knew there was a road all the way up to Machu Picchu? Don´t put all your cash in one place. The Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world, four times the size of Lake Iliamna, ¨islands¨ in the lake have coral formations covering the rocks and the flats are 11,995 feet above sea level!! I have a bladder the size of a mustard seed.
With a day to kill in Salta, Argentina we decided to obtain our Bolivian visa, a wink and a nod allowed us to recieve them the same day! After wandering the streets and climbing the local statues and sipping sweet drinks in the the town square we made our way to the bus station in the dark to spend our second night on the bus, this time destination Uyuni. We again hit the ground running, sucking the marrow out of the day as I like to say. We found accomodations and then set out to find someone to show us around the joint. By night fall we had a deal secured and we were off after sunrise for a journey into the barren hinterlands of the Salar de Uyuni. These meager pictures have trouble showing the vastness and ruggedness and brutality of these barren wastelands that are so full of gentle life and quick to judge those who don´t take it seriously. Words and pictures barely scratch the surface of the extreams of the place, vast seas of brilliant white salt flats, pink flamigos acting like life is so good at 13,000 feet in orange water with green grass; blue skys; and blistering white salt flats, volcanos jutting up in all directions, islands in the salt flats with ancient coral encrusting the rocks with cactus growing out of them and mini ostretch type birds pecking around miles from the nearest inhabitable land.
After three days of touring, sleeping in hotels made entirely of salt and huddled in a Land Cruiser with six other chaps we were on sensory overload and were almost greatful not to see another mind blowing vista. Fortunately the schedule in the train station didn´t match up with reality in our favor and we had an extra day in Uyuni to digest the previous three. After the burning cold of night set in we huddled in the train station with the other tourist heading down the trail and the locals sleeping on the benches scattered around. As expected the train was an hour or two late and we whiled the time away talking about different trails explored with the other tired travelers.
The train was pleasant and a few hours of sleep were afforded to each of us and soon we were rolling into a town called Oruro where we had the challenge of finding a bus to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. We quickly found a bus through La Paz, which a local boy kindly sent off in style by peeing on the back tire. Again my expectaions were blown out of the water as we passed the shores of the giant lake. It was even bigger and more beautiful than I had expected with the Andes mountians in the distance and tiny hamlets dotting the shore in cozy hilly niches. Copacabana was an unknown to both Heidi and I and we were taken with the town immediately and decided we could spend more time than we had exploring the place. Sailing was on tap the first day and we used several hours out on the lake figuring out how to run the ship and getting every inch of exposed skin brilliant red despite the layers of sun screen applied. The following day we rented bikes and peddled down the road seeking the floating islands. Heidi´s bike broke on the first hill, half the handlebar ripping off the center post. A little Alaska modification and we were off again albeit a little unstablely. The floating islands turned out to be a tourist trap, literally, they were all trapped there. So we enjoyed the view and the sore bottoms from the hours of riding and headed back to town just in time for yet another bus taking us to Cusco, Peru.
Saving a few bills on a hotel we slept on the bus as we crused towards Cusco in the dark. We woke to giant terraced mountians drifting past our windows and wondered at these people´s tenacity to farm such steep rugged ground. Cusco bustled with activity and all the vendors salivated as we passed their doors baiting us in with the different deals of the hour. Machu Picchu was firmly in mind as we avoided all the touts and found our way out to the small town of Aguas Calientes where we would search for the old city. On the train ride we fell in line with a couple Yanks and ended up staying at the same hostel, enjoying dinner together and exploring the ruins with them. The highlight of the tour was climbing Wynupichu, the mountian on the far side of the city, and immagining how they built the lower city let alone the terraces and watch towers on this far spire. Simply amazing in scope and detail of the craftsmanship and location of the whole place.
Sensory overload set in long ago and I am struggling to take in yet one more incredable and unfathomable sight. In all our wanderings and traveling people ask us over and over what our favorites are and again and again we come back to people. Relationships are what make this whole deal worth it, they are the only things that will last. Heidi and I think back over the months and so many people come to mind, Mona, Muhamad and Mason in Egypt, Dave, Karen and the gang in Burma, Dave and Mark in Mexico, Yuval in Malawi, so many strangers we call freinds. Why has God allowed us this opportunity to go and to see. A vast majority of the people we meet could never and will never have this opportunity and yet we do. A verse Heidi and I repeat over and over ¨to whom much is given, much is required¨.
¨Dont buy any sunglasses within 150 mills of the ground, in La Paz I saw too many dogs cocking their leg towards them.¨
Peter the Kewi
Peter the Kewi