Monday 27th May
We got up, breakfasted and were out of our hostel before 7.30am to start our four day tour of Bolivia's Southwest Circuit. We picked up the other two people in our group, a Colombian couple, Paula and Felipe, and left Tupiza as the sun was just popping up over the mountains. We made a couple of stops as we drove through the steppe and then stopped at the grim little town of Cerillos for lunch out of the back of the jeep, freshly prepared by Elvis, our cook. We pressed on through the wilderness, stopping at an abandoned colonial town and a lookout point over Laguna Morijón at 4855m above sea level. We spent the night, more comfortably than expected (there were indoor toilets and everything!), in Quetana Chica, and slept reasonably well despite the cold.
Tuesday 28th May
After a breakfast of fried eggs and toast, we set off at 8am and headed into the Desierto de Dalí, a barren, dusty landscape with the occasional rock formation popping up. We then pressed on towards the Chilean boarder to see the Laguna Verde and Licancabur, and were almost blown over by the wind before turning back north to stop at Aguascalientes for the thermal baths. Zab went in, but I couldn't bare taking off all my clothes and getting wet. Unfortunately, when he got out, Zab realised he'd stubbed his toe and it had turned black and blue. Fortunately, however, lunch was then ready. In the afternoon we stopped to see some geysers and then at the Laguna Colorada, a red lake with a few flamingos milling around in it. We ended the day in Villa Mar where we almost didn't find anywhere to sleep, but David, our driver, managed to wangle something.
Wednesday 29th May
Pancakes for breakfast, then leaving just after sunrise at 7.30am, we stopped just outside of Villa Mar to see a rock formation known as Italia Perdida, because it apparently looks like an Italian city from above. After that, we stopped to look over a cliff edge down to a canyon where a black river known as the Anaconda Dormida runs, and the Laguna Negra. We stopped at Mirador Volcán Ollagüe for lunch, then drove on to San Juan to visit the “mummy museum”, which I think was poorly named (it was in fact a cemetery of noble Aymara, entombed in rock formations, where you can now see their skeletons; no mummies in sight). In the early afternoon we drove along the Salar de Uyuni and stopped at a hostel made of salt in Puerto Chuvica and had time to relax and shower before sunset and a last dinner together with Paula, Felipe, David and Elvis.
Thursday 30th May
Getting up at 5.30am to leave was not fun, and also extremely cold. We arrived at Isla Incahuasi (a corral island full of cacti in the middle of the salt flats) just before sunrise, which we observed from the top of the island, as our toes froze off. We then breakfasted in the sun down on the salt flats with all the other groups doing the same route and eventually drove on to the Ojos de Sal, where the salt is cracked in surprisingly regular hexagonal shapes, and where people typically take silly forced perspective photos. After we used up most of our cameras' battery power, we drove off the salt flats to the tourist trap of Colchani, where we were confronted with people selling the ubiquitous llama wool hats, jumpers and mittens as well as useless things made of salt. Our final stop was the train cemetery just outside of Uyuni, where we climbed over dilapidated, rusting locomotives, before heading back to the town for a final lunch. We then all said goodbye and Zab and I checked in to our adequate hotel, washed and rested before and early night.
Friday 31st May
We tried to have a lie in, but failed. We checked out of our hotel in Uyuni and caught a bus to Potosí, supposedly the highest city in the world. We had to wait almost three hours for our connecting bus to Sucre, which we spent in the clean but rather soulless new bus terminal listening to women repeatedly shout the name of the destination their company was going to in a vein attempt to attract more customers. When we eventually arrived in Sucre, we took a taxi to meet a friend at the hostel she was staying and had another early night.
Saturday 1st June
Again, I failed at lying in and instead got up and worked before breakfast (much to Zab's surprise). Later, we headed out in to town to see about renting an apartment in a place I'd read about online, but it turned out to be not up to our standards. We then lunched with a couple we'd shared the bus ride from Uyuni with the day before and tried to visit an airline office together, but it was closed. In the evening, we went out with a friend who we were sharing a room with for dinner as well as a friend of hers and his Bolivian girlfriend and ate Tex-Mex food in a Dutch restaurant.
Sunday 2nd June
We decided that trying to find an apartment in Sucre was not realistic, and instead moved from our dorm to a private room in a much nicer hostel. We then met our friend for lunch and then walked up to the neighbourhood of Recoleta on a hill to get a view over the city. We spent the rest of the day catching up on work and had pizza for dinner.