Salar de Uyuni

4. The Border

October 2002 – Peru, Bolivia, Chile & Argentina

Hello. We have left Cusco for the last time and made it to La Paz. So goodbye and good luck to Fiona, Shawn, Marlo, Guillerme and Jane at South American Explorers, Andy and Tatiana of Cusco Weekly, the bar staff at Paddy’s, the Irish pub, and Gary, our landlord in many guises.

In La Paz we investigated the many markets of the city, witches, coca, and made time to shove lots of ice cream down our throats. Travelling south, we enjoyed a railway service that puts British Rail, or whatever it’s called now, to shame before heading to the spectacular reflective salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni, crossing mountains and deserts into Chile.

Our time in South America is running low; we spent most of our recent time in San Pedro de Atacama enjoying the sun and trying to get to Argentina. We managed this with a journey from Hell. A ten hour delay, without food, at the border in the middle of nowhere; tyre blow outs, and overheated engines virtually tripled our journey time to 24 hours. For the most part we, and our six other unfortunate travelling companions, spent the time ripping the piss out of our increasingly nervous driver and guide Erich.

Marty, an Australian, and I, the two worst Spanish speakers of the group were sent on foot down to the border post with a note requesting permission for our Chilean guide to enter Argentina without papers; to use their phone and find out where our connecting bus was. Returning up the hill with another note we hitched a lift in a truck where Marty took over the wheel and drove up the twisting dirt road to the surprise of our friends.

The Argentine police and customs, after initial gruffness, invited us in, fed and watered us and eventually, once our bus arrived, waved us off with smiles and kisses blown to us. Overall, a surreal, exhausting, but rewarding experience that has allowed us to see a gentler side of the authorities. We are now in Salta, a hot and charming town, enjoying European comfort at third World prices (for example: two Italian meals, garlic bread, a bottle and a half of wine, and two large orange juices for less than a fiver), and about to get on yet another bus to the Igazu falls.

Despite all this travelling, we have relaid out the site, though with minimal I-net time and, at times, electric, there are still a few inevitable errors to correct. I’ve also fallen a little behind with emails, so apologies for this. Elsewhere on the site, I wish to do a long overdue issue of the Working Traveller soon and add outstanding listings and links. As for JAB, the October issue is in danger of being published in November so the next issue will be short and sweet and sent to you all in a week or two.

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