Bolivia is full of amazing and wild places but as far as tourist draw is concerned, one exist in a league of its own: The Uyuni Salt Flats a.k.a Salar de Uyuni. Almost any South American travel itinerary includes a trip through the unique landscapes that lay between the little town of Uyuni, Bolivia and the tourist hub of San Pedro, Chile. There are many places to take a trip from, and an ungodly number of agencies hawking them, but once you and your five companions load into that Toyota Land-Cruiser, you enter a different planet. However, the itinerary of a Uyuni trip is pretty set no matter what any guide agency may tell you. So over the course of three days it’s pretty rare to have a moment to yourself; your extra-terrestrial explorations might include many extra, terrestrial beings.
After my long stay in Sucre it felt good to be back on the move. There was still so much ground to cover in Bolivia and now I had kindergarten Spanish under my belt; what could hold me back? Perhaps a live and active road blockade in the city of Potosi, that could do the trick... About 5km outside the high altitude mining town an inconveniently placed tractor trailer made it pretty clear the bus was going no further. Everyone unloaded with limited fuss, it seemed this was not as uncommon as it felt. The rest of the journey downtown would be made on foot.
On New Years Eve I embarked for Sucre, the capital city of Bolivia. I expected a fairly light travel day as the distance from point A and point B was not that far; my expectations were not met. Starting at 3:00AM and arriving at 10:00PM all but knocked me out. Perhaps this year I would celebrate from the comfort of bed. Of course, upon arrival the hostel was lively and quickly a trip to the main square materialized.
There are two stories to tell of my time spent in Sajama National Park. The overarching tale is one of a place seldom traveled. An untamed, wild land that distorts perspective with its scale and challenges wits with its weather and terrain. The subplot of this epic is the truth turned legend of Pico the dog; and the life threatening misadventure of this 13 lb. Shih Tzu.
From southern Peru you can hop on an overnight bus, cross the Bolivian border, get your stamp at immigration, and be on your way. This is the experience travelers from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and most other developed countries will have. Unfortunately, if your passport is blue and says United States on it, things will not be so easy. U.S. - Bolivian relations have been stressed for decades. Outspoken Bolivian disapproval of U.S. policies, questionable U.S. intervention on Bolivian soil in the name of the “war on drugs” and general governance disagreements have not fostered an atmosphere of trust between the two. It’s quite hard for a Bolivian visitor to receive a tourist visa for the U.S. and thus, in reciprocity, Bolivia treats visitors from the states in the same manner.