I got the overnight bus from Salta to the Bolivian border where I had no problems crossing over. Immediatle there was a lot of obvious differences between the 2 countires. Bolivia is noticeably a lot poorer, less westernised and less developed than Argentina. But it was easy enough to find a bus to Tupiza, my first stop in Bolivia. I had heard a lot of stories about the poor transport in Bolivia, so was expecting the worst but so far it hasn´t been too bad, not the same luxury you get in Argentina nad Chile though.
I arrived in Tupiza early afternoon and found a nice hostel to stay in. Again after what I had heard from other people I was suprised by how nice the hostel was, it actually had one of the most comfortable beds that I have had for a long time. The claim of having hot showers was a bit of an exaggeration though. I spent the rest of the day looking round the town and getting organised for the next few days.
The next day I did a horse trek through the gorges and canyons in the surrounding countryside. This was really good, just like being in the wild west, riding through the dessert past cacti. THe horse riding I have done before has only been walking so doing a lot of trotting and cantering was good fun, but the next day I was feeling a bit sore when I started a 4 day Jeep trip to Uyuni. In the morning I met the guide and the other people I would be going with. It was a bit of a strange mix of people, the guide who didn´t speak a word of English, a guy from Russia, a guy from Australia, and a Japenese girl who didn´t speak that much English and no Spanish, but somehow it actually worked quite well. The first day was a lot of driving up to the altiplano, some good views but there wasn´t really much of anything there. We passed a few small villages which were basically a few mud huts and llamas. The people living there made the people I saw in Mongolia look very wealthy. Its amazing that they can live in these places, at high altitude with land and temperatures that are too poor to enable any kind of agriculture except a few llamas. Our first nights accomodation was basic but again better than I had expected, we even had flushing toilets and lights so i don´t know what everyone else was complaining about. And I finally got to use all the cold weather clothes that I have been carrying around in +30'C for months.
The next day we had to be up at 4.30am to leave by 5.00am. But there was a really nice sunrise as we drove up to one of the highest points of the trip at about 5000m. Most of the day was spent driving through a national park on the border of Chile, where we passed through so amazing landscapes, different coloured lakes with flamingoes, and volcanoes. We had to stop for n early lunch at a miners village for some repairs to our Jeep, are driver blammed the damage on the bad roads, but I think it was more to do with how fast he was driving on the bad roads. In the afternoon we went to a really nice hot springs for a swim, a perfect temperature, not too hot or to cold and in a really nice place. Then we drove up to around 5000m again to see some geysers before dropping down again to Laguna Colorada where we spent the the next night. The Laguna was one of the highlights of the trip, as we got to see a lot more flamingos close up and all the different colours in the water at sunset was incredible.
The third day wasn´t such a long drive and we had a few interesting stops. We went through the dessert, past interesting rock formations and more lagunas before reaching the Salar de Uyuni, the highlight of the trip. We stayed the night in a hostel by the side of the salt flat that was made entirely of salt, including all the beds and furniture. So had a good night there before another early start to see sunrise on the salt flat. it was worth getting up early for as it was one of the best parts of the trip. Only when the sun was up could you really appreciate the scale of the place. As far as you could see there was just salt. We stopped for breakfast at an island made of coral and covered in cacti before carrying on across the salt flat. We stopped a few more times, including one stop at a museum where there were salt sculptures and an area where people are allowed to mine the salt. Then we arrived at Uyuni in the early afternoon.
Theres not really much to do in Uyuni but I stayed one night before getting the bus to Potosi the next day. The only tourist attraction there was a very strange museum with a collection of mummies and deformed skulls, without really any information about them at all.