It was still pitch dark outside as we waited for the van to pick us up outside our campsite. We had spent 20 minutes the evening before explaining to the tour company where we were staying and how to get to our campsite – they couldn’t quite understand that we weren’t staying somewhere on their list of hostels and hotels… So there we were, 4am, standing in the dark rain in the hills outside of Cusco.
After breaking camp in the morning we headed towards Puno, stopping first for a car wash in order to deal with the gasoline leak that was slowly staining our car yellow.
Our last morning in La Paz we ate breakfast in the picnic area and chatted with the other overlanders, comparing the size of our vehicle and feeling as though perhaps we were coming up short…
From Sucre we were headed towards La Paz, back through Potosi. This time though we were all alone. Ciaran and Anas had wisely decided to fly to La Paz – trading our two day drive for a much more enjoyable 40 minute flight :)
Our route took us back through Potosi and through the Bolivian countryside, as usual, paying tolls and watching the miles tick by…
Now that we had been turned away by more than a few gas stations, we knew we might again have difficulty buying gas, so we started searching pretty early on. By the time we had been turned away by a few different station we knew we’d have to get creative. As always, we were carrying an extra can of gas with us, but our goal was to save that for an emergency. When one more station turned us away we decided to backtrack to the nearest village we’d passed through. One of the tiny storefronts had a hand-painted sign out front that advertised bread, milk, candy, coca-cola, and, strangely, gasoline. Wolf had jumped out to ask as we passed through the first time but the owner had told him he would get a better deal if he kept driving to the next station.
After leaving Potosi we headed for Sucre, pulling into town in the early evening. We were all incredibly excited to arrive in Sucre because it meant we would get to hang out with Randall, a good friend and veteran Fat Tire Berlin tour guide. Randall still spends summers back in Berlin but the rest of the year he lives in Sucre where he runs a couple of non-profit organizations: Condor Trekkers and Condor Café, a trekking company and vegetarian restaurant that donate proceeds to local community projects.
We were excited to see Randall and see what he had built in Sucre so we made a beeline for the Condor Café, immediately ordering up some awesome food while we waited for him to arrive.
The day after our Salar de Uyuni tour we were scheduled to hit the road right away, but first we ran a few errands in Tupiza, including heading to the central market to shop for lunch supplies.
As we headed out of town we tried to find a propane filling station with no luck and then had our first experience buying gas in Bolivia. I don’t quite understand the logic or reasoning, but in Bolivia, only certain stations will sell gas to cars with foreign plates. Those stations that will actually agree to sell you gas are also allowed to charge more than double the listed price. It’s a total racket and it is completely annoying. Leaving Tupiza we had no problem buying gas but we would come to realize later that it wouldn’t always be so easy.
Our destination for the day was Potosí, famous for its silver mines. As we drove we started listening to the Marching Powder audiobook about the famous San Pedro prison in La Paz, getting us in the mood for some of the sights we would see later on in Bolivia. The countryside was again beautiful as we climbed up into the hills.
As we came closer to Potosí the weather changed dramatically and all of a sudden the ground was white and it was snowing around us. To top it all off, thunder and lightning seemed to surround us from all sides.
We were happy that we were able to enter Bolivia, arrive in Tupiza, and organize a tour of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s salt flats, for the next morning. Conscious that every day is precious, we were very appreciative that La Torre tours was so accommodating; bright and early on our first full morning in Bolivia, the four of us met Henry, our driver, and Isabel, our cook, and all climbed into our 4WD transport that would take us through the Salar de Uyuni. Although it would have been fun to explore the area in our van, we knew the conditions would wreak havoc on our delicate little flower and were happy to be chauffeured around for a few days.