Written by Neon
We were unsure what to expect from Bolivia, our first ‘new’ country since we entered Chile across the Straight of Magellan. We had asked around, and heard many differing opinions both on crossing the border as well as about the people of Bolivia, so we just decided to see what we would see – as per usual. The border town of Villazon was bustling with life as we searched around for a hostel. We were able to find one easily, though thankfully it was just for a night, as we had to climb three flights of stairs to our room! Fidgit and I were able to resupply that evening, though it entailed far more stores and markets than resupplying in Argentina.
We walked out of Villazon the next morning, leaving behind stray dogs and cat-calling men to walk along an old dirt road into the campo. Along the way, we met an older woman who Fidgit chatted with for a while – she was walking home from getting supplies ‘in the city’. She left us at the first small pueblo, and we carried on, crossing multiple dry river beds before calling it a day along a small flowing creek.
The next morning, we followed a road that turned into an animal trail up and up to get over a pass. At the pass, our animal path disappeared for a moment, then reemerged on the other side as an obvious old two-track that we followed down past a few abandoned buildings to another tiny village. At this point, we were low on water and trying to make it to the next possible source before our lunch break. We followed another dry river bed to the next small town and found the river was running! Grateful, we stocked up on water and sat in the shade of a nearby tree for our break. Much to our delight, a bus began meandering its way up the riverbed. We watched it trundle past, and decided that must be a faster way to walk as well, since the vehicles are taking it. We followed the crude ‘river road’ and it led us down along the river bed and through/past the next few towns along the way. This option worked so well for us that we followed it for the next few days, getting water from the towns or the river(when it was running above-ground) As we neared Tupiza, the riverbed left us and we followed another dirt track up and over a pass into Tupiza, of course going through the town dump along the way.
Arriving in Tupiza, we found our way to a hostel to get cleaned up and get some work done. The women at the front were nice and gave us information about the area. We nearly had the hostel to ourselves, and were able to get work and laundry (!) done before leaving town.
Leaving Tupiza, we followed the river valley that continued past many small pueblos. Thankfully, Fidgit talked to a few people in the pueblos, and they told us that the river would end a few kilometers before we went over a pass to the next town. Ever grateful for local knowledge, we filled our water up at the spring, and were able to follow the train tracks along the edge of the valley up and up to an elevation of around 4,000 meters (12,000 ft). From there, we crossed and walked down a meandering river valley to the town of Atoche.
While trying to find a place to stay in Atoche, we discovered there was a regional event going on, so most rooms were booked for the night. We ended up finding a very scuzzy place, sleeping in our sleeping bags atop the covers, and heading out of town the next morning quickly. The trouble with that was Fidgit was not feeling well, and a poor night’s sleep mixed with altitude and dehydration was not helping. We did make it to the next town that day, and decided to catch a regional bus into the larger town of Uyuni so Fidgit could get better rest to help her illness.
After Fidgit was able to rest in Uyuni for a couple of days, we then came back to the small town we had left off at and made our way to Uyuni on foot. It was interesting coming into a town we already knew, but also nice to have a place already booked for the night and not worry about where to find food and other goods. Also, Uyuni and the altiplano that we’ve been walking across have gotten VERY cold at night, so we have been trying to stay indoors more often as we are walking through winter in such a harsh environment. We would hate to have an unsuspecting herdsman/woman find us frozen in our tent some morning. It wouldn’t be conducive to our goal either, haha.
Railway walking along the Pampa
Every small town has a railway sign, this was nearing Uyuni