Boxing Day and back to Uyuini

We went on horseback through some of the most beautiful valleys that we have ever seen. I cannot do justice to the beauty with words - you will have to wait until I can get back to Arequipa and publish the photos. The boys thought it was like being in an Indiana Jones movie, and were waiting for the director to yell ¨cut¨!

There were huge slabs of rock sticking out of the earth, where softer layers had worn away leaving just these huge slabs sticking up like bright red walls against the blue sky and the vivid greens of the vegetation. Every so often a bright red cactus flower glowed like a stoplight atop a huge cactus.

The three hour ride was unlike any horseback ride I have ever taken. I could imagine Butch Cassidy riding through the same canyons - they would not have changed since he was there. Butch Cassidy was finally shot by the Bolivian Army in Tupiza. (I had no idea he was even in South America.)

We took our sunburned bodies back to the hotel and swam for the afternoon. We went to the mercado and bought fruit and vegetables and cheese for our trip. We bought our bus tickets back to Uyuni for the next day. We tried to find a place to have our nails done, but apparently that is not available in Tupiza, or at least not that day. We went to the same place for another pizza supper, and bought our two little proffessoras who sat patiently and helped me read some more Spanish, a couple of wooden puzzles, which they loved.

We tried to find a bank machine, but there is not one in this little 50 horse town. Luckily the hotel took visa, and the bus and the horseback tour place took Argentinan pesos. We were getting a little low on Bolivianos.

We slept well in our nice hotel, and ate our breakfast and went to the bus, and waited in the hot sun. Our bus was nicer than I expected. It was one of those double decker buses, but downstairs is just for the driver and his staff (wife and kids) and a separate area for all the luggage etc. We sat by our big front windows. This was going to be a much nicer rice.

After a while, some guys came and said we were in their seats. Apparently, on this Bolivian bus line, seats 40 - 44 are at the front, followed by seat 1, 2, 3 etc behind them. So when we looked at the seat plan and picked our seats that were at the front of the bus on the floor plan, we didn´t take into account that the 4 back seats were actually in front of us. Hilary stood up for us and said we had asked for the front seats and we were going to have the front seats. The macho Bolivian men argued, and Hilary argued back in Spanish. Finally the guys sat down. An hour later one of the guys came back and argued again, but Hilary would not be shaken. If they were going to show us a picture where we were sitting at the front, then damn it, we were going to be at the front where she could take good photos and not get motion sick. The guy asked her where her husband was and she said she didn´t have one and who needs one, men are useless anyway. The quiet Peruvian ladies behind us who were travelling alone with small children smiled at us. He talked to Hilary some more and at the end of the ride asked if he could take a picture with our beautiful boys. (And the sexy blond that had stood up to him, causing him no end of fantasy material no doubt).

The ride was the reverse of the Christmas day ride. First the beautiful valleys, then up and down switchbacks over colourful mountains, then the stop at the mining town where we went pee in a ditch again, and then miles of desert until we reached the desolate, uninviting cluster of rude buildings that is known as Uyuni.

A quick taxi to the hotel, a quick stop to confirm our tour of the salt flats for tomorrow, a run to the bank machines to make sure we could pay for our hotel, 3 day tour, bus to LaPaz and dinner. We bought our bus tickets. We were very clear about making sure the bus was a 2 floor bus and we were right at the front. We told the women at this company about the other bus where seats 40 - 44 are in front of seats 1. They thought that was crazy, and were glad we stood up to the guys.

On the way back there was a wedding going on, so we peeked in the church, and in fact ended up walking up the side of the great hall, where we could see that there were actually five couples all dressed with the brides in white and the grooms in black sitting in the front row. They were singing Ave Maria, actually, just Ave Maria - no other words - maybe they didn´t know the rest...

Ave Maria, gratia plena. Maria, gratia plena Maria, gratia plenaAve, ave dominus, Tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, Et benedictus Benedictus fructus ventris tui Ventris tui, Jesus. Ave Maria. (Some versions add the following) Sancta Maria, Ora pro nobis, Nobis peccatoribus, Nunc et in hora ortis nostrae. Ave Maria

We met a group who had just been on a salf flats tour. Everyone we meet that has done the tour says it´s fantastic. They were headed out to various locations, so we gave them what advice on hotels etc that we could.

We ate in the same little restaurant again. The boys wanted to stay in the hotel, so we brought them pizza and pasta back, and Hilary and I had salads and soup.

We came back to the hotel and used the computers for a while, and then slept with visions of salty flats dancing in our heads.

Tomorrow night we sleep in the Salt Hotel!