After the 3-day tour of the Salar De Uyuni, I was still set on my idea of visiting Potosi and Sucre. Jakob, Owain and I went to the bus companies in Uyuni looking for a bus heading there. We soon found out that there was a strike in town. The roadblock prevented any bus from leaving and arriving. Some travelers had been stuck there for 3 days. We had no other choice than spending the night there.
Uyuni is not really an interesting town. Some people were getting bored and desperate enough to try other ways of leaving town, like hiring a 4×4 and going off-road to go around the roadblocks. In Bolivia, it’s not only about getting to a place, but also hoping that there are no strikes and roadblocks preventing you from leaving a place. I had to be in Buenos Aires in about one week, and I had no way to know if I could reliably leave Potosi and Sucre if I went there. I decided to go to Cordoba, Argentina instead to spend a couple of days with my dad.
The next day I found out that there was a train leaving for the border town of Villazon the following night. I stayed another day in Uyuni, dealing with the freezing temperatures and the hostel’s unreliable wi-fi connection. I realized that I wasn’t prepared for this type of cold weather. I had only packed a couple of long sleeve t-shirts and a down jacket. The food in Uyuni is overpriced, touristy and not really good at all. I least I was able to find some great street salteñas (baked empanadas).
As I froze my ass off while walking to the train station the following night, I found dozens of people there trying to board the train. Many were in line to try to get tickets. I had gotten mine that morning (180 bolivianos for Ejecutivo class seat). The train was supposed to arrive at 10:40pm but was 45 minutes late. A lot of backpackers were taking the southbound train, getting off at Tupiza before catching a bus north to Potosi or Sucre. A hug detour but one of the few ways to get out of town and continue their journeys. By then the strike had gotten worse. I was told that they were now even blocking 4x4s leaving for the tours of the salt flats.
To my great satisfaction and relief, the Expreso Del Sur train was very well heated. The Clase Ejecutivo seats were comfortable and had plenty of legroom. I also had no one sitting on the seat next to me.
I felt asleep right away. I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night and noticed that the train wasn’t moving, but was too knocked out to find out what was going on. I found out later that the train was stopped for 6 straight hours. One version said that it had mechanical problems. Another version said that it dealt with a roadblock by running over some rocks on the tracks, damaging the locomotive and requiring another one to come and replace it. Whatever it was, it meant that we were now 6 hours behind schedule.
The bright side of all this is that instead of arriving to Villazon at 7am, it would now arrive in the afternoon, which meant that I was able to enjoy the spectacular daytime scenery of mountains, canyons, rivers, and desert outside.
Hi Kevin, I just read your blog about getting stuck in Uyuni. We didn’t want to miss out on the salt flats. Do you have any advice? Thanks, Rob and Amani!
Hi Rob. Where are you right now? If buses are running into Uyuni, then the tours to the salt flats should also be running. Another way to find out is to call/contact one of the tour companies. They’ll have the latest information on the strike.