Bronzing in Tapiza, Bolivia

31 Jan

After the Salt Flat tour we returned to Uyuni, exhausted as none of us slept well the night before, and had a few hours to kill before walking to the bus station to begin the 6 hour trip to Tapiza, Bolivia. We ended up ordering a pizza on a patio along with many other travelers that seemed to also be headed to the bus station judging by the number of backpacks lining the promenade.

The bus station was pretty disorganized. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for where people were sitting and standing and nobody could tell us when or where we would be able to board. That aside, it was a great venue for people watching. A guy traveling with 2 girls began to play his guitar and sing in Spanish and soon everyone around joined in (everyone but us – our Spanish is limited and we had heard mostly popular North American music so far). There was a gypsy looking couple that appeared to be newlyweds traveling together. Women carrying several large shopping bags as suitcases (similar to the big blue bags you can get at Ikea) while also carrying babies wrapped in colourful locally made blankets on their backs.

We also learned there would be no washroom on the bus so Tal and I decided to use the public banos (bathroom). It was one of the worst facilities I’d seen since being in South America. While it was a modern toilet, the seat was missing, I don’t think it had ever been cleaned judging by its colour, and I have a hunch that people were so disgusted with the idea of hovering over this toilet that they had begun to use the floor instead. 2 scarfs covering my nose and mouth were not enough to mask the stench and at that point I decided I wouldn’t drink anything until we arrived in Tapiza because I couldn’t risk having to use this banos again.

Our bus was late (nothing so far in South America has been early) and we ended up meeting 2 Argentinian guys outside the station that gave us some recommendations about what to see and do and how to avoid tourist traps in order to get the real local experience. Funnily they both had the same name, like Jonny and J.J. (both Jonathan’s).

We were finally told our bus had arrived and we could line up to put our bags on. What an absolute gong show. People were pushing and shoving as they tried to toss their bags in the luggage compartment below the bus. As we took full advantage of there being 4 of us by hovering up against one of the luggage compartments that had not yet been opened we took a rough inventory of the number of people waiting to get on the bus, thinking there was no way that there were enough seats on the bus for everyone. But we had assigned seats.

We managed to get our bags into the luggage compartment on the bus and boarded taking our seats. Maybe we’d mis-judged the number of seats on the bus? Nope. It seems that some local people had purchased discounted bus tickets, allowing them to take the 6 hour trip to Tapiza standing in the aisle of the bus.

We arrived in Tapiza around 3am, got ourselves oriented and walked to Hotel Mitri, the place we’d booked to stay the day before.

By this time I was feeling like absolute garbage. I had a cough and in the words of Julie Sheldon, it felt like I was swallowing razor blades. I just needed a bed to sleep in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible and we would have to wait until 11am to check in. On the bright side, the night manager didn’t protest when we sprawled out to sleep on the couch and chairs in the lobby.

By 7am we were up and left to explore and find breakfast and more or less kill time until we could check in. To our disappointment, no restaurants in Tapiza opened for breakfast until 9am and even then the options were few. Tal and I took our books to the park while the boys scavenged to find anything they could nosh on until we could have a proper breakfast.

We found a cute little restaurant close to our hotel that was run by a new mother. She took our orders, cooked and served breakfast, all with baby on hip.

When we finished, it still wasn’t quite 11 but Hotel Mitri had a gorgeous pool, complete with Muskoka chairs and we couldn’t wait to lounge poolside and get our bronze on (or in J.J.’s case, his SPF 60 and his chilling in the shade on). We took our bags out to the pool area to read some more until the guy at the front desk handed us our room keys.

The rooms were a decent size (especially compared to the ones in Uyuni) and our room was right beside Tal and Jonny’s. The 4 of us shared a bathroom, complete with a hot water shower, and a massive terrace overlooking the pool.

The day was spent napping, reading, bronzing and dipping in the pool. Aside from feeling like absolute garbage, it was heaven.

Poolside we ran into a couple from New Zealand we’d met briefly in Uyuni, Rachel and Pete, and soon found out that we’d all be leaving Tapiza the following day on the same bus for Villazone, the closest Bolivian border town to cross over into Argentina.

That night, J.J., Tal and Jonny went off to dinner without me as I still wasn’t feeling great. By the sounds of it I didn’t miss much in terms of the food, but there was a live band that sounded like they were good.

I was out for the night by 8:30pm (thank you Inca Trail and Salt Flats for sending me back to my first grade bedtime routine), and feeling a bit better after an 11 hour sleep.


One Response to “Bronzing in Tapiza, Bolivia”

  1. Erin M January 31, 2012 at 18:16 #

    That hotel looks amazing!!
    You will have to ask Talia and Jonny to fwd my Bolivian bus experiences to you…not too far off yours and yes the banos are something else!

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