Uyuni, Bolivia, Rem Sapozhnikov
February 2008
A Russian traveller, who found himself in Uyuni, should have a feeling of pride: to get to such a place – one should manage it! I'll tell you the truth: I wouldn't change Uyuni either to Paris or Berlin, and moreover to New York. In those cities you experience such a crush, bustle, consumer fever that is called shopping, often concealed-hostile attitude towards Russians and Russia. There is nothing of this kind in Uyuni. Having a walk, I came to the suburbs of the town, read the words «Welcome to Uyuni» and felt that these were the whole-heartedly words. Flourishing of this salty area depends upon my lean dollars.

A walk along the central street revealed that I was not the only tourist in these areas. French, German, Americans, Dutch and God knows who else, languidly get acquainted with local exotics, preferring shady side of the street: the sun is so bright and ruthless here that you feel as if you were in a smokehouse! Tourist of Bolivian smoking – it sounds rather good!

Among the cars, it is off-road vehicles that prevail in Uyuni. Usual vehicles are also seen, but there are much more jeeps and all of them are used for serving the tourists. Practically all routes pass through dirt roads or saline lands where «Alfa Romeo» can hardly run. By the way, in Uyuni once again I came across that compatriot of mine, whom I saw at post-office in Oruro. Faithful to his «native way of communication», he, passing by, grumbled «wouldn't they stay at home!». I wanted to tell him after «Well, why wouldn't you?» but changed my mind: what if he is wanted by the police and suspects that I go for his scalp.

The main attraction of Uyuni is a city clock, the kind of «Big ben in saline land version». This clock is described in all old guide books that is why you are pleased to confirm that the original face of the city has not changed, it has the breath of old times.

The monument to heroes of Chaco, war of 1932-1935 between Bolivia and Paraguay, possesses a unique style, but in substance it is quite controversial. To all appearances, the guys got surrounded and just don't know what to do. Everybody points to a different direction, all are clearly frightened and would not think about heroic deeds. There are no cartridges, there is nothing to run in attack with under the scorching sun. Besides, Russian white officers under command of general Beliayev serve as military advisors to Paraguayan enemy. Apparently, they will have to give themselves up.

Sculptural compositions of a worker with a wrench, a woman with a cup of coca tea and flat cake, feeding mother, might not strike out by refinement of forms, but confirm that the beautiful draws even in the most modest places, and again – honour and respect to a common person! All sculptures are freshly painted and the name plates are polished. It turns out that socialist realism was prematurely buried down, it nicely flourishes in Uyuni, annually attracting to the town hundreds, if not thousands of tourists from the whole capitalist world that is doomed for degradation, artistic barrenness and progressing crisis of morality. Isn't it the reason, why western tourists peer into this Bolivian proletariat for a long time, because it has a charge of optimism, inescapable energy leading to the clearly specified goal. By association I recollected the sculpture of Mukhina «Worker and a woman farmer». It was removed allegedly for restoration, but all the terms have already expired and it is still dismantled to pieces, and stored somewhere in some closets. It is the time of other heroes in Russia!

I find it difficult to say anything about a little steam engine on the main street. Some local chief might come on it to Uyuni in 1917?

Deceptive is the firm imposing name «Andes Salt Expeditions». The blame for mud on seats of a jeep, on which Braulio, head of the firm, came for me to the hotel, was laid on his «sloven dog». It doesn't even occur to him to wash the car: tourists are many, time is little. This head of the firm «Andes Salt Expeditions», a Bolivian, has learned a pragmatic formula «time is money» and behaves respectively, resembling a typical pity-yankee very much. There are frequent interruptions in water supply in Uyuni, and to rub off with your jeans the dog's mud, you should understand yourself... Should you come to Uyuni, have a closer look to some other tourist firms.

There is a church in Uyuni, where one could have some rest in a cool place, but the temple was always closed. Do they face any problems with clergy staff?

Here are some other «key» structures of Uyuni: school, drug store, local history museum with 4 signs not to pass by.

Escuela Mixta Juana de Padilla.

Farmacia America.

The First museum of Uyuni have only 4 signs.

Estos colores
no se queman
no se borran
y no se reemplazan.

A street dog certainly have eaten a pood of salt during his life, but obviously the destiny didn't pampered him with the bones.

Boulevard in Uyuni.

Very pretty is the market, provincially touchy, with quite a good variety of stuff, the majority of which is of Chilean origin.

"Airport" of Uyuni:

«Apostle of heavenly gates» – airport of Uyuni clearly needs investments. Is it possible that oligarchs from Russia will reach here?

Uyuni cemetery:

Uyuni cemetery is the world leader in undecayed relics – the life in salty environment has an impact.

Hotels of Uyuni. Hotel Toñito.

Hotels in Uyuni give the basic comfort, if the electricity is not shut down due to rains or technical break-downs. I have the best impressions of «Toñito». Recently built hotel with calm and welcoming service and, what is most important, there is a canteen-restaurant, where one can sit in a friendly company.

Hostal El Cactus

Hotel Avenida

Hotel Julia

I wish I had more time and could stay longer at the saline land.

Continuation :
Railway station

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