Driving through garbage to reach “Uyuni”

The antique cemetery of trains (Uyuni)

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We had to drive 540 km from La Paz to Uyuni, to reach our next destination “Salar de Uyuni”. Uyuni is the starting point for many tourists, that are visiting the worlds largest slat flat, and it would be our start and end point as well. But the 540 km from La Paz would takes us a couple of days.

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Wild camping just north of Oruro

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I have talked about it before… “GARBAGE”. We were stunned over first how people just throw garbage out their windows of their car, load of garbage bags down a hill side or burning it off together with an old tire in the roadside. We have seen it in Mexico, all of Central America, it improved when we came to Columbia, and was half and half in Ecuador. In Peru everything pretty much went to hell with all the garbage, and in Bolivia they seem to have it under control, at least for La Paz. This is what we saw after leaving La Paz.

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In the outskirts of Oruro – and we didn’t see ONE garbage can

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Why not feed the dogs with garbage? It is a way to get rid of it, but also a way to spread it

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After leaving La Paz we didn’t find a garbage can before getting to Uyuni

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I have had a real hard time with food poisoning here in Bolivia – no wonder with no portable water, and the way the transport and store the meat

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Travelling in a van with a stove and a fridge makes it so much easier to cook our own food = avoiding food poisoning

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After a stop in Uyuni, where we tried to find the railway museum… We did find it, but it was closed, and it looked like it had been closed permanently. So we took of to the train cemetery, which would be our “home” before and after visiting “Salar de Uyuni”. Click on the photos to view them in full size wlEmoticon-camera Driving through garbage to reach “Uyuni”.

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It is free to visit the train cemetery, a great place to take pictures and quiet during the night = a good nights sleep wlEmoticon-sleepinghalfmoon Driving through garbage to reach “Uyuni”

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Having fun driving around through the old trains when arriving

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The cemetery is an amazing setting for taking pictures wlEmoticon-camera Driving through garbage to reach “Uyuni”

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Go explore!

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Be creative

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Sunset was our favorite time of the day

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Sunset seen from above – love having a drone wlEmoticon-camera Driving through garbage to reach “Uyuni”

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Why is there an antique cemetery of trains just 3 km outside Uyuni? Several rail lines were built in Bolivia, and Uyuni served as a distribution hub for trains carrying minerals on route to the Pacific Ocean ports. The trains were constructed in 1888-1892, but were constantly sabotaged by the indigenous people, Aymara. In the end the trains were mostly used by the mining companies, but in the 1940’s the mining industry collapsed, partly due to mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned, which has created the antique cemetery of trains, that you can visit today.

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Also at the train cemetery the garbage was spread across the ground, but garbage is not the only thing of concern… After traveling in Central America, Bolivia and Peru I know why we have particle filters on vehicles. All our regulations and laws do make a huge difference in air pollution. Here it sometimes feels like being choked while driving through cities.

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So we drove to Uyuni and after spending one night at the train cemetery, we drove back into town to get our car prepared for the trip un the “Salar de Uyuni”. First the van “Lance”, were pressure washed, and after he was sprayed with oil underneath (more pollution – yes, we did like everybody else, no excuse), to protect the undercarriage from the salt. Why, do everybody do this? Since specialized treatment with “tectyl or tectrol” doesn’t exists here, they spray the undercarriage with oil instead (looks like old used motor oil). Since the salt gets in everywhere it is impossible to wash of all the salt after the visit on the “Salar de Uyuni”, and the pretreatment with oil is supposed to make a barrier between the undercarriage and the salt, and thereby protecting against erosion by the salt, that were not washed away during the first wash.

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Then we drove off into the salt flat staying for 3 days/2 night, and then returned to Uyuni to get the salt and oil washed off again. Lance really needed to get all the salt washed off.

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Even more pollution, and it didn’t look like, that they had special drains for the spill water = more pollution

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But the pollution doesn’t stop here… getting gasoline here in Bolivia is primarily by jerry can, and can be a bit of a challenge. There are two prices for gasoline (and diesel), one price for foreigners about 8.87 bob/liter, and one price for locals about 3.78 bob/liter. Here is the problem you can only pay in cash, and if you pay the foreign price it is a shitload of cash, and you can only withdraw smaller amounts at a time (not to mention the fees). Sometimes the gas stations don’t even want to sell to foreigners due to more paperwork. So to make it a lot easier for both parties, you negotiate a price without a recipe usually between 5-6 bob/liter. We would buy 20 liters of gasoline for 100 Bob, which is 5 bob/liter (earning about 25 % extra). We get a discount, and they get to put money directly into their pocket.

So this was a daily affair – also spilling a small part during refueling

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For us it was time to leave Uyuni. Our plan is to visit Peru, but before going to Peru we have to drive back to Chile to renew our papers on the van. To get back to Chile we chose to backtrack to Oruro, and from there drive southwest, visiting Sajama National Park before crossing the border into Chile. Just after the border we would stop to see Volcán Parinacota and hopefully its reflection in Lake Chungará, before continuing to Arica. Before going to Sajama National Park, you have to read more about our visit on the “Salar de Uyuni” in the next post.

Backtracking towards Oruro… passing through Santiago de Huari AGAIN

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This is just symptomatic for garbage management in Bolivia, as we left Oruro behind us and drove towards Sajama National Park

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Solid waste management (recollection, transport of waste and final deposition of the waste in a “controlled” waste dump) in Bolivia is currently not realized in any city in Bolivia. Bolivia produce 0,48 kg waste per person per day, in comparison USA produce 2,0 kg waste per person per day and Europe 1,3 kg waste per person per day. Denmark produced the highest amount of waste in Europe with 2,1 kg waste per person per day. 47% of the waste in Europe was recycled or composted (Source: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/DDN-20180123-1 and https://www.statista.com/topics/2707/municipal-solid-waste-in-the-united-states/). In Europe and USA the amount of produced waste is declining, but in Bolivia it is raising and the piles of garbage are just growing. Only 38% of the garbage in Bolivia are deposited in controlled waste dumps, and recycling is only realized in an informal manner. Think about how much was waste you make, and make an effort to recycle whenever it is possible.

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