Thankfully the timing of our Salt Flats tour and the departure of the train worked out perfectly, since the train only leaves a few times per week. We just had to find a way to kill 8 hours in Uyuni. No problem--we grabbed dinner with some of our new friends we made on the Salt Flats tour, checked our e-mail at one of the several internet cafes, then went to a couple bars. Finally when the last place closed at the late hour of 11:00 pm (would have closed earlier if not for the fútbol game that was on) we headed off to the train station. It was a tad chilly, but no worries, I had my numerous layers and handy alpaca hat and double-thickness gloves. We were told the train would start to board at 11:35 pm, a half hour before our train was to leave, so we found a place to hang out for the time being.
So 11:35 rolls around and no sign of the train, but at this point we're not surprised, being that things don't seem to happen on time anyway. Plus we knew we were at the right place at the right time since we saw a couple Swedish girls we had met when we went to buy the train tickets.
Midnight comes and we see Sam's classmates from his first week of Spanish classes. We had run into them at dinner and they told us their train down to Uyuni had been an hour late, so it was not too disconcerning to us that our train had not yet appeared. A slight annoyance, but not that big of a deal.
More time passes, and no sign of the train. Of course no one seems to be working at the train station to let us know what is happening, and definitely no handy signs like you see in Amtrak stations telling you when the train is due to arrive.
More times passes, and after two nights of little sleep I feel like I can barely keep my eyes open. Even though I am not the least bit hungry, I snack on some Pringles to stay awake (so many American snacks all over Bolivia).
More time passes, and despite the slience and numerous people napping on the floor someone is talking very loudly to no one in particular. I was too fatigued to try to figure out what he was saying, but it sounded like he was ranting about something.
Finally at around 1:00 am someone comes out to announce that there is a problem with the train and it won't be there until at least 4:30 am. Whaaaaaat?
After not showering for almost 4 days and two nights of fitful sleep, I am less than pleased. All I want to do is get to La Paz, shower, and sleep. Thankfully Sam's classmates, who had wisely rented a hotel room for the night to hang out in until the supposed departure time, said they had an extra bed that we could crash in for the next few hours.
Off to the hotel in the now completely deserted Uyuni. After an hour of sleep we are jolted awake by the sound of a train arriving just after 2:00 am. After a brief moment of panic that we had missed our train, we realized it was the other train arriving that was going south to the border with Argentina. Back to sleep and 2 hours later we are woken to Sam's alarm going off at 4:00 am.
It's back to the train station, which somehow during the time we were gone had filled with people who had set up makeshift beds all over the station floor. (These people obviously know what they are doing!) We ran into the Swedish girls again, so we knew we hadn't missed the train. More waiting and wondering, and finally, miraculously, at 5:45 am, with the sun was starting to make its apperance, the train arrived! And it was better than I could have hoped for--a surprisingly nice bathroom (nicer than any we had seen on our Salt Flats tour), and wonderful seats to sleep on! At 6:00 am as I was drifting off to sleep as I felt the train depart the station. Finally!
We grabbed a cab with the Swedish girls, bought our bus tickets to La Paz, and had a very tasty and filling Bolivian lunch. It was then off to the sprawling city of La Paz, set in the valley between the mountains, where we had booked a very nice hotel and I had the best shower of my life, an amazing night's rest, and an awesome buffet breakfast (can you tell yet how important food is to me?), and then it was off to the tropics of the Amazonian region of Bolivia, to the town of Rurrenabaque. And with that, dear readers, I shall leave you in anticipation of our very next tour!