Once everyone’s hunger had been satisfied, it was time to say goodbye. Eva, Michel, Claudius and Laura were continuing their trip from Uyuni towards the North of the country of Chile. I was the only one to go back to Tupiza to then make my way back to Argentina. Back in the 4×4 with Rubén, we would do in one afternoon what we had done in 4 days. Talking about a detour. But oh so worth it!
I was looking forward to the ride, enjoying the fact of being the only traveler in the vehicle after having had to share the space with four other people, switching places every few hours so that it wouldn’t always be the same two being uncomfortable at the back. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that the drivers taking tourists to the salt flats often make a little extra money by acting as a taxi on their way back. There are a few villages along the road and very few buses making the liaison with the bigger cities. So after 30 minutes the company of two became the company of four. Then five. To end up with nine. Including two young kids and a baby. So much for the nap I had intended to take. Although it was rather quiet most of the time. Except for an Argentinian lady, who joined towards the end and was in the mood for some chit-chatting. The lady with the baby also explained how she had made the same trip in the opposite direction the very same morning, to visit her mother. But the little one wouldn’t stop crying so, after a few hours trying to calm him down, she gave up and now was heading back home again. I cannot imagine anyone I know doing a five hour trip and going back because the baby doesn’t feel comfortable. But she was explaining it in a very natural way. Not annoyed. Not desperate. Not tired. I couldn’t help but think about a comment from the travel notes of Che Guevara, although I am not sure anymore if he was talking about the time he spent in Peru or in Bolivia. He said that he was impressed by the relationship between the mothers and the children in the indigenous. They seemed to have a greater bond, to be more caring and playful. And I have to admit that, if someone in Europe would have told me they returned home after such a long journey just because the baby was crying, I would have been rolling my eyes, thinking about how parents should make clear that they are the ones deciding. Not their kids. But who on earth am I to think I know what is best? The more I see, the more I learn and the less I try to judge others.
The same lady also explained how the climate change was affecting the region. When she was a child, the winters used to be very cold with lots of snow. That was no longer the case. Also the quinoa harvest was being affected, which led farmers to leave their villages for larger cities, looking for means to maintain themselves and their families. I definitely needed to do an effort on my consumption in my everyday life as I was understanding more and more the “butterfly effect”. A butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the ocean can generate a storm on the other side. Our little consumption habits in Belgium, striving for more comfort, can cause someone to lose his income and his house in a small village, somewhere 4000 meters above sea level in Bolivia.
About an hour away from Tupiza, we got a flat tire. My second one in Bolivia. My third one since the beginning of my travels.