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Uyuni, a town of several thousand, smelled like a cocktail of minerals. Though more populous than than the five hundred-some kilometers of Altiplano we’d just traversed, it still felt isolated. The town square had a few nice old colonial buildings, and we had some good, if slow, pizza on the pretty square.

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Nearby was a graveyard of old and unusual trains. And a strange sculpture of a woman made from scrap metal.

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Buildings like this one remind me of some of the new construction in Vietnam or Cambodia. The style is familiar yet strange… kind of modernist or art deco. But they may be making it up as they go along.

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A military band marched through town playing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." Apparently it was one of Bolivia’s independence days. Cimg0002_5

Our hotel had kind of quaint decor, with antique sewing machines, baroque mirrors from times gone by, and rusty farm implements. We were incredibly happy to have a portable heater and hot shower.

Walking around that evening, there was lots of loud local music and dancing behind closed doors. Rural Bolivia seems much livelier than rural Turkey, for instance. We dined at an incongruously hip French restaurant, with warehousey decor themed on railroads, and a nice big fire in the middle. My asparagus soup was good except  for the submerged chunk of drywall.

The next day, we did some planning on the sunny square.

Women in traditional dress lounged on benches. Since arriving in Bolivia, we’ve been amazed at the number of women wearing traditional dress — long braids under a bowler hat, many layers of knee-length skirts so their bottom half looks larger than it is, flesh-colored thick stockings, and maryjane-like shoes (see top photo). I walked through the town’s market, and found the stall where the women get those bowler hats.

At the pizza resto, we ate pasta the consistency of ramen, and after finding several hairs in mine, I lost my appetite. Dinner at the French restaurant was an improvement.