Salt Flats Bolivia – DO NOT Lick the Salt

Today I share with you a serious warning if you are visiting the salt flats of Bolivia, and that is to ‘DO NOT Lick the Salt‘.

I sit on a pillow on the wooden floorboards, in a dark and basic bedroom, and here I type. Today has been a VERY long day

When Illness Hits And You Are Traveling

DO NOT Lick the Salt
©Exploramum and Explorason – all the tourists seem to do it – they lick the salt!

I was woken up just after midnight, covered in projectile vomit from my son. We had shared a bed to keep warm here in the Salar de Uyuni at Jirira, and he was ill – very ill. 

His condition seemed to worsen with every passing hour

DO NOT Lick the Salt
©Exploramum and Explorason – Our hotel room ends up being a complete mess with a sick child
I’ve stripped the bed, changed us, washed clothes and borrowed linen from neighboring unlocked rooms. This has occurred continuously until there is no spare linen left. I’ve placed copious amounts of towels and trash bins on and near the bed.
There seemed to be remains of spaghetti all over the place. It is so gross and it looks like worms and dangles from his hair as I try to extract it.

After all the cleaning, I fitfully grabbed a little sleep between episodes here at Dona Lupe Pousada on the Salt Flats of Bolivia.

Morning

DO NOT Lick the Salt
©Exploramum and Explorason – I go to find the guide – he is in the kitchen

Morning came all too soon before the hot and cold shakes began for him.  I managed to leave the room while my son slept, to find out who our guide was and inform him of our fate. He is sitting drinking tea in the kitchen.

A Hasty Breakfast

kitchen
©Exploramum and Explorason – quick breakfast with our driver

While still out of the bedroom for a few minutes, I was invited to share breakfast in the 75-year-old Cucina kitchen downstairs around the old fire, and I ate in great haste. 

Our driver has arrived and I explain our fate between checking that my son is still asleep.

Five Minutes To Spare

cactus
©Exploramum and Explorason – I love the yard
We decide to let him sleep and I can then take a few photos outside. One of them was of this little piece of hidden Bolivian yesteryear. The cactus plants are huge – incredible.

Pottery

pottery
©Exploramum and Explorason – local pottery

The old clay pots make a lovely garden display in the courtyard and I wonder if we will be spending today here, or what we should do.

Cancel Exploring

Bolivia
©Exploramum and Explorason – grass roof of our hotel

Clearly, exploring this region today is ‘not on the cards’. Yet we have paid for the day and tonight, but my son’s health is paramount.  He seems to have some sort of salt poisoning I think.

The traditional home is old with a thatched roof and it is incredibly clean and neat.

Mamma Dona Lupe

Our hostess
©Exploramum and Explorason – this lady is kind to us

The old lady and I had hit it off and I called her ‘Mamma’.  She is very concerned about Explorason and almost acting like his Grandma. Thankfully, she is not at all concerned or annoyed at me for the amount of soiled linen, which I must say is very admirable. We hope that the extra night unused accommodation will cover the expenses for laundering.

Driving Back To The Hospital

Our guide and I decided we should drive my son to Uyuni Hospital, and I think this is pretty kind. He has had to organize for the rest of the group to be picked up and to have another vehicle.

It was impossible to continue with our tour today. We think he has consumed poison and the warning from them both is “DO NOT Lick the Salt”.

Therefore I gather our belongings, and our guide carries my son into the 4WD as he is too weak to walk. The care we are seeing today is very special.

Quinoa

We head off leaving behind Jiriara and the fields of multicolored quinoa – a plant that I am told is good for the brain.

Sleeping Child

After a while, my poor boy falls asleep to the ripples and rivets of the salt plains resting on my lap.

We pass pink flamingos and biqunyas to each side as my prayers ascend up. He is very dehydrated but I can’t get him to drink water, but thankfully he is rarely being sick now.

Long Drive Back

Bolivia Salt flats
©Exploramum and Explorason – salt flats

It was 125 km (I am told) from Jirira back to Uyuni, and is a really long drive. It feels like we are driving across an airplane white tarmac that just goes on for all of eternity.

Back in Uyuni

Bolivia hospital
©Exploramum and Explorason – My son is in the Emergency room of the hospital

Finally, we are back in Uyuni, and we collect Antonia, the office manager who knew a few English words. She gives me some assistance as we head for the hospital.

Once there, my son is ushered straight into an emergency room.

Antonia helped me communicate with the doctor regarding my son’s symptoms.

Before he can receive the treatment I must pay.  I am ushered to the Hospital Administrator to pay for the treatment and pharmaceutical requirements –  an injection to stop the vomiting and two lots of medicine. 

The emergency is so basic, yet the care is attentive and the doctor is brilliant!

How Much?

DO NOT Lick the Salt
©Exploramum and Explorason – take photos of the medication

However, in Bolivia, they use a comma where we use a full stop/period. So when the hospital administrator asks me to pay.  I thought it converted from Bolivianos to USD as $1150 and I nearly had a heart attack!

However, it was only $11.50.

Am I Going To Die?

Bolivian Hospital
©Exploramum and Explorason – Hospital Emergency Room

I return to the Emergency Room from the Hospital Administrator where my son is completely distraught!  He is hysterical on finding out that he needs an injection.

But this is because he thinks he is going to die. I can’t work out why he thinks this until I discover a funeral calendar on the wall !!!

Extra Assistance

Calendar
©Exploramum and Explorason – there is a Funeral Parlour calendar on the wall

In shock, it takes two people to hold Explorason down and he gets his needle but at the same time. This is actually the worst feeling in my life because my son is not thinking rationally. He thinks I am helping to get him to die. It is awful. I cannot describe to you how awful that moment was. 

Diagnosis

I am still not completely sure of the diagnosis from the doctor and I am sure I have this wrong. I ‘think’ the doctor says Explorason has a bad throat infection, but that it has gone to his stomach also.  But I think realistically the salt has aggravated and infected both his throat and his intestinal track. So lesson learned – DO NOT Lick the Salt!

He has Salt Poisoning!

hotel
©Exploramum and Explorason – The Hotel Room is BASIC!

They dispatch Explorason and I am then assisted by Antonia to a hotel next to her office. I am just happy for a bed, and I don’t even check the room when we book in from reception.

BIG MISTAKE.

It is really basic and the owner is rather rude.  

I manage to assist Explorason up to the room and into bed but I realize we have no bathroom – it is down the verandah. I lay down with him so he will rest.  To this day, this is probably the cheapest and most basic hotel I have ever stayed in throughout our travels.

Tip

Remember too, if you have travel insurance your hotel will be compensated. So no need to go to a somewhere so basic, however, this was accessible to our assistant.

Rent It All

Discovering we have to rent a towel, buy toilet paper, and soap, I head downstairs for supplies whilst I have to leave my son alone.

Only now I learn there is only water at certain hours so I can’t clean up his clothing. It is then I also learn there is no clothes washing facility (except a hand wash trough) in the center open area which is a bit like a horse feed area. I watch as a lady laboriously hand scrubs the sheets, which reassures me that at least they clean the linen here.

With my son sleeping, I decided to catch up on some internet.
So here you find me sitting on the wooden floorboards.

STOP. New location. 

There has now been a change of location. 

I am sitting on my son’s hospital bed. He awoke and proceeded to vomit all over the room so many times that I once more couldn’t keep up. It was out of control and I needed backup. 

Beckoning to an arriving guest to go to reception for assistance, I am greeted at the door with a man who has raced up with a bucket. I tell him I will pay for the cleaning of the linen but that I need help.

Antonia To The Rescue

I ask him if he can assist and go to get Antonia from the Uyuni Tour Agent next door.

Antonia comes shortly and arranges a private car taxi back to the Uyuni hospital for us.

No Security

Quickly throwing my valuables and a few things in the backpack I try to carry my son down the stairs. I don’t want to leave them in the room, as the staff now know we are off to the hospital. There sure isn’t any secure lock-up safe in this hotel, or probably in this town 

Back At The Hospital Again

DO NOT Lick the Salt
©Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason returns to Emergency

Arriving back at the hospital and I must say dear Antonia is amazing.  She has a job to do, and here she is tending to us. We keep getting told to remember next time “DO NOT Lick the Salt”!

After quite some time in the Emergency Room with a very caring lady doctor, my son is admitted. He is carried to an outside inpatient room in another building.

Hospital In-Patient

DO NOT Lick the Salt
©Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason is hospitalized and then placed on a drip
Explorason is given candy-pink stripe pajamas along with new medications to stop the vomiting. I am told this may be 2 or 3 days in the hospital and I hope not. 
There is no way I am leaving my son to return to the hotel so I am here to stay. Leaving a child alone in a strange country in a foreign country is asking for anyone to kidnap him.  There is virtually no staff and anyone can wander in and out.

Waiting And Sharing

So I sit on his bed and wait for him to settle and he is back asleep quite quickly which I am thankful for. 

We share a room with a couple whose baby is the patient. Five minutes later Antonia returns to me with supplies.

A flask of tea, a bottle of water, and a pot of soup along with cups, a bowl, a soup ladle, and serviettes. I’m in awe of this lady and how much she is assisting me.  

BYO

Antonia has a conversation with the doctor, and I discover we have to supply our own toilet paper, water, and food. So this angel has brought dinner, or ‘Cena’ as it is called in Spanish.

I am not a total fan of chicken soup, but I appreciate the kindness so much and when you are stressed and tired, it is actually really good. I realize it is meant for Explorason but he is not up to eating.
Antonia is brilliant, and I am so grateful for her help. Not just because we are her clients, but because she has is really taking care of us, and I would be lost without her.
She reminds me of the angels we thought that would come and help us back in Ecuador.

No one knows where we are

So here I sit typing on my laptop for you. Desperate for sleep and I realize how alone I am. This hospital is at the edge of town and there is certainly no internet. I can’t Facebook and tell my family and friends about our situation. 

So I tell myself as I write this article:

  • These are the times traveling overseas as a single Mum is exhausting
  • This is the time that is challenging
  • And heck, do I feel so lonely
  • These are the times I want to have a big cry
  • Right now I am so tired and I long to curl up with my boy and sleep.

Single Parent Travel

Single Parent travel is not always easy. If you plan to embark on a trip, think through what you would do if this happens to you.  After your partner has walked out of your life, or you have walked out of there life, everything changes. The buck will stop with you, and you need to survive.

Few people understand that it takes a strong person to even be n this place.

Tips I Can Share

  • Have Travel Insurance.
  • Engage in the services of an interpreter if you need, and an assistant.
  • Quite often this person can write you an invoice to assist with their services and you can use as part of the insurance.
  • Recognise you can claim your hotel, doctor, hospital, and medicines if it is a good insurance company.
  • Stay with your child.  Do not leave them alone in a foreign hospital without someone watching over them.  For a young child to wake alone can be scary and they could wander or be carried off.
  • Take photographs of the medication they supply you with.
  • DO NOT Lick the Salt

Comments and Questions

  • Have you ever had a family member become ill on vacation?
  • Did you have travel insurance?
  • What did you do and how did you handle it?
  • Tell us in the comments below. We would love you to share your advice with us.

Note

This is NOT a sponsored trip. It is our personal experience and we recommend this Posada Dona Lupe – it is gorgeous, and the family is incredible.
We also recommend Uyuni Tours for assisting us whilst my son was ill – especially the driver and Antonia in the office.

 

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