Sunday, November 19, 2006

Journey into Bolivia

"Borderline...feels like I'm going to lose my mind." - Madonna.

YES. BOLIVIA. I never thought I'd be here. Not on this trip. Not ever. And yet here I am, in a town a couple of hours north of the Argentina/Bolivia frontier.

The trip across has been relatively straightforward. It's kind of like this. At 12.30am I took the 6-hour bus to La Quiaca, partially having to endure the emetic Hollywood chick-flick The Perfect Man, starring Heather Locklear. I'm travelling with an American girl called Lynn. Lynn is from Michigan and has never heard of scotch eggs or jaffa cakes. Incredible. The US is a backward country, it really is.

At La Quica we walked through the immigration control and took care of all the passport document stuff. From there we caught another (more rustic) bus up to Tupiza. We were trying to get to the city Uyuni, but the buses only go every OTHER day. The jeeps and trains were booked up so we checked into Villa Hermoso Hostel. It's HI, but unlike the last place it's clean, comfy and the staff are friendly. Well, the staff were friendly in the last place but this is just nicer.

The purpose of coming up to this part of Bolivia is to tour around the Salt lakes of Uyuni. The highest and possibly biggest in the world. We wanted to go from Uyuni but got such enthusiastic feedback from people returning from the trip, from other reviews and the woman at the hostel that we're now going from here in Tupiza tomorrow at 9am. It's a 4-day tour including (reportedly good) food, accomodation, guide, transport etc. I think it's a bit more expensive than some tours in Uyuni but it's so heavily recommended I think it's a good choice. It also means we don't lose a day in a hot, cramped jeep for 6 hours getting up to Uyuni. Apparently we get to see other cool stuff like geisers an volcanoes but I don't want to think about it right now lest I build the trip up in my mind and get disappointed. No doubt I'll write a full report when I finish the trip in Uyuni and I'll try to get photos up as well.

Tupiza is like an old wild west town. Dry, dusty and with a browny beige colour scheme that may not be intentional. It's also close to the spot where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid died. I'm glad we stopped here.

Bolivia looks like it's going to be an interesting place. The older women especially wear really strange clothes. It's like stepping straight into a guidebook. I want to take pictures but don't want to seem like a stupid annoying tourist. Must be subtle. Stealth-like.

I have a pocketful of Bolivianos. It's about 15 to the pound. The hostel is only 20 Bolivianos for a nice dorm bed. That's only 1.30 in proper money. Excellent.

I'm quite excited about my trip. There's just going to be 6 of us travelling around with our guide I think, and because we're going from a less popular town to start we'll be on our own for a couple of days before we hit the salt lake and joining the other tourists. Hmmm. It's all very interesting. As we leave tomorrow I'll finish in Uyuni on Thursday so might blog it Friday and then leave for Potosi or somewhere. As ever, I'm pretty much making it up as I go along.

It's cool travelling on your own, meeting people all the time. You definately get in some interesting situations that you wouldn't if you were with a big group of friends. But I'm not one of those people that says 'travelling alone is the only way to go man'. No, every travelling scenario has it's pros and cons. Solo travelling makes you accesible, you make new friends easily because you have to talk to people. If you have an established group or long term travelling buddy it's easy to not do things as you still have someone to talk to. But then sometimes it can be lonely moving to a new place and no-one speaks good English, only Spanish or Hebrew! Likewise travelling with a friend or partner is great because of the whole 'shared experience thing' (which will be great when Laura comes out to visit me), but long-term, think of the compromises to possibly make, and the tensions that could develop. Ah, in the end it's all good experience. If you travel alone you have to be social, form groups and friendships whenever you can and go on trips with your new friends. If in a group or with a partner just be as accessible as you can, I guess.

It's nice travelling with Lynn. Despite her ignorance of classic British snack food she's a lovely girl. She's been in Buenos Aires studying for 5 months which of course is a great specific insight into a place. Living in a place is the only way to get to know somewhere really well, like I feel I did in South Africa. But you can't do that in every country you want to visit! It's best to get a mixture of experiences I think. Oh, and Lynn speaks very good Spanish. Which helps in Bolivia. Because I don't think many people here speak great English.

My last day or two in Salta were interesting. Iwent to the MAAM museum which is all about the discovery of the mummies of 3 Inca children in 1999. The children were 500 years old and the best preserved mummies, pretty much ever! There were photos, info, documentaries about it all at the museum. Apparently they were found over at 6,700 metres up an Andean mountain near Salta. They had travelled there as part of an Inca sacrifice ceremony. Crazy. Google it, it's really interesting.

My last meal in Argentina was suitably an Asado, a bbq with more meat than you can shake a stick at. What' s more when I went to pay they said "don`t worry about it." Amazing.

There were a few late nights in Salta, reminded me of being ing Buenos Aires. I liked Salta. Interesting architecture, museums, bars, and good exursions by all accounts (I didn't go on any).

Arrgghh, James Blunt is playing! You're bloody Beautiful. In a wild west town in Bolivia! He seems to seep through the tectonic plates like a disease, or maybe even like that slimey stuff from Ghostbusters 2. He has infected the planet and invaded every pore of the world. It is the end. There is NO ESCAPE!

Book update! I have just finished Kurt Vonnegut's bizarre novel Timequake. There's no plot to it. It's kind of part biog, part fiction. Very funny and strangely thought provoking. At one point in the book Vonnegut declares that he actually knows how many people in the world have lives worth living.

It's 17% apparently.

Next I'm moving onto either Charlie and The Chocolate Factory or a book about The Yorkshire Ripper, aka Pete Sutcliffe.

Right, gotta go. Will report back later in the week.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've not read this in a while but seems you've moved about this far on the map "-"! well done.

you will lose a few pounds through bodily secretions over the next few months. people pay good money for that, enjoy it.

the fact that those kids were 500 years old probably stops them from being classified as "kids", really old people would be my guess?

Man on fire was amazing, bloody revenge always is! plus that flim made me want a Corona, the policeman drinks one, i had to go straight to the pub afterwards (proof that product placement works!)

Give in to James Blunt, its no use. If he's conquered Bolivia, the there is no hope for any of us! He will rule us all!

Seems to me that your having fun and have finally been seduced by solo travelling! Admittedly, had you gone to a real university with me and i could have come with you it would have been more fun, but you will have to make do!

take care mate,