Friday, October 10, 2008

Into Bolivia

I have a lot of catching up to do with regards to updating my faithful readers, so this is going to be a shotgun blog, using my patented bulleted-list style.

  • I am no longer in Argentina. Of the almost eight-and-a-half months of my trip so far, I have spent probably close to six of them in Argentina. I have made many good friends and have gotten to know a couple big cities quite well by actually living in them. My trip hasn't gone anything like I had planned. I'm very sad to leave Argentina, which is a good thing. I hope to return one day.
  • I left Jujuy at 2:20 A.M. on Saturday, the 4th, on a bus headed for La Quiaca, a small town along the northern border of Argentina.
  • We arrived at 7:00 A.M. I grabbed my stuff and marched across the La Quiaca River and went through Bolivian customs without a hitch, arriving in the opposite border town of Villazón, along the southern border of Bolivia.
  • As I crossed over the river, I couldn't help but notice that the river bed didn't contain much water, but contained loads of trash.
  • I bought a bus ticket from Villazón to Tupiza, a 3-hour bus ride to the north.
  • The bus didn't leave until 10:00 A.M., so I had a couple hours to hang out. I bought a Multivitaminico (a really lame name for a drink that contained banana, apple, sugar, non-alcoholic beer, an egg, some nuts, and maybe some other stuff I'm not remembering) which was pretty good, and a little later some chicharron de chancho (meat from a pig) and mote (maize). I tried some of the aji (pronounced uh-hee) on the meat, which is a salsa (sauce) made from tomato, onion, oil, salt, and some kind of pepper. It's much spicier here than in Argentina.
  • The bus ride was interesting. It was entirely on dirt roads. Every so often, we'd come to a little town in the middle of freaking nowhere. The houses were of large bricks covered with mud, with roofs of straw and mud. These little towns reminded me of the ghost towns in and around Death Valley, California, except people actually live here. Virtually unimaginable to me.
  • I arrived in Tupiza early afternoon and checked into La Torres hostel, which had been recommended to me by Edel, a nice English gal I had hung out with in Salta (we were both staying in the same room at Las Rejas Hostel B&B). My room cost 50 Bolivianos, or just over $7. I had a private room with 2 beds and my own shower.
  • I booked my tour (the reason I was in Tupiza) and walked around the town a bit, snapping some photos. There's really no reason to go to Tupiza (that I can imagine) other than taking the 4-day tour through the southern Bolivian wilderness and ending up at Uyuni. That's what I did.
  • In Tupiza, the Internet is horribly slow. I was able to read mail in an Internet cafe, but it was too slow to write or reply to anyone. The browser wouldn't load my Web mail page. No WiFi in the whole town either.
  • The tour I went on began in Tupiza and ended in Uyuni.
    • It took 4 days and three nights. To be more precise, it took a few hours more than 3 days, but was spread over 4 days. We left at 9:00 A.M. on day one and arrived in Uyuni at about noon on day 4. It was a great trip.
    • We saw some extremely remote wilderness in southern Bolivia. We stopped in several small villages where indigenous people lived and even visited the grandmother of our guides.
    • We saw several lagoons, lots of flamingos, some other birds, and llamas.
    • The deserts and mountains never seemed to end. Southern Bolivia is a vast wilderness.
    • For a photographer, this tour just scratches the surface. I would like to come back and hire a guide to cover the same ground—around 700 kilometers—but in about a month's time.
    • The tour included lodging of sorts, 3 squares a day, and a good guide. The total cost was 1,200 Bolivianos, or about $172.
  • In Uyuni, I visited the train graveyard, a long stretch of a couple tracks with old, rusted out steam engines, and old cars, wheels, and trucks lying around. It was fascinating to me. I'll post a gallery dedicated to the train graveyard.
  • From Uyuni, I caught a train to Oruro which cost 101 Bolivianos (less than $15) and took about 7 hours. It left at midnight, so I wasn't able to enjoy the countryside too much. As the train got to within about a kilometer of Oruro, vast areas of garbage appeared. I imagine there were many square kilometers surrounding Oruro covered with a thin layer of garbage. It was incredible.
  • On the plus side, south of Oruro is a gigantic lake with thousands of flamingos. If you like flamingos, you have to come to Bolivia, as there are myriad lagoons and lakes with the funky pink bird hanging out.
  • From Oruro I took a bus to La Paz, as the train ends in Oruro. The bus cost 15 Bolivianos, or about $2, and took about 3 hours.
  • On both buses I've taken since arriving in Bolivia, the driver stopped shortly after we began the trip, got off the bus and disappeared for a few minutes. After a bit, people on the bus started yelling "Vamos! Vamos!" After a few restless minutes, the driver reappeared and we left.
  • Now I'm in La Paz. I'll be leaving tomorrow (Saturday, the 11th of October), boarding my first plane since I flew to Rio de Janeiro in late January, and flying to Rurrenabaque, in northern Bolivia, just a 45-minute flight. On Sunday morning, we head out on a jungle tour. I'll swim with pink dolphins, catch piranhas, and see other jungle wildlife, or so I'm told. The total cost including flight is less than 1,700 Bolivianos, or about $240.
  • On Wednesday, I'll fly back to La Paz for a few more days before heading to Peru.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Sounds great Jay. The spicy salsa is great. I think Argentina even though they food was great they lacked spices.

As for the Salar tour sounds like it was a blast and little more personal then ours as you visited more villages. We left from Uyuni and it was only $80us. Still one of the coolest places I have ever seen I cant wait to see your photos.

Have fun in rurrenabaque. I had wanted to go but did not make it as the people I was with did not want to. One of the benefits of traveling by yourself I later learned after they went home and I continued.

Later