Published: August 5th 2008August 3rd 2008
Parque San Martin, Salta
Me and her taking advantage of the nice weather.
Well, it's been quite a while since I last blogged, so heres the latest installment. I last wrote as we boarded the bus from Rosario to Cordoba in Argentina. Here goes: Monday 07th July
Chilled in Cordoba. Bought Steak from supermarket for tea. It was AR$9 (1.50 quid) and would have fed about four of us! It was fab! Tuesday 08th July
Did Cordoba's sights. There's lots of nice buildings, but we've seen loads of nice buildings already! We saw the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Mercad, Cabildo Iglesia Catedral, Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus, Iglesia de Snta Teresa y Convento de Carmelitos Descalaz de San Jose, Museo de Arte Religioso Juand de Tejeda, Plaza Velez Sarsfield, and the Plaza de la Independencia where the Falklands Memorial is. Wednesday 09th July
Argentine Independance Day! What a load of crap! NOTHING happened except everything closed! We asked at two Tourist Informations and at the reception in our Hostel, and they all said that nothing would be going on! We didn't believe them so we went out for a look anyway. It was just a ghost town!! Absolutely nothing! Just like St. George's Day in England! Thursday/Friday
Hubba Bubba Thingy!
This can't be healthy!
Took it easy in Cordoba. We wanted to go to some towns on the outskirts of Cordoba but the bus prices were ridiculous!
It cost the same for a 1 hour journey as it does for a 12 hour overnight trip! We decided not to bother! Took a walk around Cordoba, ate lunch, got lost in the park - you know, the usual? Saturday 12th July
Caught overnight bus north to Salta. It cost AR$99.00 each and included a sandwich! Took 13 hours - but we got to watch Knight Rider 2008 the Movie! Don't even ask.......... Sunday 13th July
Arrived Salta 0900. Went and found Hostel. They only have a dorm for tonight then a double from tomorrow. No problem for one night though! Salta seems nice - some nice buildings and a nice park. The four girls we met in Rio, Lucy, Lisa, Maddie (not McCann) and Vicky are here as well. Had a rather late night on the red wine catching up! Monday 14th July
Moved rooms - feeling very delicate. We were a bit unsure about sharing a dorm because of the noise from other less considerate people than us. Think
Sculptures on the bridge into Tilcara.
we were the noisy ones though (I dropped the torch which of course switched itself off and hid under the bed). Spent the morning apologising to people.
Went to the Park and fell asleep in the sun. Woke up with a "loose" belly. Went back to the Hostel (I've got the sh!ts) Tuesday 15th July
Went up the hill today. It's called Cerro San Bernardo. The cable car was AR$6 each (1 quid), each way. We decided to cable car up, then walk down. Nice city views. Saw the Guemes Memorial (I've no idea).
Got drunk again. Met a couple from Sweden who were smoking a hubba-bubba thingy! Apparently it's not a drug, it's not tobacco, it's not harmful and it's not addictive. So we tried it! Apparently they have them in some bars in the UK nowadays. A bit pointless if you ask me, but different I suppose. Wednesday 16th July
The big plan was to go to Jujuy today. However, the girls we met in Rio have told us that Stu, Owen and Sat (some of the lads we met in Rio - and Buenos Aires) are arriving today. We decided to have a night out
I chickened-out of hugging it!
with them tonight, then travel tomorrow.
Slightly hungover this morning so got a huge ice-cream from the park. AR$5 for two big scoops, cream, nuts, sauces, flakes and allsorts. We ordered Aimee's first and the lady put two spoons in thinking it was for both of us! Yeah right love, stick us some rum and raisin in one for me!
Chilled in the park for a while, then went for a game of footie organised by the Hostel owners. It was on a proper 5-a-side pitch with astro-turf and floodlights! England vs ROTW. We won reasonably convincingly, though we never got out of 2nd gear! Showed them all a bit of Northern grit! As my old man says, "there's no such thing as a 50/50."
Went out on the lash with the lads/lasses. The bars have nasty
toilets! Went to a bar caled "Barney's" (the drunk guy out of The Simpsons). Nice place. Had some cool pictures on the wall of Simpsons characters recreating famous Album Covers such as The Beatles crossing the zebra crossing etc. Thursday 17th July
Hungover again! Decided not to go to Jujuy. We're off to a little place called Tilcara instead. It sounds prettier.
Air conditioning on the bus packed in. Then the bus broke down. Took six hours to do a three hour journey. Great when you're as rough as a badgers arse! (Never understood that saying. Answers on a postcard please). Was a wicked journey scenery wise though. Lovely red rocks and odd formations!
Arrived in Tilcara eventually. There's no info office at the bus terminal though. Wandered around and found the central office. We have a hostel reservation, but no address or directions. The info office pointed us in the right direction and gave us a map. Helpfully though, our Hostel is on the "other" side of town, and therefore not on the map! After a couple of peeks through peoples house windows we eventually found the right place. Aimee spotted some "back packing looking people" so we followed them.
Took a little walk into town and went to find a cactus to hug.
Went out for dinner. I ate a Llama (not a whole one). It was beefy. Friday 18th July
Our final bus journey in Argentina (for now anyway -we'll be back later). Tilcara to La Quiaca. Three and a half hours and AR$21 each. Got front seats
Atop "La Cruz"
So that's why it's called "The Cross!"
on this bus! Amazing scenery - red rocks, canyons, mountains. Even icicles (or maybe salt?) Sat next to two young Dutch girls. We took them under our wing for the next 24 hours. They seem a bit worried about Bolivia!
Arrived in La Quiaca and dumped our stuff at the hostel. Decided it would be beneficial to go into Bolivia tonight to get train tickets for tomorrow. Apparently it's a cattle market trying to get train tickets on the day of travel (mind you, I'm a Burnley lad so it shouldn't be THAT difficult). Asked six different people what time the border closes. Got six different answers! Even the border police couldn't decide between them! They also said that as we were only "nipping-in-and-out" of Bolivia not to bother with the paperwork. "Remember though, don't break the law or get into an accident."
Technically Illegal Immigrants we walked up to the train station, changing our remaining Argentine peso into Bolivianos on the way.
10 minutes late!!
The station is closed!
Now it's a mad dash back to the border before it closes (what time was that again?) and we end up illegally overnighting in Bolivia. (Any Law Enforcement officer's reading
It never mentioned this in the brochure!
this - of course it never happened! It was all a bad dream!)
We made it!
Back to the Hostel for a meal then an early night, ready for the mad dash for train tickets tomorrow!
Had the "set meal." AR$12 each. Anonymous meat soup, followed by anonymous meat and pasta, followed by Asado and potatoes. (Asado is beef ribs, usually barbecued. A bit like steak but with about 4 circular bones through it). At least we know what that is!
La Quiaca is about 3600m above sea level. We both woke up middle of the night with banging headaches. We had trouble sleeping. We're putting this down to altitude sickness (insomnia and headaches are major symptoms). It couldn't possibly be the cheap red plonk we drank! Saturday 19th July From Argentina to Bolivia
Up at 0800 for immigration procedures. It's rather cold! Puddles are frozen over! Took the Dutch girls with us to the train station. Got tickets easily enough. No trouble at all in fact. 22B's each (1.79 quid). Now all we have to do is wait for seven hours till the train departs!
Tried Coca Leaf tea. I'd love to say it had all kinds of
Hi Ho Silver awaaaaaay!
If I put my legs down I could walk!
magical powers, but it didn't! Just tasted like a green tea (not real
green tea though 'cos that tastes like mongoose p!ss - more like a camomile type of tea).
Anyway, on to the train. We only paid for "Salon" 'cos we're tight. It was fine though! Like extra leg-room seats on an airplane. Lonely Planet says that, "The views are breathtaking." Luckily for us the train was full of locals so they immediately closed their blinds and fell asleep. Well, to be fair, it was 1530 so they must have been tired! We had access to our own blind which we stubbornly refused to lower. The views were indeed amazing. Loads of canyons/rivers/mouains/llamas/goat herders etc. Parts of it were like going through Arizona with the red rock formations. Other bits were like I expect Syria or Jerusalem to be (I don't know why though - the closest I've come to those parts is being forced to watch four videos full of "Jesus of Nazareth" at school every Easter!)
Arrived in Tupiza after dark. Checked in to Hostel and had an early night. 100Bs for double room, no breakfast (less than a tenner). Sunday 20th July
Tupiza is 2950m
above sea level. Despite that fact Sundays are still quiet! Walked up "Cerro Corazon de Jesus," a little hill at the back of town. We went to scout out the surounding area for a nice "sunset" viewing position for Saturday.
Ate in tonight. We don't have a kitchen so it was cold hot-dogs on dry bread. Nice is probably not the word but budget friendly! Monday 21st July
Changed Hostels. The new one is 80Bs per night (6.50 quid) and includes breakfast. We were mucked about at check-in, no rooms for us despite the fact we've booked! Kicked up enough fuss that they said we could have a room at midday. Turns out it's a nicer room than we booked with a sun terrace! Tuesday 22nd July
Bright sunny day. Breakfast was GREAT. Scrambled eggs and everything! The Bolivians are catering for the tourists, but they don't have the same stuff as we do at home. They therefore home-make everything themselves, so it's home-made jam on freshly baked bread.
Took a walk up a hill called "La Cruz." it's amazing how quickly you run out of breath at this altitude. We took our time and drank loads of
Toasting at sunset for Bryony and Richard
Ate out tonight. I had "Pique a lo Macho," described in Lonely Planet as, "a heap of chopped meat, hot-dogs and french fries topped with onions, tomatoes and whatever."
Not sure what the meat was - or the "whatever."
Nice though. Wednesday 23rd July
Got called a "Gringo" today. Not offensively though. Just a toddler pointed at me and shouted, "Gringo, Gringo, Gringo."
Went to barter for a hat, some apples and to knock down the exchange rate on travellers cheques from 8% to 5%. I'll give the locals their credit though! They will NOT budge. Had to pay full price for the apples, walked out of the shop for the hat - and didn't get called back, and had to take 8% on the checks!
Went horse riding this afteroon. It was 30Bs per person per hour, so 180Bs (14.60 quid) for me and her to do a three hour ride. It was awesome! Just me, Aimee and Milton the guide. Initially I had the biggest horse and Aimee had the middle horse, Milton was on the smallest. The big one turned out to have an attitude though so Milton and I swapped so my feet dragged
Salar de Uyuni
Is that a big can or have I turned into a "Borrower?"
along the floor! Turns out that the little one was a scampster as well though! We rode through "Puerta del Diablo," saw "Valle de los Machos," and turned round at "El Cañon del Inca." It was FAB! Thursday 24th July
Market day. Went to buy some jackets in preparation for Uyuni. Everyone tells us it is FREEZING there! Trouble is, the market only has XXXL which is no good for me and Aimee! Finally found an OK one for 70Bs (less than 6 quid). The only down side is it crackles with static and everythig I touch gives me an electric shock! Aimee found a jacket for 95Bs. I told her it looks fine, but she thinks she looks like a monster (no comment).
Sat in the sun again this afternoon. Had tea, then sat on the terrace "by night" to check our jackets work. Great views of the night sky. No light pollution so you can even see the milky way. Not sure what else is up there though as it's a different night sky than the Northern Hemisphere! Friday 25th July
No eggs at breakfast this morning! Had a chilled day. Read (a crap book -
The Shakespeare Secret) whilst Aimee made a "Congraulations" sign for Bryony and Rich's wedding. That's her/our friends that are marrying tomorrow in Nottingham and she can't be there. She's gutted to miss out! Saturday 26th July
Went to train station to get a ticket for tomorrow's journey to Uyuni. Told, "Come back tomorrow at 1000."
Went up a hill to watch sunset and toast Bryony and Rich on their wedding. Took a bottle of "Champagne" that turned out to be Cider! Nice!! Sunday 27th July
As instructed I went to train station at 1000 to buy a ticket. What the bloke yesterday forgot to tell me was that it would be WELL busy and it would be advisable to get there early. They have the queueing system where you take a numbered ticket (like the deli counter at Asda) and approach the counter when your number appears on the screen. By the time I got there there were no numbers left. The guy from yesterday helpfully told me to take a seat and wait my turn! After 2 hours I'm getting a little agitated! I think he can sense this beause he shouts me over personally - and
It's actually smoking!!
sells me the last two tickets on the train! He was a tosser!
Train left at 1830 and cost 41Bs (3.50 quid) each. Arrived Uyuni at 2345. Collected bags and got to hostel at 0030 to be told, "Sorry, despite your reservation we gave your room away. Don't worry though. We have a room available for twice the price you were originally quoted." Decided to take the room and argue about it tomorrow. More tossers!! Monday 28th July
Argued about the room. Initially quoted 50Bs for double with shared bathroom. On arrival told 100Bs for double with private bathroom. Ended up paying 80Bs for the double with private bath. As the saying goes, "A good compromise pleases nobody." Left a bottle full of pee in the room for the cleaner!
Set off on our trip to Salar de Uyuni - The Salt Flats. A three day, two night tour. We're in a jeep with two Chilean's (Pablo and Veronica) and two other Brits, Aled and Francesca from London. We also have Ivan the driver and "Chef," who is a local girl/guy with BIG hips, indeterminate age, traditional layered skirt, wooly tights, long hair in pig-tail/plaits, and two gold front
In the desert somewhere!
Today we went to the Train Cemetery, a local village/craft market and the salt flats themselves. It's the biggest in the world. It looks just like snow, for miles and miles! Went to Isla Pescado which looks like a fish (hence the name) and is a big rock full of cactus. Had lunch at the salt hotel (Random meat chop, salad and a cereal which was like cous-cous but wasn't).
Got a double room at the stop-over which was a bonus. Tea was veg. soup, spag. bol. and a cup of tea! Chef is doing herself proud with these meals! Speaking of which, we got a puncture today and who should jump out and fix it with her bare hands? CHEF! Early night tonight. We're of at 0700 tomorrow! Tuesday 29th July
Up at 0645 for breakfast. It's bread and jam. I can smell bacon though. I went to the kitchen to investigate/get more hot water for tea. There's definately some sizzling going on - I can't wait!!
We set off at 0730. No sign of bacon though! I reckon Chef kept it for herself and the drivers!
Today we saw "Volcan de Ollague" "Arbol Piedra" "Los Lagunas"
You have absolutely no idea how COLD it is here!!!
with the wild flamingos, and "Lake Colorado" which is a red lake. I asked the driver/guide why it was red. "That's easy," he says, "It's becasue it is Lake Colorado." Hmmmmm. Helpful!
Chef earned her money again today. Our jeep got stuck in dust going uphill. Out she got, put stones underneath for traction, then pushed us out! She also cooked chicken and salad for lunch, and Pique Macho for tea.
Our hostel for tonight is described as "basic." It's more like a prison! No hot water. The Guv'nor decides when to switch on/off the lights, and the beds are simply concrete bases with cardboard and a bit of foam on them. When you consider tonight will be at best -20°C and probably worse that's not great! Still, we survived, probably thanks to the bottle of wine we "borrowed" from the posh tour group at the table next to ours at tea. Wednesday 30th July
Up at 0430 to cath the sunrise! It better be worth it! No electric so we got ready by torchlight! Our jeep is struggling today. It wont go uphill! Got to the Geysers eventually and arrived at the Hot Srings just after sun had
risen. Still pretty though, and it's still sub zero temperatures! We strip off and jump in the Hot Springs. CHRIST it was worth it. They're like a hot bath! I briefly got out to take a photo of Aimee and within 20 seconds the hairs on my arms have frozen! Aimee has icicles in her hair!
Went to see "Laguna Verde" and drop Pablo and Veronica off at Chile's border. Spent the rest of the day driving back to Uyuni.
Ran out of Petrol. No problemo! Chef is here. She refilled us with a jerry can and a home-made funnel (from a plastic bottle). Off we went. Stopped at the Valley of Stones - unusual rock formations in a dusty desert and got back to Uyuni at about 1800. Found a hostel and bought tickets for the bus to Potosi tomorrow. Thursday 31st July
Caught bus to Potosi. 30Bs each (2.31 quid) 6 hour journey. Roads are BuMpY! My seat recliner doesn't work so my seat back is up/down/back/forward every time we go over a bump - which are coming at about 6 per second! It's more a dirt track than a road. Aimee is not well (bum gravy). Not a good journey.
Arrived Potosi and checked in to Hostel. 50Bs (3.86 quid) for a double/shared bathroom. Friday 01st August
Aimee still suffering so we had a lie in. Took a short stroll round town. Potosi is, according to Lonely Planet, the world's highest city. It's 4100m above sea level in town, and 4300m at it's highest point. Bumped into Andy (who we met in Rio). Aimee feeling worse so it's back to the Hostel.
Went (alone) to buy bus tickets for tomorrow. Bought Aimee a suprise to cheer her up. Not sure what it was. It looks like a cross between cornflakes/pork scratchings/ear wax. They tasted like they looked! Saturday 02nd August
0800 caught bus from Potosi to Sucre. Should take approx. three hours.
Three hours later the bus pulls over. This isn't Sucre though. Apparently there's a road block. The bus can go no further. Not to worry. According to the bus driver its only a 2km walk to town. The road is definately blocked. Big piles of earth and rock with a few trees to boot. It's something to do with a referendum that's taking place on the 10th. About 1.5km later we come to the other end of the road block where taxi's are helpfully offering to take us to Sucre proper. It's only 20Bs each but the drivers are reluctant to tell us how far it is. We therefore take this as a scam and decide to walk. We see two local girls who were on our bus and ask them how far. Apparently it's an hours walk and we shouldn't pay a taxi any more than 10Bs each. We decide to start walking with the intention of flagging down a cab and telling the driver we know the price should be 10Bs each. Only 100yds up the road and one of the girls call us back. Their father is coming to pick them up and they'd like to offer us a lift. It must be my boyish charm, and dashing good looks. Either that or the 5Bs each they request! Turns out "Daddy" has a Ford pick-up truck, so it's in the back for us. No problem though - we're happy not to walk! We pick up four Polish back-packers further up the road. Same deal, 5Bs each.
Got to Sucre and checked in to a Hotel. 80Bs per night with shared bathroom and breakfast. We have a nice sun terrace too!
Had an "almuerzo" which literally means lunch but refers to a set lunch meal. Veg and rice soup followed by random meat fideos (some kind of short spaghetti) in a spicey sauce. It reminded me of cooked Bombay Mix. Very nice though. And only 20Bs for two (1.75 quid)!! Sunday 03rd August
Did some washing in the shower and chilled on the sun terrace. There's nothing else to do on a Sunday!
And that brings us up to date!! Sorry for any missed letters or anything. This keyboard is useless!! Internet in Bolivia is still in it's early stages!
Just a heads up on what's happening next. It's Bolivia's Independance Day on the 06th, then there's some sort of referendum on the 10th. It could get violent apparently but the Foreign Office web-site just says to stay away from groups and not to take part in any protests. The biggest concern is road blocks. We don't know where or when they'll crop up next. Luckily we're in no rush. We're off to the bus station tomorrow to see if they have any info. Worst case scenario we'll just head for Peru then come back to Bolivia later.
Wish us luck.
Hope everybody is well. We'll try to update our blogs more often so you don't have as much to read, but as I said, Bolivian interet is next to useless!
Ciao for now,