Published: December 11th 2006December 10th 2006
Great News from Bolivia- MY CAMERA LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I got to Sucre, a wonderful civilized, cultured, landscaped city for a bit of a break, signed up for another week of Spanish lessons, and went about asking around for a camera repair man. You would´ve thought i was asking for something that hadn´t been invented yet. But after about 10 shops, I found a young guy who agreed to look at it. $50 lighter, my camera was fixed, sans a few original pieces!!!!! Great news considering my only other lead was a restaurant owner who used to own a camera repair shop but went out of business for lack of customers! Found absolutely nothing even close to my camera around there, so I will hang on extra tight to it now!
Sucre was a great time. Took myself to a movie for the first time since i left home. Wonderful. Went to see a string quartet and a ballet. Hung out in the gorgeous park. Nice time.
Onto Potosi where I visitied the famous Bolvian mines in the highest city in the world- 4000 meters. The mines were interesting. Miners have no stairs or elevators and have to crawl up
and down shafts with their take of rocks on their back 30 times a day using a makeshift backpack made of burlap bag. We had to wear these antiquated battery packs that the miners wear- i am sure they weighed 5 pounds each, just to light the headlamp. Anyone heard of LED lights? The toxic dust was awful in the mines. Felt like i had ingested razor blades into my lungs, and I´m sure i took 3 years off my life. We bought some dynamite at the local market and exploded it outside the yard with our crazy guide. Can you imagine the road rage in the US if you could pick up dynamite on the corner?? Went out for lunch with a few people from my hostal to a local place were they ate kidney and instestine soup. Good god- GROSS!
On to Unuyi for the Salar tour of the salt plains. I got to the bus stop in Potosi just in time to see the 10 am bus take off. All the other ones were booked or cancelled until 6 pm that night, which would delay my tour by a day. Found a gringo boy in the
same position, and we tried to bribe a taxi or other bus company. No dice. We sat outside one of the bus companies for a bit and found them forming another bus. They told us they needed 25 people to go. People meandered in and finally we were issued tickets for a noon bus. 10 till noon, a nasty lady told us, we´re not going because we are 9 seats short. Gringo boy Clay chips in a whopping 200 bolivianos for the cause, and we try to rally the other Bolivians to chip in. They stood there looking like deer in headlights. Damn followers! Finally a Bolivian guy took up a collection, and we rolled off at 12:30. One hour later, stopped by the side of the road, apparently so the boys could water the rocks. 2:30 pm and we stopped for a flat tire. They changed the tire, then realized it´s a small crappy one. Another bus came along and donated a tire. So they replaced the tire again and we´re off. Took 8 hours for a 6 hour ride. But we got to Unuyi and to the famous Minuteman Pizza, owned by a guy from Amherst, MA. It
was every bit as amazing as everyone says, with chocolate cookies to die for. Clay and i scored a budget hostal with no water, so we brushed our teeth with bottled water and called it a day.
Next day, got to the recommended tour company 5 minutes late to get a spot for that day. Got referred to another company where i must´ve been the tourist from hell, asking a million questions. How long have you been in business? How old is the car? Is it 4 Wheel Drive? I want to see it (so they drag it out), Is there a spare tire? Is there a cook AND a driver? Can i have an extra blanket? What´s the veggie menu. etc. I had heard horror stories.
So i paid and off we went, an Australian and English couple who´d been traveling together for months and a guy from Spain who only spoke Spanish. The salt flats were amazing, and we visited a hotel built of salt. The others were cool, altho quite a bit cliquish. The low point of traveling solo thus far was the 1st night where they all fought over who had to share a
room with me. Flashback to 7th grade P.E. class where our evil teacher made us pick teams, and no one wanted to get stuck with me. Sigh. We visited a shrine to Pacha Mama, translation, spirit of the devil. People pray to her spirit and leave offerings. Figuring hey, what the heck, i left a small offering and said quietly, " please bring me a husband because I am so tired of being alone in this world". So we´ll see. But all in all, the tour was fine and aside from an uncomfortable straw mattress the 2nd night, no problems.
On the 3rd day of the tour, we crossed over into Chile. Had a wonderful guide who explained everything about crossing the border, bus connections , etc, but failed to mention that Bolivia was one hour behind Chile. I booked a bus to Calama, hoping to get a connection that night to points further south but promptly missed it by an hour because i didn´t know about the time change. The lady refused to change my ticket, so i booked one for the next am, went across the street to a hostal who wanted $40 US! Crazy. The rest
of the hostals in my guide book said "camping". So back to the bus station where some really cute blonde angels gave me a spare ticket out that night on the 4:15 bus. Well, 5:30 rolled around, and the big bus that they had reserved never did show up, so they shuffled half of the people onto a small bus. One lady not even supposed to be there sat in my seat and refused to get up, using the 6 year old on her lap as her excuse. So some people made half a space for me and we went off to Calama where I booked a ticket to Valparaiso for the next day. In search of a hostal, the first one was under construction, the 2nd one a guy shouted FULL at me from the street, the 3rd wanted $40 US, and the fourth offered me a room at a reasonable price with a comfy bed, complete with bed bugs which devoured me. Just another day on the road!
Landed in Valparaiso after a not too terrible 23 hour bus ride. Some happy colored buildings. Good to smell the ocean air again!! Then off to Santiago, a surprisingly
nice place where I scored an AMAZING hostal ( Sammy's Place), complete with free Internet with 4 terminals (I was able to burn my photo CDs and put my blog up for FREE!!!) , free printing, free laundry, toilet paper and soap in the bathroom(dear god, i'm all emotional), the friendliest staff who are cooking for us tonite, a giant TV room, sunny patio in the coolest old house, comfy beds, a dog and a CAT!!!! I've got 3 and a half days to revel in it before I leave on my tour. I am in HEAVEN!
There are more photos below