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Published: July 20th 2006
Alexasaurus and Siteratops?
Ok, so I really don´t want to bore you with another bus horror story, but what happened at La Paz bus station illustrates finely why travelling in South America compared with Europe/Oz etc is a completely different kettle of fish. At least when Spanish is not top of your list of skills. Got to the station way in advance of our departure time for Sucre and as it neared, we moved outside to the departure gate we had been directed to at booking. After a lot of milling about and questioning of about 5 different people, we (ok, so I, Simon was chilling the whole time) felt fairly certain that we were at the right place. However come 6.35pm (5 mins post departure), some other confused English travellers returned to our gate to inform us with some relief that the bus we had all seen go by and not return was the 6.30 bus not the 6.45 bus they were catching.
"What!!!" our mouths must have dropped open and then been pulled shut as we both lurched off the pavement and ran wildly out into the bus thoroughfare. Thankfully the bus was still there, but as we
arrived and tried to get our bags on we were told that they needed to be checked in back at the office. Yet another thing we had not been informed about. While Simon manfully shouldered both the rucksacks and went to find out what was going on, I could only stand beside the bus head in hands murmuring mournfully "please wait"...all known Spanish having flown right out of my head in the moment of stress.
Eventually we were in our seats and all set for another overnight bus journey. Having heard that approximately 80% of Bolivia´s roads are untarmacked, we were quite relieved that this one was relatively unbumpy. Sleeping could commence once the appallingly dubbed ´Land of the Dead´was over and I had finished grumbling to Simon about our shoddy treatment at the bus station. Me, a whinger? Never!
Arrived in the Bolivian capital Sucre at about 7am and left our bags at our hostel while they readied a room for us. After a monster ´desayuno americano´ we briefly explored the town before returning to relax in our room. It is certainly a very different place from La Paz. In the centre at least,
the buildings are all quite immaculate and attractive colonial in style, with very little in the way of market stalls or rubbish. Noticeably however, there were a lot of local Aymaran people begging, which we hadn´t seen previously (in La Paz nearly everyone has something to sell).
In the afternoon we picked up the ´Dino Truck´and headed a couple of miles out of town to Cal Orko, the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world. The truck itself was crammed full of tourists and not exactly a pleasant ride. Like many of the vehicles here it must have been about 40 years old and chugged disconcertingly uphill out of Sucre.
Cal Orko is actually a working cement factory, where local workers found footprints in a shelf of rock about 10 years ago. We were fortunate to be in a small English guided group for the tour, although there were a couple of annoying English tourists to be contended with eg. gringo wannabes decked out from head to foot in llama woollens and complete with Glastonbury 2005 wristbands. So far, the vast majority of tourists we´ve encountered have been Irish, which has actually been quite nice.
Our guide gave us a brief chat about the formation of the prints and identified the particular dinosaurs we would see. Sucre itself had been a large lake overshadowed by a volcano which fossilised the prints with its ash about 64m years ago (if I remember rightly). Once we went out, it was incredible how clear the prints were and we were given some helpful re-enactments by our guide to visualise the titanosaurs fighting and velocoraptors (?) attacking innocent herbivores.
In the evening, went for a delicious Bolivian meal and then a mini pub crawl around Sucre, where we even bumped into the English tourists we had left so hurriedly the night before. They were relieved we had made it as it turned out their bus actually left before ours!
Yet another day of travelling as we headed to the bus station, but not before cruising the colourful Sucre market for fruit and salteñas. We had been told our journey to Uyuni would last 9 hours, but were not told this would involve a stop over in Potosi for about 4 hours, which was a hole of a place, which we were glad we had not decided to visit. Luckily we met three American girls also heading our way and passed the time chatting - they were hilarious! Julia, if you ever get to read this - have you had your catheter fitted yet?
The second leg of our journey was entirely off road on an unheated bus and was the most unpleasant trip we had both ever been on...it brought to mind those bonebreaker bicycles of Victorian times. In freezing temperatures, we made it to Uyuni and having been taken under the wing of the US girls, managed to get beds in their hostel at about 2am.
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