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Published: February 16th 2008
Wow. A lot has happened in a short amount of time. I guess three weeks isn´t that short....we have been everywhere and back in Bolivia.
Bus rides....train rides....they have all been pretty comfortable excluding Barf Fest 2008 on our 4 hour bus ride concluding a 17 hour journey. I hadn´t been feeling very well on the first 9 hour ride, and luckily I managed to grab a window seat just in time to experience the full effects of exhaust fumes and twisty roads.
Oruro---was mass chaos. We were there for Carnival, where there are thousands of traditional dances performed in the street like a parade. We ventured outside like soldiers into battle, all doned from head to toe in rain gear. Things were especially brutal for us as gringos. There was a lot of fun to be had with endless cans of foam and waterballoons. We even had an impromtu foam fight in the streets the night before. Some people gave us looks but I think they enjoyed the fact that we were delighting in a part of their culture. The only downside to the foam was that it was used as a ploy to pick pocket and steal from us. And, after awhile you start to feel like a walking target and it is not particularly pleasant to be surprised by a waterballoon smacking you in the arm, or foam being sprayed in your face.
Uyuni and the vast plains around...the salt plains were flooded so, according to the guide book, it was like driving through the clouds. That was somewhat accurate. To say the least it was pretty exciting forging through four inches of water on a seemingly endless plain. Unfortunately it was not the most comfortable thing to walk on. We got out to take perspective pictures and hang out. Initially the salt was like a foot massage...until you got a little further out and it just became torture. As much as I tried to think of mind-over-matter, my feet were absolutely killing me. The water made your feet softer and then the little salt crystals just dug their way in. Yum. Luckily I found the sweetest little black cat and that settled everything.
We basically took a safari through the desert and along the way encountered lots of rock formations from volcanic activity, colorful lagunas (a breathtaking red lagoon backed by mountains and dotted with flamingos and bright green scrubby bits on the brown hillside, also a bright aqua lagoon foaming due to various elements in it), thermally active areas, hot springs, and sandy mountainous desert. One night a couple of us slept under the stars. It was absolutely freezing but we survived. We had a little cradle made of rocks, and we were probably surrounded by lots of dead llamas. It was like a graveyard out there. There were lots of cool rock formations, and equally interesting fresh to old animal bits. But hey, these people are in the llama business.
Lessons from La Paz:
altitude is almighty. do not climb the stairs and walk down the hallway to your room if you want to be able to breathe for the next five minutes.
I lived with a host family, Charo (mi mama) y Juan Paulo (mi hermano)...We took intensive Spanish lessons...I´m not sure how helpful they were but it was definitely good to have a refresher. Only our Aunt jokingly (although pretty accurately) said that Laurel spoke for the both of us. We moved from the city to a village about 45 minutes away. The mountains surrounding us are more beautiful than those that I have seen anywhere else. The village that we are staying in is also very quaint with cobblestone streets and grand houses. Spanish wise, I don´t have a choice because I am currently living with another girl who speaks a lot less than me. I had the exhausting task of carrying on a conversation with my new host sister who is 13 and very bright. She wants to talk about school all the time. She seems pretty advanced, her favorite subjects are Math, Physics, and Chemistry!! Her younger sister is absolutely enjoyable. I can see where the term bundle of joy comes from. She is a very sociable little three year old.
There is more in all sorts of respects..........I will be in Mallco Rancho for the next week or so working on finishing the local high school. After that we will touch down in the city for a couple of days, which always means internet aplenty. Maybe more updates if I am feeling adventure-filled enough to be inspired.
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