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Published: August 3rd 2006
Medicos Sin Fronterras
I had just popped into a small shop and bought a bottle of orange pop when this Medicos sin fronterra jeep passed me and dropped off a patient. I had a quick chat with the doctor, Jose, from Madrid who explained that he was based in La Paz helping to treat people with Chagas disease (to find out more about Chagas disease and the work that MSF is doing in Bolivia and other Latin American countries please visit my website www.pushonnorth.com)
"Fifty years ago in Sucre, Bolivia there lived a very beautiful young lady called Lydia. She had wonderfully large eyes with curly, dangerous eyelashes rather like octopus tentacles. Her legs were also very lovely, almost two metres long whilst her lips were as soft, sensual and moist as raw sausages. In addition to her great beauty she was also very intelligent, she spoke five languages and was the best chess player in all of Bolivia.
Every man in Sucre wanted to marry her. However she was also very proud. When she first looked at a man his heart would melt but when she spoke it would freeze. To each of her many admirers she said, "If you can conquer me over the chess board then you can conquer me in the bedroom."
Every Sunday for five years she went to the main plaza with her elegant chess board carved from the finest ebony. Sometimes she would play six men, one after another, without a break. Always the result was the same, she would win easily. Each time she captured the king she would laugh a laugh so beautiful that when a defeated man heard it he wept when he
Tio means Uncle in Spanish. He is the god of the huge mine in Potosi. From what I could gather the native indians who used to work in the mine didn´t distinguish between the pronounciation of the "d" and "t" i.e. "dio" for god so he became called Tio. He is brought offerings like cigarettes and strong alcohol at his feet is the dried foetus of a baby llama.
realised that his dream had just ended.
One day, a Sunday, an unusual young man from Santa Cruz called Sebastian rode into town on a silver-coloured bicycle. Behind his bicycle he pulled a yellow trailer. In the trailer were many mysterious and precious things (including a pair of trousers that could talk and a magic jar of peanut butter that never emptied). He cycled into the plaza, leapt from his bicycle and with a very formal bow asked Lydia for the honour of a game of chess.
Instantly Lydia knew that his man was different to the other men that she had defeated with such ease in the past. She thought he was a very charming and elegant. She felt a rash of butterflies on her chest. With a great effort she composed herself and they started to play. The game continued for ten hours. For ten hours they didn´t say a single word. Ten hours of intense concentration. Ten hours of adrenalin. Ten hours of increasing passion. Gradually a crowd gathered to witness this great spectacle of intelligence and beauty.
Finally she made a mistake. It was only a small error, but it was enough. Until
Sunderland A FC
On a trip to the famous Tababuco market I was lucky enough to run into the Sunderland squad on their pre-season tour of Bolivia. Niall offered me the manager´s job for the forthcoming season (I think he had also just asked Tio as well). Unfortunately I had to turn it down due to my cycling commitments.
this day she still couldn´t say whether she made the mistake on purpose. However five minutes later when he captured her king she wept tears of happiness since Sebastian had already captured her heart ten hours earlier.
Instantly they announced the date of their wedding and the people of Sucre were very excited. Everyone thought that they were going to enjoy a very happy future together. Unfortunately on the eve of their wedding Sebastian ate a very spicy Salteña that was too big and he choked to death*.
Lydia wept for six months. Every day her pain increased. She knew that would not find another man like Sebastian. For this reason, instead of love she decided to help animals. For the following thirty years she would visit the zoo** in Sucre and give food to the animals (she gave them fruit and bread for obvious reasons she didn´t give them Salteñas). She especially enjoyed visiting the chimpanzees and gorillas. For some reason they reminded her of Sebastian (maybe because Sebastian had been quite a hairy man).
One day when she visited the largest gorilla in the zoo called Herman escaped. With an enormous arm he grabbed Lydia
Casa de moneda
The Casa de Moneda is the old mint in Potosi it is now a museum. Haven´t done many museums so far so decided to go on the guided tour which explained Potosi´s history as formerly one of the richest towns in the world, due to the huge silver reserves that were in the mountain above the town. This face is quite famous, one explanation is that it is meant to be Bacchus smiling ironically at the departing Spaniards. Modern Bolivian money is now actually made in Spain.
and dragged her helpless body back into his cage. For four days and nights without stopping he ruthlessley made love to Lydia.
Finally a zoo keeper was able to shoot a tranquilizer dart into Herman´s bottom. Only then was it possible to rescue Lydia. She was in a terrible condition. For two weeks she didn´t speak or eat. Then a friend trying to comfort her asked her how she felt. Finally Lydia answered:
"Terrible, after two weeks he still hasn´t called me and he still hasn´t written to me..." "
*Cultural note: a Salteña is a small Bolivian pasty filled with meat and vegetables, they come in a variety of flavour including sweet, spicy and super spicy. In addition to the risk of choking, care must be taken when eating them as the liquid inside can spurt out on to your clothes.
**Cultural note: there is no zoo in Sucre, I made this bit up.
(The old lady and the gorilla by Timoteo de Mallquezo translated from the original Spanish version by Timothy Malloch)
Despite having read a couple of books since my last blog, including the very excellent Collapse by Jared Diamond, I
Potosi mine tour
Got dressed up again in rather fetching yellow overalls for the Potosi mine tour. Before you go in the mine you can buy dynamite in the miner´s market. Then the guide does a controlled explosion outside the mine. I thought it was going to be quite a feeble bang and was ho humming to myself thinking about bike gears etc when there was a very very big bang. Brilliant. Inside the miners work together in many small mining cooperative in terrible conditions mining by hand and pushing huge trolleys. It all looked very dangerous and unhealthy and reminded me a bit of the Beamish open air Victorian museum. Difficult to believe that people actually work in these conditions today.
couldn´t find a suitable, i.e. prentensious enough, quote to kick off this blog with. So instead I have decided to start with my first attempt at creative writing in Spanish (If you would like me to send you the original version in Spanish please send me an email, email@example.com. Alternatively if you are an old lady and would like me to send you a gorilla please make a donation to cover the cost of postage).
Stayed in the colonial city of Sucre for ten days to take some more Spanish lessons and was inspired to compose the above by Maria Elana my very talented Spanish teacher. But education comes at a price. Alain has left me. For Felix. Remember him, the bicycling organic farmer from Dresden? Whilst I dallied in the shadows of Sucre´s impressive architecture to develop my linguistic abilities they pedalled off together into the sunset towards Cochabamba. I was at the time reading "The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene.
Oh well, am in Cochabamba myself now and am quite enjoying riding on my own again. It is quite a busy, bustling town full of lively markets. In contrast to Sucre not many Gringos
Portrait of me reading in sleeping bag by Alain Bessire
I think it is always interesting to see how others see you. Alain did this portrait of me on the road between Uyuni and Sucre. I find its haunting simplistic style quite beautiful. It also deserves to be considers on its own merits as a valid historical document as it accurately sums up our cold evenings together on the road. As soon as the sun dips below the mountains it gets very cold indeed and pastimes and energy levels are limited to reading in our respective sleeping bags.
here at all. In fact the only one I have spoken to far has been Mike. He stuck his head into the internet cafe earlier today and asked if anyone spoke English. I said I did (afterall I don´t look very Bolivian). He looked quite scruffy, and well, a bit mad. He then explained that he was an American and had just been released from a Bolivian prison after six years. He needed 8 and a half Bolivianos (60p) to get a bus to La Paz where he could reach the US embassy. Wasn´t sure about this one. Ended up giving him 50 Bolivianos and he congratulated me for England having won the rugby world cup then disappeared.
Off towards La Paz/ Lake Titicaca tomorrow climbing back onto the Altiplano and then going to take a left and head to Arequippa in Peru. Should take about two or three weeks, I think. However have just read the Diceman so I might just stay here instead and open an icecream parlour.
Just a reminder that I am riding to raise money for Medecins Sans Frontieres. Don´t want to bang on about it but it was a really brilliant feeling
to be riding along an unpaved road in the middle of nowhere and just meet a MSF jeep. If you would like to make a donation please visit my website www.pushonnorth.com.
Tot: 3.096s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 22; qc: 102; dbt: 0.0356s; 3; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb