Sucre to Salar and Onto Chile

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December 10th 2006
Published: December 11th 2006
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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!

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 27


Mine Tour, Potosi, BolviaMine Tour, Potosi, Bolvia
Mine Tour, Potosi, Bolvia

battery packs around the waist- heavy
Mine Tour, Potosi, BolviaMine Tour, Potosi, Bolvia
Mine Tour, Potosi, Bolvia

factory for processing minerals
Salt Hotel, Salar tourSalt Hotel, Salar tour
Salt Hotel, Salar tour

hotel made of salt, inside and out
Salar tour, BoliviaSalar tour, Bolivia
Salar tour, Bolivia

yep, that's me

11th December 2006

Tan, Absolutely amazing pics. I cannot imagine the salt flats - even with the pictures. Do people use the hotel? I also cannot imagine going down into a mine -- even a US one. I wonder what the life span of one of those miners are? The rest of your trip sounds horrendous -- you must be very physically strong right now just to be able to tolerate the trip. Stay safe. Love, Mom
11th December 2006

So amazing to read your blog!! I am sooooo jealous!!! I still fantasize about packing the baby on my back and doing a version of what you're doing one day.....keep the dream alive, Tana!!!! xoxo
11th December 2006

When soap makes you emotional, you know it's time to come home. :) And monster, what the heck? You know what happens if you pray to the devil-shrine for a husband?? You get JEROME. He's out there somewhere, you know. Glad your camera is alive, though I'm looking for a pic of the hostel cat and I'm sorely disappointed at its absence... Stupid question: What happens at the salt hotel when it rains??? 'Nother stupid question: Are you standing on a giant can of PRINGLES??????????? How did corporate rat-crap get into the desert??? so confused..... I think I should go around to my neighbors and see if I can persuade them to paint their houses happy colors like in those pix of Valparaiso. (Which I cannot, no matter how much I try, stop associating with a city in Indiana. Less mountains, though. Post again soon, enjoy your toilet paper, and don't let the bedbugs bite. (Seriously. Gross.)
12th December 2006

good timing!
hey there- John just said to me two days ago that we hadn't heard from you in awhile. I told him that whenever I had that feeling that within a day or so you always sent a blog and once again you came through. :-) As always your photos are beyond belief and your escapades amaze me. We just love hearing from you. The happy colored houses are great. Thanks!!!! Many people around here went 4-6 1/2 days without power last week due to an ice storm. Many trees lost lots of their branches and power lines were down everywhere! The sunshine in your photos looked very nice! Thanks!!!!
12th December 2006

Glad you are out of Bolivia!
Tan- Great pictures, as usual. I'm glad you got your camera fixed. What kind of mine was it? Looks like they were just mining a bunch of rocks! The bed bugs sound gross. How were you able to sleep in that bed? I'm itching just thinking about it. The salt flats look like salt flats. What's the big attraction? i don't think I would want to stay in a hotel made out of salt! I bet you had to pay an arm and a leg to get something to drink in that place. Was it hot there? I don't know why I am asking all these questions since you probably won't reply to them in your blog. Maybe I better send you an email full of questions. Stay safe and send more blogs-- Love, Dad
22nd December 2006

Digital camera repair man?
Hi, my camera has also given up the ghost and we´re heading to Sucre next, please please could you let me know where you found the guy who repaired yours??
31st December 2006

sorry, i got this late. don`t remember the name of the place but it was right on the plaza 25th mayo. the guy´s name was david. good luck
15th April 2011

When and where?
I'm currently in sucre and my camera is playing up big time after the Salar trip. It'd be great to be able to get it looked at. So any info you could pass on would be most welcome

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