03.06.2007 - 12.06.2007
Spent a few days in La Paz getting used to the altitude before heading south. We were there for the carnival Gran Poder, which basically involves the locals all getting dressed up in shny costumes and dancing about in the streets from sunrise to sunset. They all go mental. Never seen so many drunk people. Was great. Felt it would be rude not to join in so got involved in a bit of drinking that night as well.
From La Paz we got another overnight bus to Uyuni. Cheeky bint at the bus terminal tried to con me out of 10 bolivianos but I asked a local how much she paid and she came clean, but went bright red in the face. Wish we'd taken the train. Another ridiculous road made of rocks, bus jolting about for 13 and half hours in the freezing cold. Ended up in Uyuni at 8 am ish. Uyuni is a horrible place. Absolutely baltic, and in the middle of the desert. We had to spend a day there. I don't know how anyone can live there. There was absolutely nothing to do. Lots of manky dogs running about the place. We booked a 3 day tour of the salt flats for the next day, then moped about in the square. Couldn't go back to the room because we'd have died of hypothermia. Had to stay in the sun as much as possible. We slept in all our clothes agan that night, which was good practice for the tour anyway.
Next day we set off into the salt flats in an old clapped out toyota 4x4, with others, our driver and cook. The driver who was supposed to be our guide as well was crap. He didn't speak any English and only told us about 5 things in Spanish the whole trip. Thought the trip was gong to be a nightmare, as about 30 minutes in, the jeep broke down, and we all had to get out and push. This happened 2 more times within the first couple of hours, but after that was ok. Tour was quite good, although a lot of driving. Had a broken arse by the end of the three days. Our group was good as well, two other couples who were a good laugh. A Brummy and a girl from Lima who'd been going out for 3 weeks. She spoke nearly no English apart from being able to whine "Jason" at him every couple of minutes, and he spent most of his time slagging her off and calling her "estupido" which was about all the Spanish he knew. He was a good laugh though, and was good to talk football to someone for the first time in ages. We have been travelling with the other couple, French and South African, since the tour.
The Salt flats were pretty incredible. It is the biggest salt lake in the world. Just a massive expanse of salt, that looks like an ocean of snow, perfectly flat. Quite surreal. Especially the giant chickens that live there that we rode just before lunch.........
We went to the isla de Pescados which is an island with giant cacti, in the middle of the salt lake. Very bizarre.
On the first night of the tour we were supposed to be staying in a salt hotel, but instead stayed in a hotel with salt beds. Absolutley freezing at night. The hotel was in the middle of nowhere. Another ghost town.
(I'm not actually as fat as I look here, don't know what's going on with my big fat face in this picture)
We sat and played cards and drank wth our group. Glad we weren't in the other group who were there. Their conversations were dominated by a guy who we overheard starting two conversations with - "I'm very good friends with a woman who only paints cows...." and "Did you know England has the most varieties of flavours of crisps in the world...." - don't think I could cope with 3 days in a cramped jeep of that. He was a dick.
On the second day we drove all morning and ended up having lunch at a lake with flamingos which Jenny enjoyed.
I enjoyed watching a fully grown adult man of about his late 50's early 60's entertaining himself by throwing chunks of ice at the flamingos. Jenny didn't like him at all. From here we drove some more, to another lake with flamingos in it. The scenery on the way was really spectacular but it was a lot of driving. We saw a "tree rock" on the way which was interesting.
We stayed the second nght at a hostal next to a red lake.....but we couldn't see the red properly because our guide had left late, so it was dark when we arrived. There was a heated exchange between the French element of our group and the guide at this point, as the tour was supposed to involve a sunrise and a sunset on day 1, neither of which we saw. The guide said this was our fault for not getting up, even though he never woke us and was nowhere to be seen for most of the trip.
We spent another cold night in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold on the second night. Again though we got the bevvy in and that eased the pain. We got up the next morning at 4.30am whch was not fun and got back in the bloody jeep. By this stage we were all beginning to hate the jeep, and the guide. We drove up to 4,800m to see some massive geysers which was impressive.
From there we drove to some natural hot springs from a volcano. This was a bit of an ordeal, getting in and out, as the air temperature was below freezing, and there were no changing rooms. Was nice when we were in though.
After this we went to see a green lagoon......which was green. Wasn't that impressed by that. We then returned to the red lagoon, which was impressive in the sun, although there were a lot of dead sea gulls around the edge which wasn't great.
We then spent the next 7 hours in the jeep driving all the way back to Uyuni. I never want to get in a jeep ever again.
In order to avoid having to spend any longer than necessary in Uyuni, and the very real possbility that I might try to kill myself if we had to spend another day there, we got the overnight train south to the border with Argentina at Villazon. This started off very well, nice comfy seats that reclined, heaters at our feet and a video of a greasy haired guy singing lilting ballads on the TV. However, 10 minutes into the 10 hour journey the old, fat woman wedged into the chair behind turned into a pig and snorted the whole way. This wasn't any normal snoring either. It was as if she was trying to do it as loudly as she could. Eventually I turned round and shook her to try and get her awake. Tried this several times to no avail. She kept on for almost the entire journey. When she did eventually awake she was leaning forward and coughing on Jenny's head. Jenny thought there was mucus going in her hair. Then she shook Jenny's seat when we came into the station because she wanted to be the first person off. I thought Jenny was going to have an episode.
Crossing the border into Argentina was painless enough. The difference between Argentina and Bolivia is immediate. The roads have tarmac and painted white lines, the buses have toilets, the public toilets have a seat and systern as opposed to a hole in the ground surrounded by faeces, and the toilets don't have stinking bins full of used toilet paper next to them. Argentina is so much more developed than Bolivia. It seems very westernized/European compared with everywhere else we have been so far. We travelled by bus to Salta, where we are now. We are stayng with Eva and Jo from the tour. Went out the other night and had Parilla. This is amazng. For about 3 pounds each we sat and the chef brought out various different cuts of beef, pork and chicken to us, which we ate off chopping boards. Was so good. The Steak here is unreal. After about 15 rounds of this and 2 bottles of real nice red wine we went out for a few drinks in the swanky bars around here. Was good fun. Next day we met our waiter in the street, absolutely pissed out of his face, at about 12 noon. He took us to another restaurant for lunch, where we bought him some drink and he proceeded to slur Spanish at us for the next 2 hours. I told him I was a lawyer and he called me el Doctor for the whole time. He was very very drunk and strange. He kept looking at the ceiling and saying that he was getting messages from God that Jenny and Eva would have children next year. Very strange.
Had really good steak last night, more of the same tonight I think. It's so good and cheap. Going to end up a big fat bastard by the time we leave here. Going to spend a couple of days here, then head south slowly working our way towards Buenos Aires. Plenty of vineyards and steakhouses to stop at on the way.