Entry #6

Wonderful.

Simply wonderful.

I love Bolivia! Not only is it like the dollar store where everything is half off (beers are $1 for a 22 ounce beer, hotels are $1.50, a 3 day 2 night tour through the salt flats, including food and hotels, are only $69... everything is very cheap.) Anyone from the states could live like a king here.

But that is not the reason I think Bolivia is wonderful, it’s the people. They are warm and friendly, it was such a welcome relief compared to Peru.

After writing my last entry in Orouo, I tried to decide if I should take the bus in a few hours or wait until the next day for the train. I chose the bus. As fate would have it, while I was there feebly trying to communicate with the bus ticket sales person, along came 3 bonita chicas from Bolivia, Naira, Fabiola, and Linda, who would be my guardian angels for the next 4 days. Well, actually, they were more like Charlie’s Angels (see
the photo.) They took this wandering soul from America under their wing and showed me the best of Bolivia.



In Orouo, they took me to a mine that is under a church, (see photos in Salt Flat album) where the miners built a statue to the devil to keep him satisfied with booze and cigarettes. That is the only thing to see in Orouo until February, when they have a big Carnival celebration.



They joined me on the bus, which was bitterly cold (due to the altitude between 9,000 and 12,000 feet) and the fact that the back window was open without anyone realizing until hour 6 of a 7 hour trip. Luckily the girls had introduced me to Havana Rum from Cuba (which you can’t get in the states) and we had a little party on the bus trip to stay warm.

Now, during this 7 hour drive, which is like traveling between Boston and DC, but with not a soul in between, the stars are so bright, (due to the lack of "light pollution"). I was able to see a meteor shower very brilliantly. Here’s an analogy to help describe it better: Have you ever been driving down the highway in a snowstorm with zero visibility? And since you can’t see, you turn on your high beams, hoping (stupidly) that you will then be able to see more clearly. In that case, you know that with the high beams on, the snow appears to be coming from one center point in the middle of your field of vision through the windshield.

Now imagine if the earth is your car, the sky is your windshield, and the shooting stars are snowflakes.

There were about 5 shooting stars a second, all coming from one point in the sky. It was a pretty cool light show even though I was freezing.

The bus arrived in Uyuni where the girls negotiated a hotel room at 3 AM for a $1.50 each. In the morning, they negotiated a tour deal for $69 for me (whereas the guide book had me believe $130 was a good price!).

We began our 3 day journey across the Bolivian salt flats, which are spectacular (see the photo album and a few shots on the Uyuni page, left.) But even more importantly I feel like I made the first true friends of my journey. All three were a blast to hang out with, even though sometimes my Spanish was woefully in adequate, but they made sure to translate their funniest stories into English for me to understand.

This is all salt ( not snow)

If anyone needs a tour guide when traveling in Bolivia, let me know I will give you the girls contact info (masfabi@yahoo.com.ar, imillosa@hotmail.com), as they are opening up a tour agency in 2005. Even if you go to a region where the girls do not cover, they have tremendous passion about their country and would gladly give you recommendations. Here's another photo of them, looking very helpful, don't you think?

Off to Chile...where I will have a tough time beating the experience I had in Bolivia.

 

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