Friday, February 03, 2006

In the Third World...

...and loving it! I decided that I needed to sit down quickly before I forget all the things that I want to say about coming to Bolivia. I´ve only been in the country for 3 days and it is already so interesting. Walking across the border into Bolivia you can immediately feel a dramatic difference in the people, the culture, the infrastructure (haven´t seen a paved road since I left Argentina). But it´s all good stuff, the people on the whole have been really friendly here despite the ridiculously poor living conditions that most of them endure. They don´t seem angry at tourists usually, or angry with their plight, but more so happy in the little things that they have. It´s a really cool attitude.

So crossing the border into Villazón, I hopped on the next bus to Tupiza in order to better position myself to get to Uyuni, the world´s largest salt flats. The bus ride to Tupiza was three hours, but I really couldn´t even believe my watch because it felt like at least six. The bus grinded its way up the dirt road, stopping every little while for some kind of checkpoint, or to drop people off/pick them up. Most of the time I was thinking why are we stopping because there is absolutely nothing here, just desert. But people would get off the bus with more stuff than they could carry and start trudging off in the general direction of their mud hut.

And finally, it feels like the stereotype of South America is supposed to feel. The majority of the women wear the traditional dress, kids (or whatever is to be carried ) are wrapped in the colorful blankets and carried on women´s backs, the people are all short (a majority of Bolivians are pure blood natives, as is their president...for the first time), llamas are everywhere and sewage systems don´t exist anywhere but the cities. Argentina now seems like a European country transplanted to South America.

From Tupiza (7 minutes and 36 seconds for Google to load in an Internet cafe) to Uyuni, where I now find myself, was another interesting trip--in Jeep (really a LandCruiser but they always say Jeep) the whole way, packed full of people. Whenever the Jeeps or buses stop in a little village or by a home a flood of little kids, mostly girls jump into the vehicle trying to sell you any type of food or drinks. At one bus stop the girls even had roasted some kind of meat with corn and peas that they would throw up to you in a plastic bag for about $.50. Everything here is ridiculously cheap. Of course the trip in Jeep wasn´t complete without us breaking down once and having little kids vomit. In the Jeeps we climbed onto the Altiplano which lies at an elevation of 13,000ft. and order not to get altitude sickness (which can lead to swelling of the brain and death, I´m told...regardless of your age, health status, etc.) you should drink lots of water. This plan isn´t quite as smooth as it sounds as 6 hours crammed in a Jeep on an extremely bumpy road while drinking 2 liters of water can backfire into a very painful bladder problem. Anyhow, we made it, and had a few laughs as the Porteños (people from Bs.As.) in the back playing cards kept asking when we were going to get to the interstate. The driver wasn´t amused.

Anyhow, Bolivia is an interesting place...deserved of more time than I have to give it. According to my trusty lonely planet, there are still people who live in the eastern rain forest that live in villages with little to no contact with the outside, "modern" world, and still attack neighboring villages with bow and arrow.

My plan is to scramble through the the southwest of Bolivia, hustling in order to get to Lima to hang out with my buddy Dan from Caracas before he heads to Argentina. In a few minutes I head out to the salt flats, then tonight right when I get back I´ll be on a bus to Potosí. Apparently the bus rides at night get extremely cold (summer, but we are at extreme elevations) run a pretty high risk of getting robbed, and are more dangerous as darkness already adds to the horrible road conditions (lots of cliffs) coupled with the rainy this will probably be one of the few night time rides in Bolivia. Lots of time packed with adventures in Bolivia to come, I´ll try to write about them when I can!

Still forgot stuff.


Post a Comment

<< Home