Horizons as surreal as a Dali!

Trip Start Jun 14, 2005
Trip End May 12, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, February 10, 2006

Well I must say Iīm sorry I havenīt updated this thing in about a month but Iīve been up to quite a bit since then with little time to write. I guess youīll just have to read the next couple entries to find out just what Iīve been up to! Well from Nazca I jetted down to Arequipa for a connection to Puno, Peru. No real site-seeing there, however I was introduced to the Argentinian Mate Ritual from Diego, my Argentinian buddy who shared a room with me for the night. If you arenīt aware of what Mate is, it is this herb that basically the national obsession in Argentina. Everybody drinks this stuff like tea (it reminded a lot of green tea) and every Argentinian never leaves home without their cup, straw and thermos of hot water! This stuff is ubiquitus youīll even find special hot water containers for mate on buses, boats... you name it! There is actually quite a ritual regarding preparing but the real fun comes in sharing with other people. They pass a cup of this stuff around kind of like a peace pipe and everyone takes a sip and on and on until the water runs out or someone says ĻgraciasĻ. Of course I didnīt know that my first time so when he handed me the cup I gave him a great big ĻgraciasĻ and with a puzzled look he asked me why I didnīt want any, I hadnīt even tried it yet! The tea actually tasted gross to me, but since then Iīve developed quite a liking for it... as long as it comes with sugar!
From there I cruised on over to La Paz, Bolivia and down to Oruro making my way to Uyuni. Unfortunately the rain stopped all bus traffic so I waited it out for the train that left two days later. I must admit the first day after a mine tour I was bored out of my mind but I had a life changing experience that night that made day two much more interesting. This wonderful country of Bolivia is so incredibly cheap that I had to splurge and treat myself to a huge dinner at the local vegetarian restaurant. While in there a lady (old, from the country and obviously dirt poor) approached me and tried to sell me some peanuts she had. Well I was full and definitely not in the mood for peanuts so I shrugged her off, but she kept pushing... she was obviously desperate. She started crying there near my table and at first I thought she was just going overboard to get my money but then the local couple at the next table put some food on a little plate and gave it to her. Right there in the middle of the restaurant she sat down and gobbled in down while continuosly saying thank you. Right after my bill came and I happily payed the $0.80 for my feast! It hit me then and there what I had just done. Yeah, in some of these countries there are so many poor people that I couldnīt possibly help them all, but this lady obviously was desperate for food and I could have bought her more food then sheīd know what to do with for less than a quarter. Of course I felt aweful, but determined to rectify the situation as best I could the next day. With absolutely nothing else to do I determined spent 2 hours of scouring the city with a bag of empaņadas looking for anyone with a open hand. It was probably one of the most rewarding things Iīve done down here as the look on the peoples faces as I handed them each a $0.05 empaņada was priceless. Eventually I did catch my train and made the long train ride to Uyuni for my 3 day adventure of the Bolivian highlands!
For measly $60 I spent three days in a 4x4 with 5 other Europeans exploring one of the most beautiful places Iīve ever been. With cactuses, a train cemetary, wind carved rocks, volcanos, gorgeous lagoons with pink flamingos chillin in there waters of every color imaginable, high passes, bubbling geysers, and a hotel made completely of salt set right smack in the middle of the most incredible Salt Plain of Uyuni offering mind boggling view in every direction I honestly can say that those were the three most beautiful days Iīve ever experienced. If time treats me well I plan on coming back here in May to see what the salt plains look like when they arenīt under a few inches of water. The last day of the trip was sad as I took my last picture in Bolivia and left the cheapest country in South America only to move on to one of the most expensive cities in the most expensive country in South America... Chile. See yah there...

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