Trekking and Tourist Attractions

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Feb 01, 2005

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, August 22, 2004

I thought I was going to have a nice relaxing weekend after my first week (or 4 days) of work in over 7 months, but no, I was to head off on a 2 day trek, climbing up to 5,000m.

Kari Kari
Two Irish sisters, Ails and Kim, booked a two day trek to Kari Kari starting on Sunday, so Eduardo thought it would be a good idea for me to go with them so that I can sell tours to Kari Kari. I reluctantly agreed. (In hindsight I`m glad I went with them instead of someone else ... more later).

Pedro Blanco was our guide, and as Ails and Kim were late, we left later than normal. We took a bus to the top of the city where we had a great view of Potoś at an altitude of 4,200m. We then started walking uphill. I have discovered on this trip that I don`t like climbing mountains, so the fact that I was going to spend 5 hours climbing to the Apacheta, was not something that I was looking forward to. Within about 10minutes or 50 metres, we were knackered.

With many pauses, we made it to the first artificial lake, which was created to supply the city with water for the smelters. They lined the lake with over 500 llama skins to stop it from leaking.

After that we continued climbing up a canyon, passing herds of llamas and eventually stopping for lunch by a lake. The girls, especially Ails, kept asking how high we were, how much longer to the top, how far had we walked. It was both amusing and frustrating Pedro a bit. The last stretch was the worst. Ails almost gave up and went back. We stopped so many times, but I was always glad when the others stopped for a pause, because I always needed one too!

We finally got to the top, after Ails had procrastinated her pauses by asking all about Pedro and his family. The view was pretty good, but nothing too amazing. We then descended in the snow (delicious, clean snow with no tracks) to a valley that we walked along. We stopped by a stream which had clean and clear water and I refilled my bottle.

We continued to descend until we came across a big herd of over 100 llamas. They just sat and watched us, which was kinda creepy as there were llamas all around us and above on the hill! Some curious ones wandered over led by an irritable bully of a llama. It is interesting to see how similar their faces are to kangaroos, incredibly so.

That night we stayed with a family of campesinos and arrived at their house just on dark. The kitchen, which was also where some people slept, was smoky from the fire, and a group of relatives were there visiting the family. One of them tried to buy my headlamp off me, as they don`t have electricity, but I wasn`t keen to part with it.

The next day, after telling me that I had been talking in Spanish in my sleep (what is it they say about knowing a language when you dream in it?) Ails, Kim and I followed Pedro off down a path towards the village of Chaqui.

After 4 hours walking we arrived at Chaqui to see steaming streams of water coming from the volcano. Cement troughs caught water that had been channelled into them for washing of clothes and a couple of women were bent over scrubbing their clothes.

We visited the piscinas of lovely hot water although it was a bit tricky putting my bathers on because the changerooms had no doors and everyone sitting in the pool could see people getting changed. It was a great end to the 2 days of hard trekking to sit and relax in the pools.

New Gear and the Scaring of Tourists
New jackets and pants had been purchased for the mine tours, and the guides were very excited about this, so when they saw the new gear, they immediately put them on and started prancing around like homeboys. Every day it`s something different.

There was another fiesta for the university, so this time I went with both Pedros, Rolo and some girls. I warned the girls that they should expect terrible dancing in lines to terrible music and that they would have to pair up with a bloke. As I expected, it was the "Manos arriba" music, and at one point the DJ called out something, and Pedro, as quick as a flash, whipped off his shoe, held it up in the air and scored a free beer. Not long later (just as Pedro Blanco had started kissing one of the Irish girls) the DJ called out something else and Pedro Blanco whipped off his shirt and jumper and held them aloft, and then ran up to get his free beer. The Irish girl looked at me and asked what had just happened as she thought that he was going a little loco and he had frightened her!!!

Casa de Moneda
The Casa de Moneda, where many of the Spanish empire`s coins were minted, is right opposite Koala Tours, so on my second weekend I went with Eduardo`s son, Daniel, who is visiting from Germany. Silly me decided to take the tour in Spanish, so I didn`t really understand very much of what she was telling us about the religious art or anything else for that matter.

We started off with the religious art section. I only liked two paintings, one of a springlike scene and the other one was the Virgin of Cerro Rico. We then moved on to the coins where we saw samples of the coins of the Spanish empire that were minted in Potoś due to the excellent quality silver and then shipped all over the world to the colonies. Then it was down to the area where they melted the silver, great big wooden cogs driven by black slaves or donkeys. Then we saw some of the tools for fashioning the coins, and the complex set of locks on a chest that was used to ship the coins.

We also saw some minerals and some things made out of silver. The whole tour lasted almost 2 1/2 hours and I felt rushed. Unfortunately you can`t visit the museum by yourself as a security guard locks each door behind you. If I had have been on my own I would have spent less time with the religious art and more at the other stuff. Next time I take the tour it`s going to be in English and I`m going to wear more clothes as it is freezing in there!

Things I Learned
* My Spanish isn`t that good
* It`s best to have trekking buddies with the same level of fitness and motivation as you
* The guides are very funny and will make a joke out of anything
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