The Long Road Ahead

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, January 9, 2006

The bus ride to Salta was rather superb, following the same route as the fateful bike ride. I arrived in Salta in the early afternoon and went straight to the information desk to see about the Boca Juniorīs game in two dayīs time. They gave me the address of the ticket office so I put my bag into storage and went off to find it.

Sadly it was closed when I eventually found it since it was a Sunday. I debated staying in Salta for another day to see if I could get a ticket but decided against it in the end. Instead I just had a look around town. To be honest, nice enough but yet again, Just another town that Iīm getting bored of.

So back on a bus, north to Purmamarca. I didnīt quite appreciate just how far away this place was, it was past 8pm before I arrived and dark. Not ideal but not usually a problem. Itīs a really nice little town with a lovely square in the middle. However if you arrive at 8pm in the middle of the Argentinian summer holidays youīre going to find out that there are NO places available in town. Not one single bed. Not even in the expensive places. It didnīt take long to then figure out why people were getting ON the bus with backpacks when I was getting off.

I found a policeman near the square and decided to grill him, my mum always told me that policemen were safe.
"Do you know a hostel with any empty beds here"
"I donīt think so, The town is full"
"Are there any buses that leave Purmarca tonight"
"No, the last oneīs already left."
Now I was starting to worry, I was really stuck and getting desperate.
"Will it be safe if I spend the night in the main square?"
Then in a vein of Little Britian, "No, Iīm the only Policeman in this village and I finish word soon"
You can imagine how brown my pants were now.
"Thanks for your help!"

I headed off to try and think this through. Sitting on my backpack pondering what to do. And then by magic another bus turned up, A heap of people piled off with backpacks. I couldnīt leave them to the same fate as me. I talked to the nearest guy to me and told him that the town was full! "No problem" he said and toddled off, maybe he didnīt understand my Spanish. I got on the bus, and over to the next town.

It was full of Argies as well but was bigger and after a number of tries I found somewhere to sleep at 11pm. It cost me 10 pounds which was 3 times the going rate but I didnīt care, it was mine for the night.

The next day I decided that Iīd had enough of Argentina and that Iīd just head to Bolivia, so I got another bus and after a few hours of passing through amazing scenery I was there, in Bolivia and strangely enough the number of Argentinian tourists dropped to a rate approximately equal to zero! They obviously donīt like their neighbours too much.

Usually when you cross over the border between a rich and a poor country you notice a large and immediate difference. Not so in this case. For some reason the feel of Argentina changed dramatically north of Salta, more indiginous looking people, buses that were ready to fall to pieces (goodbye to some of the best buses in the world) and dust covered streets that had seen better days. How can Argentina allow such disparity to exist?

Either way I was delighted to be in Bolivia with street markets, high alitidude, Coca leaves and a version of Spanish that I actually have a hope of understanding! I stayed only one night in the border town and then onto a bus north first thing in the morning. Thank goodness it was only 2 hours long. I need to get used to crap buses again, I havenīt been in anything this bad since Burma. There was something sticking into me from within the seat, the aisle was full of people standing and I even lost my aisle arm rest to someone that sat on it, what an amature I am at this kind of travel again, it was a great wakeup call.

I got to Tupiza and decided to be lazy, not doing much. I did eat in some restaurants that I was on hindsight fortunate to survive, it appears there isnīt a health department to close some of these places down!

I was also in a shop one evening buying some supplies for my trip into the Salar de Uyuni, biscuits and the like, you know, the essentials. I was choosing things from the shelf behind the counter and she was collecting them. In the middle of this a guy came in and placed his order with the girl. Before I knew it she was into the fridge and pulled out a raw, uncovered chicken for the guy, weighed it exchanged money for the bird and then turned her attention back to me without missing a beat and certainally not wiping her hands.
"Anything else?"
"No, Nothing else thanks"
She then made a grab for my stuff on the counter to put them into a bag.
"NO! No I donīt need a bag thanks", keeping them out of her claws.
"Eight Bolivianos please"
I made sure that she got exact change as I didnīt want more than Iīd bargined for from Salmonella girl.

And that was Tupiza, a nice little town but without the slightest thing going on, I loved it and to be honest I needed my rest before attacking the delights of the Salar de Uyuni.
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