Can you have too many photos of Flamingos?

Trip Start Nov 05, 2009
Trip End Apr 26, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  , Potosí,
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Woooooohoooooooo I am out of Oruro!!! Feels good to be in air that doesnīt smell of urine and not having to dodge the water militia.

I am now reaching nearly nine days of solitude (fitting as Iīm currently reading the book 100 Years of Solitude) which is the longest that I have gone so far with out having a proper conversation with someone i.e. a conversation not based upon me badly speaking spanish to order food or seeing if a hotel has a bed for the night. Starting to get a little bored of myself so would be good to bore someone else sometime soon before I reach the point of talking out loud to myself and inadvertently boring (& scaring) passers by.

My time in Bolivia will be over in a few days because Iīm heading down to meet Fi in Argentina which will be fabulous. I will miss lots of things about Bolivia but I am looking forward to some simple things like toilet paper and showering without the threat of electrocution. Iīm also desperately looking forward to having a gourmastic time in Argentina...gorging myself on amazing steaks and drowning in red wine.

Anyway I still have a few days before the feeding frenzy begins and I will be spending them in the South of Bolivia, around Tupiza, visiting the salt flats. Unfortunately the only way to get there is on a tour but thankfully you are in a group of 4 or 5 in a 4WD so I can almost convince myself that it isnīt really a `tour` tour.

On my way down to Tupiza I stopped for a few hours in Potosi...another once great mining town and now their main industry is tourism. For some bizarre reason lots of tourists flock here to go on tours to witness some poor buggers and many young kids working in horrific conditions down the still working mine...up to 40 degrees heat, extremely confined spaces and noxious gases. Canīt quite see the attraction myself as I can quite imagine how bloody awful it is without having to see it with my own eyes....all just becomes a soul sapping Human Zoo for people to take snaps of and show the folks at home. Sometimes tourism really does goes too far but on the other hand it does bring in the cash......ho hum....itś a tough one. Lots of guys come here because you can buy dynamite really easily from local shops and then explode it up at the mine. ???  Men are from venus...etc etc...

Potosi the town is quite a nice place with the most bizarrely over top bus station. It is like an immense green glassed space ship from Star Ship Galactica plonked into the middle of pretty much a shanty town. It has the most incredible acoustics so the usual hawking shouts by the bus company touts almost sounds like an operetta in the background. I popped into the town center for lunch and could not believe it when I spotted coming towards me an open backed truck filled with people throwing buckets of water at passers by. Surely not. Surely carnival is over. But no...Poyosi has its carnival tonight. Arghhhhhhhhhhh. More water filled horror. Thankfully the people of Potosi have some sense of fair play and only seemed to target others that were participating in the action rather than poor sods like me that just want to have lunch with a dry bottom.

Another day, another night bus....slight confusion over the length of the journey so spent the whole night sleeping fitfully, afraid that I would miss my stop when actually the  journey was 4 hours longer than I thought and I could have got a decent nights sleep. Grrrrrrrr. Great lightening and stars though so made up for the lack of sleep.

Tupiza has the slowest internet in the world. It took 20 mins for the Yahoo home page to load, so because I was having fun with the bank most of my day was spent getting more and more irate in an internet cafe. I finally escaped and headed out for a well earned pizza and bottle of wine, only to be hit by a bloody water bomb and yes you guessed was a direct hit on my arse. What a lucky thing I am.....Tupizas carnival starts tomorrow....yipeeeeeee! So yet again I spent another meal with a damp bottom and an embarrassing wet patch on the seat cushion.

But....I did get to speak to ends the nine days of English lady called Lynn who walked into the restaurant soaked through by a water bomb and looking about as happy as me about it. We instantly bonded with our shared annoyance of being routinely soaked and had a very enjoyable dinner together.

The thought of more carnival galvanized me into getting myself booked on to a trip to the salt flats for the next day. Our group consisted of a Belgian couple, an ozzy guy called Butch (the least butch guy you are ever likely to meet....maybe his parents have a sense of irony) and an American Guy called Josh (who was the polar opposite of Butch....lived in Alaska, worked as a hunting guide shooting grizzly bears and moose and skinning them with his teeth). The scenery was spectacular as we drove through the canyons and on into the volcanic mountains. It was in this area that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid had their famous last stand against the Bolivian army. Dreams of Robert Redford and Paul Newman.....mmmmmmm. was a stunning day and the guys were all really good company with lots of laughs. Before lunch we stopped at a tiny mud village for a break and uncannily once again managed to time it perfectly for the villages' carnival. There was a small group of quite elderly traditionally dressed villagers weaving their way down the main street, all with instruments and all totally pissed in fact that none of them could walk in a straight line never mind play a tune. The result was a carcophony of noise...drums, symbols, trumpets and trombones all playing their own drunk melody. We were all desperately trying not to laugh when I felt a cold wetness on my rear....for crying out of the village kids had thrown a bloody water bomb at me. I was now going to have sit for the next 6 hours with a wet bum in the 4WD...god damn!!!

The next couple of days were spent exploring the many beautifully peaceful, still and pastel coloured lakes inhabited by thousands of flamingos.... and so my obsession with Flamingos began. Absolutely amazing to see these birds in the wild particularly as they look so unreal with their cartoon like features and candyfloss colouring. Suffice to say that I took far too many photos.

Before lunch we visited a thermal pool and spent a very pleasant half hour relaxing in the warm water looking out across the lake to the mountains in the distance. After seeing a few lakes in the morning myself and Josh were keen for a swim in the next one that was an incredible turquoise colour..thankfully we didnīt just run on in there as it turned out to be highly toxic with a high concentration of arsenic....could have been nasty.

On one of the nights we stayed in a hotel made entirely of salt..they even had salt chandeliers and salt on the floors. In honor of Charlie and the Chocolate factory I just had to lick the walls to check that it really was was very salty.... so i can confirm that indeed the walls are made out of salt. Turned out to be an interesting evening when the normally very jovial and calm Josh drank a bottle of vodka and turned into a total arse and very embarrassingly started to be very rude to Butch. Thankfully the Belgians English wasn't great so they missed most of it but it was pretty awful to witness and I headed off the bed as soon as I could. I was woken during the night by Jacob shouting obscenities in his sleep. I just hoped that it would all be much calmer in the morning for our final day visiting the salt flats.

We were woken at 5am so we could see the sunrise over the salt flats which was amazing. I just knew the day wasnīt going to go well when Josh finished off the vodka on waking and also managed to get his hands on a couple of bottles of beer from our driver (what was he thinking). He started on at Butch again in the car (the guy was so sweet and wouldn't hurt a fly so totally out of order) and then thankfully fell asleep. Our first stop was Inka Wasi, which is an island in the middle of the salt flats.

We had climbed to the top and were just admiring the view across the almost endless white expanse of salt when our guide came panting up to us telling us that Josh had had an accident and that we needed to leave right away to take him to hospital. It seems that he had decided to get out of the truck and to try some drunken rock climbing which resulted in him slicing his hand open right down to the bone and through a tendon. As you can imagine after his recent behaviour we were all less than sympathetic, particularly as we would have to cut our time on the salt flats short to take him to hospital. Luckily we ended up being able to join some other groups so we were able to have our time messing about on the salt flats taking bizarre pictures with weird perspectives (see attached). We also fished down into the water below the salt crust and collected amazing cubic salt crystals. Hopefully mine will survive my travels until I get back home.

We met back up with Josh and our guide later in the day for lunch, once again I was hoping that things would have calmed down, but alas no, Josh started ranting again and decided to tell Butch how much he wanted to punch him in the face.... which was pleasant.... it all became a bit clearer though when he revealed over the course of lunch that he had drink, drug and depression shit! Felt pretty bad for him as he is a really lovely guy when he doesn`t drink and a totally different person when he does.....I hope that he manages to stop again and get his life back on track.

All in all a great trip despite the drunk stuff...

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Julie on

Fab blog entry Sue. I'm afraid this is going to be one of your quotes of the trip though - laugh out loud 'n' all that:
"poor sods like me that just want to have lunch with a dry bottom"

Have you been impacted by the volcanic ash flight-grounding?
Hope all's good - and you're managing to keep your bum dry :o)

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