Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
45Trip End Jan 20, 2008
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I liked Bolivia the moment I crossed the border. At Villazon. A friendly, smiling immigration official. At 6.30 in the morning. You don't get that, well, anywhere else, as far as I know. At best, a surly politeness, not a cordial welcome.
Then the bus. I have, heretofore, not fully appreciated Mr John McAdam's invention. That has all changed, and I would probably owe him an apology were he not dead. A bus lacking much in the way of suspension (and also lacking the colour tv promised - I know it was only two hours or so, but surely enough time to fit in a Van Damme film?) makes for a rather bumpy ride on roads covered only with dirt. Ah, well. Who wants luxury? This is south west Bolivia. Get used to it.
Tupiza, then. Small town. Surrounded by mountains of various colours. Lots of travel agencies. Very pleasant, although it seemingly has a tendency to organise small children in parades. Yesterday, round midday, they paraded through the town square, dressed as cooks and foodstuffs, accompanied by a marching band which played a rather repetitive theme. Then, at night, they were out marching again, this time dressed as witches and monsters, with the band playing the same irritating tune. Other intriguing things - the touristy type restaurants all seem equiped with television and DVD player, to play the latest in popular 80s music to the clientele. I have now seen Live Aid twice. Or at least sections of it. I never knew that Judas Priest played! And as for the videos - Band Aid was bad enough. Too many mullets. I was suprised that Waddle and Hoddle weren't on it, after their pop success. Diamond Lights. I think. Mullets, of course, are now only ever seen on Uber-Trendy women hairdressers who can claim that they're so fashionable that you are simply wrong. Or Germans - they have mullets, too. But back to Band Aid. Paul Young singing the opening line, confirming his status as one of the eras leading lights. Woo. But it was still better than the utterly risible USA For Africa effort, which not even Uncle Bob's contribution could rescue. Although if he'd have blown a bit of harmonica, it may have helped. Pah. And then, to top it off, a young woman sat on the table next to me said to her boyfriend that Live Aid was "before my time", going on to confess that she was born in 1983. Which made me think, "Well what are you doing drinking alcohol - surely that's not legal", before realising that it was, and she had been allowed to do so for some time. And then, more scarily, consider this - in less than two months, there will be people born in the 1990s who are allowed to drink in pubs. This, to be honest, is a disgrace. To combat it, the following steps need to be taken:
1) Raise the drinking age to 30;
2) Impose a curfew, so that nobody under the age of 21 is allowed on the streets after 6.00pm;
3) Allow the police to carry guns, to shoot violators of point 2.
This should not merely curb under-age drinking, but also prevent under-age street crime.
I digress. Back to Tupiza. I walked up to the statue, El Sagrado Corazon, to get a good view of the town from on high. And then a couple of miles west, to El Canyon. A canyon, suprisingly enough. Red rock walls surrounding a mazy corridor that lead for about a kilometer up to a cave. And an easy walk, too. Which makes it all the better. And then, today, took a 4WD tour around the countryside. A landscape which is, to err on the side of understatement, spectacular. Multi-coloured mountains, bizarre rock formations, red martianesque deserts. Amazing. And spent some time scrambling up rocks (woo! I am a climber...) to see another canyon - Canyon Del Incas. Bigger walls than El Canyon. But still red.
And so to Uyuni. In a jeep.