Jeep Days

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jan 20, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One more thing I forgot to mention about Bolivia, last time round. They classify spicy meat pasties as a breakfast dish. This is fantastic. I thought it was only me who did that, but no. Obviously, the rest of the world (and Greggs in particular) could learn something from Bolivia's attitude to breakfast.
So. Jeep trips. Fun, fun, fun. Four days in a jeep, stopping overnight at hostels with no showers. Oh yes. What could be better?
It looked, at first, as though I wouldn't be leaving on the Saturday, as I thought. I arrived back on Friday night, to be confronted with the nice lady who organises these things saying that they hadn't managed to get the fourth person that they needed, and there were only three of us signed up. Oh dear. Well, I can wait. So, Saturday morning, I head off out for breakfast, only to be dragged back by said young lady, telling me that they had managed to convince a fourth person, that morning. Woo! So we left a couple of hours late - myself, Phil and Matt (two English chaps) and Susanna, or The Doc - a Brazillian paediatrician (don't they have Sun-organised lynch mobs set on them in England?)
Jeep tours are the easiest way to see Bolivia's far south-west. I suppose you could hitch, and hope to find yourself by a hostel or some such in the evening, but I wouldn't want to be stuck outside on the altiplano at night. A tad nippy. In any event, we visited mountains, desert-plains, lagoons, salt flats and even a "pueblo phantasma". The ghost town had, apparently, been built by the Spanish, who were mining in the area. However, after a while, they forgot about everything in life apart from building bigger houses and becoming richer, when they were visited by a "mujer mysteriosa". This mysterious woman had exterminated Potosi (or so I think the guide said - my spanish isn't very good. Although Potosi seems to be still standing, so maybe I misunderstood) and, shortly after she disappeared, a strange plague afflicted the town, wiping out all it's inhabitants. Later settlers decided the place seemed evil, so built another town lower down in the hills. "No fue natural". No, indeed not. Nor, indeed, plausible. But who am I to argue with myth and legend? In any event, the ruins of the town are now populated by strange animals - a bit like rabbits, but with long tails. Sort of like a cross between rabbits and squirrels. Maybe rabbits bitten by radioactive squirrels - I believe that's normally how these things come about. An evil thought if ever there were one. But, pause for a moment. Imagine a human-squirrel hybrid. Walking, even talking like a man, but possessing all the power, cunning and devilishness of a squirrel. No! If such a creature were truly walking amongst us, we would be doomed. Let us all hope and pray it never comes to pass.
The salt flats - El Salar - were very impressive. Bigger than those in northern Argentina. And overall, the sights made up for the lack of showers (in fact, there was one on the last night. Hooray! And a thermal bath on the second day, which had some cleansing properties. So it didn't get too pungent).
I was also lucky to have a pleasant group of people to travel with. Four days in a jeep with idiots would have been too much. I was reminded of this on the last night, encountering one of the other groups zooming through the altiplano. Conversational gems included¨"Paris - I always thought that was very European" and "I couldn't read the Da Vinci Code. I gave up after the first page, I didn't understand it". Now, I couldn't read the Da Vinci Code, either. Although in my case, it would be because it was too shite. I did once, nearly ten years ago, start reading a rather silly book called "The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail", which is where Dan Brown got the idea for his novel from. I had to give that up, part way through. It was just too pointless. For a book which was supposedly non-fiction, it was full of statements along the line of "...and could it be that...?...and just suppose that..." Well, I suppose it _could_ be. But it isn't very likely, is it? To build a towering edifice, crowned by the claim that the late Princess of Wales was a blood descendent of Jesus Christ, out of supposition and speculation, is a rather bold move. Not to say a rather silly one. Unfortunately, it was just this aspect that they failed to capitalise on. I bought the book in an airport, expecting it to be funny, at least. It was boring. Much more worthwhile, if you want to read a conspiracy theory adventure, is Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum". It has all the features of Dan Brown's pulp (Rennes-Le-Chateau - which, incidentally, was admitted a few years back to be all a big hoax, Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, The Comte de Saint Germaine, and so on), but is well written, amusing and rational. Pah. And the people who couldn't read Dan Brown? I despair. The English abroad. Make me feel embarrased.
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