Carnival time..

Trip Start Nov 07, 2004
Trip End May 2005

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Friday, February 4, 2005

Oh dear, yet another long lapse between journals and once again its hopelessly out of date. Goes without saying that I've long since left Bolivia (am actually in Rio de Janero now) but here goes. Less than two weeks of my trip to go now (sniff, sniff) so had better get a move on getting this journal up to date before I get home. For this reason will keep my next few (bar this and the next one) fairly brief with no photos with the aim of finishing them off when I get back. Then again the beach sounds a bit more inviting than sweating in an Internet cafe.

Anyway I couldn't go to South America during the carnival season and not go to one myself. With the Rio carnival not being an option backt then because of my location the Oruru carnival in Bolivia sounded a better (and cheaper) option. I'd been planning the last few weeks around it but with the uncertainty over the clousure of the La Paz to Corroico road and my jungle trip was left hanging on a bit so wasn't sure weather to book ahead or not. That and being laid low with a cold for a few days and before I knew it the whole place was booked up. Phoned all the hostels and agencies organising tours to the carnival but still no joy. Having had my plans messed enough already wasn't having that so me and Andre (the Brazil nut) decided to blag it and head there for the night with nothing booked (leaving our bags and valuables in the hostel in La Paz of course) and stay out all night before grabbing a bus back the next morning. Having heard all the pick pocketing stories decided only to take enough cash for the bus fair and back & some drinks as well as my old film camera (the brick) that nobody would want to steal.

Headed off late Friday afternoon. The bus ride took about 3 hours. When we arrived at the bus station on the outskirts of town the place looked dead. Thankfully as we walked into town we could start to hear the music from the procession. Before too long we reached the underside of the makeshift grandstands holding the spectators which also doubled up as walkway. Started to walk underneath hoping to reach the main square where Ăndre was due to meet some friends of his but with water bombs being dropped on us (he didn't help matters by cursing everytime he got hit) we decided to give it a miss and headed back to the main road. We managed to hail a taxi to take us to the main square when we drove past Martin from Holland along with some Dutch girls. Andrew soon forgot about trying to meet his friends so we all went out for dinner together.

Dinner was strange affair at typical Bolivian restaurant where the portions were absolutely huge. Ordered myself a breaded chicken fillet and ended up with a piece so huge I had turn the rectangular plate sideways so has not to take up the space of the person sitting next to me. Andre thought he had ordered some chops but ended up with almost an entire leg. As per usual he was complaining about everything from the service to just about everything else so I was pleased when one of the Dutch girls backed me up and told him to bugger off back to Brazil if things were so much better there. He shut up after that (well for or a while).

With our stomachs lined (to bursting point) headed off to the procession and some serious drinking. We soon got caught up in crowd traffic so escaped through a gap in the grandstand. From the other side we could breathe and listen to the carnival while hunting down some of the drinks vendors. Everywhere people were selling plastic bottles of Cuba Libre and Coke. Wasn't so sure myself if it hadn't been mixed with even cheaper alternatives but wasn't going to argue about it at those prices. Could see the effects already of those who'd had a few too many with paraletic Bolivians just p****** in the street infront of us (nice!) and some incoherent bloke coming up to us to try and speak but barely able to get a word out he was so far gone. Decided to head off to find a grandstand place where we would be able to watch the carnival and drink more comfortably. Finally found a good perch near a road junction that had enough spaces on it for us all. Getting to it meant having to jump over the barriers and cross the path of the carnival procession and then jump over the barriers on the far side. This being Bolivia and not a more organised & controlled carnival like Rio nobody seemed to mind given just about everyone else was doing the same. For a while found myself needing to march along with the procession itself. Once over the barrier on the far side we grabbed our seats but soon stood up once the music got going and drink flowing. As per usual the Andre was moaning about how much better things are in Brazil (yawn!). The procession at night was spectacular with all manners of costumes of every shape and colour. The Oruru carnival itself has darker origins than Rio in that it pays its respects to the angels of death in the mines in nearby Potosi in the hope that they will spare the miners hence the sometimes sinister costumes.

As we were all busy watching and passing drinks around the Andre looked down only to realise that his money belt had been slashed open and everything taken from it. He went spare of course as the fool had only taken just about every important debit/credit cards and his travel documents (including his tourist Visa extension with him). Sympathy for him was a bit in short supply a) for being stupid enough to bring everything in the first place and b) for all his moaning and winging so we decided to stay put and watch the carnival & let him sort out his own mess. At this point he told me not to get too drunk as he would need my money to get back to La Paz - my response soon as he was gone was to buy myself a big bottle of Cuba Libre. Martin had also had got pickpockted but only some cash was taken. Don't know why I hadn't but guarded my belongings closely after that. Started to get a bit bored of watching the procession from above so we headed back down to street level where there was a bit more of a party spirit going on and to try and get some close up pictures of the costumes. Upclose many of the costumes were sinister looking with lots of venetian masks depicting good and evil spirits. It had started to rain a bit by then and my old film camera not worth stealing did?didn't seem too happy. Still carried on snapping thinking I was getting some brilliant pics. Sadly they didn't come out, ARRGHHH!!!, my second roll of film lost following on from one in Equador which included the Brazil v Ecquador game. As a result have had to rip off photos from elsewhere which is why they were taken during the day and not at night(hopefully I wont get sued for copyright). Still they give an idea. Having had enough of taking snaps we crossed through the procession to the other side along with some Danish girls we'd met where there was more space on the grandstand. The locals on the stand greeted our arrival by passing us a bottle of neat tequila which would of be rude of us to refuse so helped myself to a swig or two....

Finaly Andre came back. He'd had no joy finding the police station and had got water bombed a few times just to rub salt into the wounds. Looked pretty annoyed at us that none of us had bothered to come with him and me for being rat arsed. Told him to have a few swigs of tequila and cheer up. About then the friends he had been due to meet earlier in the evening popped by so he hung out with them for while. After that things started getting a very blury with vague recollections of watching a band play, stagering on a bus plus a load of other things I can't quite recall.

The next thing I remembered was waking up in the bus on the way back to La Paz in the morning. The sun had come up with Andre fast asleep. Still felt drunk. Arrived back in La Paz still in party mood. Looked like there'd been a pretty good party in La Paz too. Left Andre to sort his situation out and headed for bed. As usual had forgotten to buy water as the tap water isn't drinkable. Knew I'd be in for a good hangover when it came and boy was I right.
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