Unbelievably believable in Bolivia

Trip Start Dec 07, 2008
Trip End Aug 09, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hello everyone,

I've finally got the energy to write this, thankfully its the second last one!!

So Bolivia...what can I say!!! Errrrrr...lets just say its not my favourite place in the world.  It all started out alright, the boarder crossing was easy (although a culture shock from Argentina!!) and no altitude sickness in Tupiza...easy sailing.  Then we booked a four night five day adventure around the Solar de Lunar (Salt Flats), a beautiful area of Bolivia in the south.

We were so lucky to get two great Dutch guys in our 4x4 with us.  (Apart from the Irish, the Dutch are still my favourite nationality by far!!)  so off we set into the cold desert with Phil Collins playing and our lollypops as our microphones.  The rest is all my fault.....

I scudded it you see!  I said “I wonder what will happen to our car on the trip, something always happens!”  mmmmmmmmm 3 hours into the trip boof....flat tyre...so there was all the boys helping to change the tyre (while I laugh and take photos!).  We then stopped to have some lunch by some really funny lamas and alpacas (to me it looks like a giraffe got it on with a sheep, they are so funny).

Off we set again......boof...errrr what's all that smoke coming out from the bonnet??  Our guide (I use that term loosely!) set about fixing it, the fan belt had snapped and the water overheated (I'm very technical after all this).  He made some makeshift string thing and off we went again...for 20 meters...booof....OK now I want you to repeat this scenario 15 times!!!!!!!

At first we let him try and sort it out himself while we sat in the car looking at condors and having a minutes silence for Michael Jackson (which didn't last very long as we all agreed we didn't actually like him).  Anyway after about five failed attempts from the guide it was time to go Blue Peter..first up it was Tim's turn to get inventive and we cut the fan belt and threaded his guitar strings through to hold it together...but they melted in the heat.  Next up was Maarteen who got my sewing kit and tried to sew it together....but the needle snapped in two.  Then it was my turn to have a Blue Peter moment....what could be strong enough to hold the fan belt together....my bra!!!!  So there I am in the middle of the desert in the back of the car while Phil's got his pen knife and ripping my bar open for the wire....but it was too hard to bend :-(

By this stage it was getting dark and we needed another plan...did I say we were in the freezing desert?? I know 2 people will walk to the next village to get help and the other two stay with the car...what do you mean its a five hour walk to the next village?  Grrrr

At this stage we were getting very very worried about six people spending the night in the car!  Freezing!!  But lo and behold a big truck finally comes by full of Bolivians (strange creatures that they are) and eventually got out to help after about 15 minutes.  Picture this, desert..pitch black...below zero.  Thankfully some of the locals lit some fires in the bushes and we all cuddled round while the men got to work for about 1 hours.  We in the meantime sang along with Tim and his guitar and ate chocolate around the fire.

But guess what?  They couldn't fix it either so the poor guide had to stay in the car all by himself that night while we were all bundled on top of the truck and sat on cement bags with blankets around us eating Pringles for two hours!!!!!  Now that is a travelling experience.  Lying back on the cement bags looking up at the star constellations in the sky...strange!

The locals took us to the next village with our cook and booked us into a hostel.  Now this hostel is the local version of a hostel, not the one we are accustomed to with clean sheet, working electricity and hot water.  Nope this was something special!!  There were four beds in a tiny room with the most dodgy electricity ever!  There were wires hanging everywhere.  Once when Phil went to leave the room I hear a “boof” (there's a lot of these noises in Bolivia!) and a bright light.  I panicked as I thought he'd been electrocuted (not for the first time on our travels).  However it wasn't until later that I noticed that there was a burnt hole in the back of his jacket and all the stuffing coming out (nice puffa jacket ha ha).  The wires had actually burnt right through it..thank gawd it was cold or that could've been his skin.

During the meal that night Phil took on a shade of grey and didn't want to eat anymore (that's when I know he's ill!) so we left the others to do the dishes and I shipped him home (I use that term lightly).  The poor thing started shivering dramatically and got extremely bad altitude sickness, so I said he could use my bed and I got extra blankets for him and my hot water bottle (yes I do travel with one!).

Thankfully he was alright during the night but I didn't sleep a wink as it was so unbelievably cold!!!!!
When it was bright I looked at Phil all still dressed in his puffa and then realised (because it was dark we didn't see) that he had been sleeping in dried up vomit/blood/poo.....it was disgustingly vile!!!

That day we went for a walk in this strange abandoned village and finally got out at 3pm that day.  The guide picked us up and we drove in the dark with our new fan belt while he pointed out the lakes and volcano that we should've seen the day before...only this time in the dark!!!  Mmmmm

That night we drove to very high altitude and unfortunately I couldn't eat dinner as I was starting to suffer badly with headache and stomach pains, so I took off to bed early.  I was up, however, in the middle of the night with a fever and stripped off all (nearly) and lay on the bathroom tiles to get cold (it was -20 outside!!)  And that was the beginning of it for me :-(  The next day I couldn't see all the wonderful sights..I couldn't even get out of the car!!! In the meantime the boys had a ball sliding across frozen lakes and swimming in hot thermal pools.

The next night we went even higher and I got even worse.  It got to -30 C!!!!!!!! I had two heart beats a second!!  My heart was thudding out of my chest, I couldn't move as I couldn't breathe..if I couldn't breathe I started coughing.  By the time we actually got to the finale of the Salt Flats I was coughing so hard that I lost my voice and had to write things down to say what I wanted.  I was so miserable by this stage and needed a hospital but the boys were great in keeping my spirits up and making me join in the photo shoots, it was just what I needed.  Thank you T&M for looking after me during the five days xxx

Oh I'm sure you're thinking that was terrible car trouble but it didn't end there.  We broke down on a mountain, our number plate fell off and then we ran out of petrol on our last day!!  the best of it is when we finally got to Unyuni they wanted to charge us for the five days (as if it was our fault)!!

At last I got to a hospital and he said I had a chest infection and put me on antibiotics.  Later that night we had a farewell dinner with the boys, coughing all over my pizza, and then Phil starts.  When 2 become 1 eh?  So that was us stuck in bed for three days in a bit of sh!t hole.  Sleeping, coughing, spluttering!  We barely spoke to each other during those days. 

Anyway it was time to get out of dullsville and drag our sorry behinds on a 12 hour bus.  Not easy to do when your about to cough up a lung.  But we made it to Sucre, a much nicer town and checked into a nice room....and also another hospital.  This time we are told that we both have throat infections and not to take antibiotics but to ride it out. Mmmmm.  By this stage my gums are killing me and have actually grown over my teeth! I also started getting stomach pains and the trots, it wasn't looking good to be honest.

After a couple of days there we got an overnight bus to La Paz...where I had to rapidly take myself to a dentist.. Euchhhh..  He had to freeze by gum and actually cut the gum around my teeth off!!  He gave me a prescription for antibiotics which he said would take away that infection and the one in my throat.  But when Phil went to get it it was a needle injection of Penicillin that Phil would have to give to me.  At first he thought it was hilarious that he was going to have to inject my bum  but then he seen the size of the needle and chickened out..so I had to go back to the dentist for him to do it.  No food again for me but Phil went out and had a big chicken and chips dinner!!!

The next day we had a flight to Rurrenabaque (sea level at last!!) to do the Amazon basin.  We were picked up straight away from the airport and headed on another three day adventure. That afternoon we spent the most glorious hours in a canoe boat sailing down the amazon river in the blazing sun , lloking at crocodiles, flamingos, monkeys, pink dolphins...the list goes on..it was absolutely stunning!!  A right tonic.

The rooms were basic, a bed with a net.  That night I was getting stomach pains and Phil had many appointments with Percy the Porcaline!!  The following day we had to don a pair of wellies and go squashing through some marshland looking for cobras and anacondas!!  Scary business, especially when they found one...it was at this point Phil took a whitie and decided he needed Percy again but unfortunately they don't do them in the jungle so he had to take off and go behind the reeds!!!!  Turns out poor wee Phil had food poisoning and missed the rest of the day when we went out on the boat again and the others actually went swimming with the dolphins.  T
Thankfully he got a little bit better for the evening when we went to watch the sunset over the jungle and cruise down the river with the stars above us and glow worms lighting up the sky.  Such a beautiful sight (even though we certainly weren't!)

An early start to watch sunrise over the Amazon and listen to the jungle sounds in the morning was one of the things ill remember forever.  Then we set off to go parana fishing!!  Phil actually caught one (but I just fed them not being a fan of killing he he) and then ate it for lunch.  Another three our cruise up the river took us to the end of the Amazon adventure.

Back in Rurrenabaque it was my turn..stomach pains, toilet..much blood :(  We chilled out for a couple of days to recuperate as it was so sunny and pretty we didn't want to rush back to the cold.  But back to La Paz we had to go, but all the Drs were closed because it was  a Saturday so we took the next looooong bus to Cocacopana.  By this stage I could barely walk to the hospital..the Dr there said I had a lung infection as well as a stomach ulcer because of all the different tablets the other hospitals gave me...so what did she do?  ...give me some more tablets!!

I trailed myself back to the room and crawled into bed and took the first tablet....big mistake!!!  I've never had so much pain in my life.  Vomit, poo, blood everywhere!  I took another one and the same thing happened.  Actually the same thing happened the next day too. I was pretty much at an all time low!!  The worst of it was I had to book on to a 12 hour bus to get ourselves across the boarder and into Peru to better Drs!!!

We had to lie at immigration to when they said have you had a fever, cough etc in the last 7 days, for fear of being put in quarantine for Swine Flu!!!

We arrived in Cusco and booked Phil on a trekking trip to Maccu Pichu and that night he had to leave at 4am.  I had been feeling poorly all night but I didn't tell him in case he cancelled (I knew how much he wanted to do it).  As soon as he left at 4am I was straight to Percy!!!  After a few hours of that I took a taxi straight to a private clinic.  The poor Dr got more than he bargained for with me though :-)  He asked me what was wrong and I burst out crying “you've got to help me Dr” as if I was in some kind of dramatic movie!!  I couldn't help it the tears were spurting everywhere he he.  Anyway he was great and took all sorts of samples and gave me a decent answer!!!!  I was actually happy to hear the outcome because someone was actually taking me serious for a change (unlike the other three hospitals!!)  Well not too happy as it turns out I have Salmonella......and a parasite living in my intestines.  That's of course on top of all the infections I still have.  So I have enough pills to make me a baby rattle now but hopefully they will all start to kick in so I can finally enjoy the end of our travels.

So there you go Phew!!!  Its mad to see it all written down!!  Three weeks of hell but new country hopefully means new health.

Will write to you soon with the much brighter Peru version

Only 2 and a bit weeks to go  eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Love you xxxxx
Katrina and Phil

Strange things about Bolivia....!!!
* Everything!!!
* The women all grow their black hair to their bums, have two separate plaits which are tied at    the bum with a curtain tieback...and they all wear bowler hats!
* No -one will speak to you.  People wont look you in the eye....Can't speak Spanish forget it.
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David Barker on

Enjoyed reading about your adventure. The picture you have labeled as a "anaconda" is actually a "false water cobra" with a scientific name of Cyclagras gigas--its a very cool snake. Do you actually have pictures of anacondas in Bolivia? I'd sure like to see what they looked like. I'm at vpi@beecreek.net. Thanks

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