Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taste of Bolivia

Another border crossing to add to the books!!!

I´m in my fourth country in South America....the famed Bolivia. The landlocked, governmentally unstable mountain country where the llama population is one-third of the human population. I remember when i told a friend of mine I was going to south america for 1 year, he told me, please just don´t go to Bolivia or Colombia....well sorry to disappoint, but of all countries this was the one I was most excited for!!!

I entered Bolivia with no problems, except for the $135 mandatory visa for American citzens only. I headed to La Paz (the peace) where I stayed with two couchsurfers in there Bolivian bachelor pad that gets up to 10 couchsurfers every nite! There were three girls from Canada there at the same time and they were quirky, having fun, and heading to Buenos Aires

I spent the day strolling around hilly La Paz, looking at the markets, eating street sold saltenas made with potatoes meat spices all wrapped in a pie (my favortie street food so far), going to the witches´market where they sell stuffed llama fetus´ that people bury under their new house or business for good luck, and meeting up with friends who were in La Paz at the same time.

I met up with Elizabeth, Beth, who some of you may remember from previous blogs of northern Peru. She is from Minnnnnesotaaa (meant to be said with an accent, just for effect) and was currently traveling with her sister Michelle and Michelle´s boyfriend Brandon ( They were headed to Oruro for the Carnaval i hopped along.

We got a 5 am bus to Oruro the next day, and watched the sunrise over beautiful mountains in La Paz. We arrived to ORURO at 8 am and were immediately greeted by the sweet smell of cooking meat, the sight of streets filled with bleachers, and the excitement of flying water balloons, oversized water guns with trigger happy Bolivian youth, and foam spray cans with what felt like disfunctional tops stuck on the ¨ON¨ position. It was quite an adventure just getting to see the parade, where we sat ourselves down in 80 Boliviano seats we didn´t pay for and bought luke warm beer, pig sandwiches, ponchos, and took the advice of Brandon and got ourselves ARMED. It was a day of balloon fights, delicious food, and watching the amazing 23 hour parade with eccentric detailed costumes and dances. Throughout the day we made our way to different sections of the parade, but at one point went the central plaza near the end of the parade into what turned out to be a landlocked plaza of which there was NO ESCAPE. We took naps on the fountain and searched for a bathroom (we refused to use under the bleachers like everybody else) and then made our way through the bottleneck exit. I have been here in South America for 9 months now, and it was one of the only times I was scared for getting hurt. it was like a moshpit...but mosh pits have some form of organized craziness. This pit, due to poor police management, was the scariest thing...i was fearing that my rib was going to break crushed against the bleacher board, that the child next to me was going to get trampled, and that we would never get out......

AIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We made it out....and rewarded ourselves and splurged on a pizza. We made our way through the Palestine-like streets to find a decent spot on the sidewalk. Then the sikuris bands came out and two cups of sugary coffee later... we were dancing in the streets and had bought a bambu saxophone. We enjoyed the parade, and then hopped on an 11 pm bus to Potosi...all in all a time warped experience.

5 am we arrive to Potosi, awoken by an Argentinian who pointed out there was nobody else on the bus and we had arrived. ¨¿Potosi?¨he asks, Elizabeth in her dreamy state responds ¨Puno? ....¨(which is in Peru)....the worried look that came over his face was priceless. So we walked around Potosi for about 1 1/2 hours searching for a hostal in the worlds highest city. That afternoon we went to a lagoon, hot spring, set in the mountain desert backdrop. The next day we spent dodging water balloons and truck beds filled with overzealous youths. We also did a tour of the currently operating mines in Potosi, where the first mint of South America was forged. We explored the tunnels in our miners uniforms and hats, chewed coca leaves for the head aches, bought dynamite, visited the mining god ¨Tio¨(uncle) and the miners made jokes about how gringos may be tall but have small penises (unlike bolivians apparently), and then the 5 of us partied with the 40 miners outside and ate llama and a bomb-meal and we offered 96% alcohol mixed with soda as our refreshment.
We were stuck in Potosi for three days because the buses all stopped running due to Carnaval, so we tried to make the best of closed shops and water balloons, in the end it wasn´t too bad.

We then made out way to Salar de Uyuni. The trip there was made during the day where we crossed literal rivers in our bus....and there was lightning. The desert town that boarders the largest salt flats in the world (if you haven´t caught on, Bolivia has the largest everything...) We booked a three day tour to go to the salt flats. BUT WAIT...... that day Beth had chosen out of our nifty hat and picked ¨do something illegal day¨ for out Lent game. The hotel cost 30 Bolivianos per night, (3.50 USD) a somewhat expensive place. We spent a good chunk of our morning figuring the way to sneak by the one eyed old lady who ran the place and skip out on our whooping 3.50 was tough! BUT WE MADE IT OUT!!!! We made it out, bought fruit, did errands etc.....once we arrived to the tour company to leave that morning, the one-eyed lady was there to track us down and GRILLED we ended up having to pay. The best part of our do something illegal day....we got caught.

Then we left for the Salt Flats.....(ashamed)

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