about me, arnaud and François crossing the ocean and the equator looking for...

30 July 2006

la quiaca, villazon,tupiza, and the 4 days trip

wawoo! it´s been a while, hasn´t it. besides this blog, I have a paper journal and so I was planning on copying what I had already written there, in here. but I´m tired,so I forgoit it in the hotel, so you´ll get the details of the beginning of the trip later. the end is still frensh and will shrotly be delivered to you.

I left you when leaving for la quiaca, so let´s pick it up there.
after finishing the mails/blogs... we went to the bus station and after having had a nice conversation with a local 6 years old - we understood everything for once!! - took a bus that sucked big time, smelled of llama y empanada. we rode all night and got to la quiaca at 0500 am and froze our asses off in the open-air bus stationn until 0700 when we went with some french we met at the bus station to cross the border. The cold is explained by the fact that la quiaca is 2500m above sea level.
the border with bolivia was easy to cross. we filled in a paper they barely lokked at and stamped our passports. that was it. thank you good bye.
villazon, the bolivian city on the other side of the border was entirely different from what we´d seen in argentina: a lot poorer, cold, and - at the bus station - the people were rather "hostile" towards us. the first impression we got of bolivia was a mitigated one : nice landscape, easy to get in, cheap but poor and hostile to tourists. we decided not to hang around (border cities are never a good choice) and we took a "apocalitpic" bus ride to tupiza, where we had been told we could hire a driver, a cook and go around the altiplano.
we got to tupiza and it didn´t take long before we found a hotel/travel agency that could put us in a 4 wheeldrive (4x4 pour les francophones) with two other chicks, a driver and a cook for the next coming three nights and four days.
awaiting the trip to begin, we went around tupiza, up the hills surrounding it and to the market to buy what they had said could be useful (biscuits, coca leafs - for altitude sickness - toilet paper - for here in bolivia, there ain´t a public toilet that has paper :) )we then went back to the hostel to drop all that, and somehow, we also dropped. we were dead tired after all the bumpy bus rides and just collapsed at 1700 :)
next day, we woke up and, after paying for the hotel and the trip, we met the two german chicas with whom we were going to do the tour (miriam and teresa). they seemed quite nice ( note I didn´t say LOOKED, but seemed). they were finishing an exchange year in argentina and werer travelling before returning home. it was nice cause we pretty much decided to speak spanish all the time - it was hard for the three of us - so my spanish improved at least that much. Our guide´s name was mario - very andin looking 30 years old guy - and the cook was his wife - delia, 30 something, fake teeth but beatiful eyes, great cook :)
first day : the trip started by us all getting in the car (what a surprise :) and going to buy a "courroie" for the engine - very reassuring. we started going up, and up, and up, and up until we reached a "mirador" where we could see al the rocky formations, the erosion of the rocks,...this was about 3000m above sea level. then we rode to our giude´s mama´s house where we had a real good lunch before stepping back in and going until 2000, only stopping a few times to see gold mines (really small, family owned ones), big rocks and a "pueblo fantasma" (ghost village-village fantome). the village´s got the sadest history a 300 people village can have ( lived happily, then were enslaved by the spanish, then refused to work in the mountain so were persecuted, then a harsh winter came and they all died.)We arrived at the hostel at 2000 and it was freezing cold (this time of the year, at this altitude, it goes from -10C during the night to +25C during the day and we had winds up to 9 Beaufort.)The accelerator thgen went nuts and we had to fix it with a little duck tape (which happened about 5 times in 4 days...we also had to push it once cause it was "in the sand" and had to buy gas from another car the last day ´cause we had ran dry :) we had a little thing to eat and a tea before we passed out in our beds and woke up for dinner at 2200. miriam was fast asleep and we didn´t wake her. francoius was a bit sick and re-painted the toilet and since there ain´t any water at that altitude, there was no way to flush it all down....we then slept REALLY well (except francois, for arnaud and I were snoring :)and woke up the next day at 0630 and after breakfast, headed for the rest of the trip.
Second day: we loaded the jeep (toyota, land cruiser), got in and went throught the deserts, all surrounded by beautiful mountains, of different colors, with snow in the background. amazing.(but you'll need to see the pictures. We then got to a green lake - laguna verde- that was breathtaking. we then ahd lunch next to a hot water spa which has a best view than the one you can EVER, EVER get from a panoramic swimming pool....so of course we went - nearly - skinny dipping. 30 degrees in, 5 outside. HEAVEN.
after this little swim, we went throught the dali desert, saw some geysers (looks amazing and stinks like sulfur), the stone tree, and a red lake - laguna colorada. it´s really no point describing for I couldn´t even render a tenth of what it looks like. I´ll try to post some pictures.
we arrived at the hotel, in front of the laguna colorada, at 0600 and went to buy some booze - not a good idea at 4000m but anyways....-and played cards until we fell asleep (2200, for all that is really tiring)
Third day: we woke up early to see the flameco´s on the red lake, but there was so much wind they had all gone already, so we went to other lakes (4 others, where we got to see some and had lunch). we then went to a small salar where the train goes. impressive but not much to see. after this, we headed for the hotel - where we got at 1900, tired and frozen. to reach the hotel, we had to go through "el paseo toun-toun, y se llama como eso porque la jeep va "tooun"-"tooun" " - basically, the toun toun way, because it´s so rocky the jeep´s jumping right and left and we even had to walk for 15 minutes ´cause it was too heavy (and a 15 minutes walk at 4000m, that´s something!!). the hotel was all made of salt ( even the room´s floors) and had a hot shower - the two other didn´t have a shower at all. we went for a walk on the "salar de uyuni" and then had dinner. we played some cards and went to bed early for we had to wake up easrluy the next day to see the sun coñe up on the salar (a white sheet of salt that´s 8000km square).
Fourth day: we saw the sun come up from the middle of the salar, and I ain´t even gonna try to describe. then we went to an island where we coiuld oversee the entire salar and saw a 1200 years old cactus ( basically like another one, but bigger.
we then took funny pictures and since I REALLY REALLY had to shit, I took a dump (and the salar is protected by the UNESCO!!!). no need to say that taking a dump in a 8000km2 is something(and that everyone can see you :). then we saw a little hostel made of salt and then arrived in UYUNI. city built for the trains but where there is only one left and isn´t really nice. we were planning on herading to potosi tonight, but the bus gets there at 0100 and we weren´t too found about arriving at night in the highest city of the world witrhout knowing anything about it...and freezing our asses!!!!
so, we are staying in uyuni for the night, and for the first time have a bit of privacy (each of us has a room!!!! :)
I´ll update later when I can, but don´t worry too much if you don´t recieve too many news, it´s just that bolivia is a little reluctant on using technology :)
cheers, nos vemos.
ps: no picture this time ´cause I can´t put the CD in and I can´t bother changing computer :)

26 July 2006

de salta al saltar de jujuy

so,we did take off to jujuy at 1030, and the bus was on time, which is nice. it was a pleasant bus ride (as far as pleasant ca go for a bus ride) and where we met 4 middle-aged argentinian women who wanted to share guide with us, so we read the lonely planet about bolivia while they read the "petit fute" arnaud had brought along (one of them actually spoke french, so we had a little discussion) We then got out of the bus and they stayed there. farewell.
After this 4 hours bus ride (for 70 km) we were in Jujuy. it's a pleasant little town, andine-like but has not much to offer. We rushed from the bus station to the hostel advised in the routard. it was a gloomy little place, but we had a room for the three of us which seems to happen rarely, so we were pleased. it was also clean and the towels smelled like soap. all good :)
we then proceeded to lunch, and after nearly getting killed by one or two cars while crossing from one "quadra" to the other, we got to the place proposed by "The Book". it was a nice little restaurant and had a local band playing local music. all "muy tipico" and entertaining. I had a llama steak which is real good (you couldn't tell looking at the beast). The afternnon was spent drinking quilmes in the park, going to the "museo de la policia" (it was free and quite entretaining - foetus in jars, guns, uniforms....well, good to spend time) and looking at the various monumemts the town has to offer (iglesias, iglesias, iglesias, and townhall....) which are often quite funny to look at. we also looked for the car we wanted to rent for the next day - and it wasn't easy to find.
we finally did find a car to rent -from senor daniel- and waited in a littel cafe, playing couillon, for him to bring us the key.
the day ended in our gloomy room after having had some real good spear ribs in a restaurant that apparently opened only for us in a tae-kweado sport club!!! terrible!!! :))
in the morning we vacated our room and went to get the car. we had rented the car because north of Jujuy there is a "quebrada" ( valley) that belongs to the "patrimoine mondial de l'humanite" and a "saltar" (salt mine). it's indeed quite incredible. the hill's (up to 4170 m) colors vary from red to green, from yellow to grey. we spent the whole day in there, visiting every little village along the way ( and getting stuck on a national road 'cause the "gobernador" was inaugurating a school). To go to the saltar we picked up 2 argentinians hitchikers with whom we rode to the saltar the jujuy and back, talked about argentina, Arnaud's problem with the cops, chewed some coca leafs (don't worry mum, it's legal and nothing more than tea) and whom explained to us waht we needed to kmow about the saltar.
the saltar'amazing. take a desert, paint it in white and put mountains 4000m high and you should have something close to it.
we proceeded back to jujuy, dropped the hitchikers and tanked the car full (50 km before arriving, so we knew it wasn't gonna be entirely full, but look as if - detail of much importance).
in jujuy, we sat in a cafe (the same as the day before) and played couillon until it was time to give back the car. we did give back the car,paid, and everything was fine until the guy asked us how much we had tanked for ( we needed to give it back full) an arnaud said 43 pesos (which was right) but then kept on saying :
we tanked between leo y V. and the guy looked startled and asked us if we had re-tanked when arriving in jujuy. arnaud started loosing his tongue and finally said yyyyyyyyyyyyeeeees.....offffff cccccourssssse (en espagnol porsupuesto) - understand, we screwed the guy over for 50 km ( but as we already paid the "tourist" and not the "local" price, it wasn't much). francois and I were about to jump to his neck ( it was expensive enough as it was, we didn't need anymore fees) when the guy said it was ok ( althought we all think he understood very well he was being screwed). half an hour ago we had a (good) pizza, and we are now gonna go take the bus to "la quiaca" before crossing the bolivian border.
hope you're all very well. muchos besos.
C U.
ps:arnaud and I in the valley

24 July 2006

Cordoba y salta

hey. today we're in salta: yesterday we were in cordoba.
we left buenos aires at night, takimg the (relatevely confortable) bus to cordoba (10 hours). we slept all the way through so it wasn't too much of a hassel. we arrived in cordoba at 10 (we should have gotten there at 8 but the bus was 2 hours late in B-A) and set off to find some lockers in which to store our bags, but they were all taken, which meant we were gonna have to carry them around all day. it didn't sound too cool but what a heck, you are a "routard" or you're not! We took the guide and looked for what there was to see and quickly went around to see all there was to see ( not too much actually, couples of churches and convent and parks). we then sat down on the main square drinking quilmes (la cerveza local) and met four argentinan chicas doing pretty much the same tour around latin america as we were (it's winter holidays for them). we chatted a bit but the others weren't too keen on staying with them and I wanted to see if we could find Daniel Vaca so I took out the UWC directory and, as he lives in the centre of the city, we decided to go knock at the door. Unfortunately,he wasn't there, but his sister was and she offered to keep our bags for the day and called hiñ so I couldtalk to him. He was some 80 km out of crodoba and said he would try to get back by 1600 and contact us on our mobiles. which he never did, I don't know why. so we never met up. we went to get some more quilmes and hanged out in the city waiting for our bus which was to leave at 2230. having drank all that quilmes, we had to piss quite a lot, and fortunately there were three "cathy-cabin" on the main square where we could go take a leak - however, arnaud didn't find them clean enough and prefered pissing against the wall, and you will see this detail is of much importance to the rest of the story :) So, we were playing " couillon", drinking quilmes, talking with local kids ,sharing peanuts and going to take a leak every fifteen minutes. arnaud went to take a leak, and after some time chatting with francois, we realised he'd gone for quite some time. he looked at his mobile and had a sms saying: "meet me 534 corrientes....I'm shit scared" (en francais: RDV 534 Corrients...j'ai la trouille) So we took his bags and "ran" to the 534 corrientes to find nothing. once there he called us saying he was on the squared we had just left with a cop and wanted us to come real quick. so we ran back and found him alone, red-eyed and shaking with every muscles in his body. and we finally got the whole story ( no need to say we were a bit stressed too :) : he'd been pissing on the wall next to the toilet which just happened to be a public building and 100m from the police station. he had then been taken by the police and they had asked him to emply his pockets, explain what every single one of his cards were, made him take off his shoes, his shoe laces, had told him he was a "hijo de puta" before releasing him without even a fine but with ten hours to leave cordoba.
after this stressful event we went to the bus station and arnaud got a bit ill from all the stress. we then stepped into the bus and arrived in salta this morning.
Salta is a nice city too, not too high and a lot more relaxed than buenos aires (and so was cordoba btw). we found a youth hostel amd then proceeded to finding some food. we had a bbq with a lot of different meats and ate so much I don't think I'll have to eat for the coming three days. we also went up the mountain where we had a really good view of salta and it´s surrounding and then came down and strolled in the city centre where there are many street vendors and the athmosphere is really nice. now, we're gonna have a beer in the park and then a little pizza before a good night sleep ( the first in Three days). we'll be taking off to jujuy tomorrow morning 1030.
until next time. see you.
ps: sorry if there are no pictures, but it's too much of a hassel :) you'll see them when I get back

21 July 2006

being there

so yup, finally I did get to buenos aires. After 3 days in the plane, I finally landed this morning and after trying to contact arnaud for an hour and hesitating longly, I steppped in a taxi ( a radio taxi, as indicated by the "routard") that screwed me over and made me pay a hundred pesos where the other had pay fifty (for two!!). But, well, whatever, I'm here and it's all that matters.
details on the plane trip: the plane was 5 hours late in brussels, so of course I missed the connection, and after wandering in the airport, thrying to get a hotel room (since I was only leaving 24 hours later) I finally found the people who could help me. so I went to the RAMADA INN and fell asleep for 12 hours, then went back to the airport and boarded the damn plane. After the 16 hours plane ride, I'm here, safe and happy. no I'll have a brief shower before going to visit a bit of buenos aires. then we'll be heading for cordoba where we should get to tomorrow morning.
kisses and love to y'all, I've got a lot to say about america, but that will be for a later post.
C U.

18 July 2006

the day before

it is now 11:24 and I'm sending e-mail to those I hope and think will be somewhere I think I'll be. In about 23hours I'm boarding the plane. of course my bags ain't packed and I very much wonder what I'm going to forget this time. I hope not something TOO important or vital....like a towel or something, but not my passport or vaccination paper.
I'm a wee bit tired because I just came back from perrin's camp (erezee) and it's tiring to be a scout. the days are WAAAAAAYYY longer than in normal life! My hands are destroyed too since I -manually- worked more during these two days than during MY entire camp :) It was also painstakingly difficult to leave her there with only a little kiss knowing I won't see her for the coming 40 days. I even considered maybe not go till the 30th but till the 25th to come back celebrate the end of the exams with her but I think Tourako will take good care of her. I've overheard some plans and it sounded alcoholic :)
just before I leave, a picture of what my room looks like the day before I board a plane.
c u
ps : a song ?