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

23 August 2006

picking up the story, all the way to Montevideo

after that good night sleep, I woke up and went for my horseback rding trip in the desert surrounding San Pedro de Atacama - which is actually an Oasis.
The other half of my group - meaning the german girl supposed to be coming with me and the guide - was 15 minutes late so we left without her before we were called back a minute later and went to pick her up. so we were three. and has it happened, I already knew her since we'd met in the bus station in arica when I'd asked her f there was anything to pay for the bus terminal, and she'd said no - where in fact there was....
so we set off, first going to see some inca ruins (not really well preserved) and then went up, and up, and up to have a good view of the surroundings, and the horses were having a bit of trouble carrying my big wheight all the way up the mountains (after a month and a half of french fries, you bet!)
discribing the landscape is a bit futile. try imagining that I went from an Oasis to a moon-like surface then into a stone desert they call the death valley. then we went down the steepest dune of all time and I thought the horse were gonna stunble and fall, and me with them. but of course they didn't.
after all that horseback riding we was well hungry and so, my new-found friend and I (her name's janine) went for dinner. she had stomach issues, so she only ate potatoes, no need to say it was a real pleasure having lunch with her.
having nothing better to do (for there is nothing to do in Atacama besides taking expensive trips) we chatted time away, and as it happened, we discovered we were going the same way, at the same time (to buenos aires) and so I had a travelling partner for the next three days (and luckily not more than that, 'cause towards the end she was getting a bit on my nerves, especially since we only spoke spanish together and that didn't make the conversations any easier). we then went for a drink, then on the internet where we were cut half way through by a black out. the whole city - which ain't much - went dark and candels were lit eerywhere, which was a rather nice thing. being late and dark - and us bieng tired - we went for dinner (where it took her the same time to eat 30cl of soup as it took me to eat an empañada twice the size of both my hands and drink two glasses of wine - unbelievable!!). well tired and well fed, I went to bed - not without one last Pisco sour and a cigarette by myself in the quietness of a blackout in the middle of the desert.
Next day was the day to Salta - because of course there was no way of making it direclty t B-A. I took the bus at 1100 on which there were a couple of frenchies whom I chatted with whenever there was an ID or custom check. After 3 movies, we arrived in Salta at 2200 and of course, by then there are no more busses for B-A so we had to check in a hotel and chose the "international Hostelling". which was a great idea. it was full of lone travellers - like us - and had quite a family spirit to it and after 2 beers we all decided we should go see a local band downtown and so we did. the place was packed and nobody could get in but the guy from the hotel knew a guy who knew a guy and he let us in the backdoor. the concert was real nice and I wished I had some of my friends with me at the time....I met loads of people but the quantity didn't quite make it up for the quality....It was a good night alll in all, and a little tipsy I got back to the hotel in a cab with my german friend, another german girl and a suiss guy who always seemed a bit lost but he was my favourite one :)
next day was the buenos aires day - and it's really a DAY since it's 23hours in the bus - so we checked out the hotel and went for a good breakfast. which we didn't get. being a little hung over I wanted lots of food but the breakfast was only made of 2 "croissant" and a cofee, so I asked 4 croissant and an orange juice and I got two coissant and a coffe. I called him back and asked for two more croissant and an oranje juice and he brought me one croissant. no need to say he was getting on my nerves. I asked once again for the oranje juice - which he brought - and a croissant -which he finally dare to say he didn't have any more. why the heck didn't he say so earlier!? so I had my 1/2 breakfast and then walked around the city before going to the internet (at the time of the previous post) and then had a -rahter expensive - lunch on the plaza but it was the best steak I had eaten in three weeks, so I didn't care (and jeanine had potatoes!!).
we then went for the bus - which we nearly missed since she eats so slow - and hopped in. 3 movies later we were stopping in a "garage"-like place to have dinner, and as the guy behing me said, it rather looked like a prison cantina. but it was all included in the tickets and it was quite good too, so no need to complain. I then felt fast asleep and in the morning, after another movie, we arrived in B-A where it was - Finally? - time to say good bye to jeanine.
I walked a good while around Retiro - the bus station - to find a bus to montevideo. the urugayan bus agencies where all cramped in a little corner which I finally found. I enquired about when it was leaving and when they said 2200 (it was then 1200) I figured I should give the boat a try. so, armed with my guidebook and my backpack, and my sleeping bag, and my polar sleeve, and my little bag - all reallyy handy to walk 1.5km - I set off to the boat terminal, not wanting to pay for a taxi, recalling my bad experience a month ago.
after a bit of asking around, I finally found the terminal, and after abit of asking the prices around I decided to walk back to the bus terminal and take the bus at 2200 (it was 195 pesos whereas the bus was 90!)
the day was spent reading my book about the incas in some corner of the terminal before going to eat in the terminal restaurant where I thought I was gonna slaugther the waiter. I asked him a coffee and got it. then a milanesa, and got some kind of sandwish about the size and width of my thumb. then I asked a "lomito" and I got to old lumbs of bread. not knowing how to make myself understood - for I was readin from the menu and it all seemed very clear to me, I asked a steak with french fries and, after some time, finally got it. by that time, I was half crying-half laughing and completely at loss on how the heck I should order my food. while eating, the TV was on, and it appears ben laden is in love with Whitney Houston and wanna kill her hursband. and this was announced all the most seriously by the national news television!!!
the time of getting in the bus finally came and so I went. it was really nice. I had two seats for myself and even Francois would have had enough space for his feet. the bus was driven by a pair of dudes in their mid 50's, early 60's and could definitely have been a couple. they were real considerate of everything and I've never been so well taken care of in a bus. only they had garfield in spanish on the TV, and that wasn't too cool, but it was rapidly forgotten when I fell asleep. at the border with urugay, they filled in my papers and the guy stamped my passport without even me being there. I went back to sleep.
I woke up in montevideo where I waited in the terminal for the info kiosk to open and asked for a hostel. the nice lady gave me the adress of the international hostelling and so I was on my way.
when I got there, nobody answered the door so I patiently waited for someone to come out and when finally someone did, I waited inside some more that someone pay attention to me. when someone finally did I was told the room wasn't gonna be ready for another hour and so I waited somne more. when it finally was ready, I rushed in and slept for 3 hours. after 3 days in busses, I was knackered. I woke up and washed all the bad smell away from me, washed my hair and entirely changed my clothes because by now I smelled something between a sheep and an old trash can.
I then took a map of montevideo from the hotel and set off to eat in the centre. for the first time in a long time I had fish and vegetable. Then I walked around the city, bought some "souvenirs" and that Mate-kit (a thermos, a cup, a straw and 1kg of Mate) I'd wanted to have for such a long time. so now I don't stick out so much in the streets of montevideo where every other person is holding a mate-cup.
now I'm back in the hostel (where they have free internet, youpieeee!) and I'm gonna make myself a mate before going to dinner in a "ratito".

21 August 2006

border-crossing and horseback-riding

after buying my ticket, I headed back from the bus station to downtowm arequipa where I went to re-furnish by book "shelve" by buying two books. this time I actually bought interesting book and not some cheap paperback futuristic/thrille novel. I went for "diarios de motocicleta" del Che - such a cliche for someone touring latin america, I know- and a book about the history of the incas and peru in general.
all content with myself I went to have a good cheap lunch and awaited yfat's sms while reading Henri Troyat's "un si long chemin" - which I got from a book exchange place. still reading I then headed to san fransisco's church and awaited - some more - yfat's sms. then I went for a coffee - still reading - and desperating yfat would ever call :)
Fifteen minutes later I had my so long-awaited-sms and bumped into yfat while rushing to the meeting place she'd given me :) We went with her boyfriend to meet a jewish-canadian friend of hers whom we left to pick up yfat's laundry and sign her up for a trip in the colca cañon while her boyfriend was off buying pants and then we went back to the canadian friend.
by that time, it was time for me to go get my bus so I gave yfat a hug and took off in one of those yellow tiny taxi they've got all over the place.
at the bus station I had 3 enpañadas -the woman thought it was too much for one person but whatever, it was barely enough :) - while chatting time away with a guy from Mendoza and being complimented on my spanish skills (can't see why thought :). I bought some bread for breakfast and smoked my lungs out while awaiting for the bus to start the engine.
we finally got on the bus and I - happily - sat in the wrong seat since there were nobody next to me and it was gonna mean a good night sleep. 20 minutes later comes in a lady who BARKS at me telling me I'm in her seat. I reluctantly admit and change -to my designated seat- to sit next to a stinky fat man. the seat didn't have armrest. the perspective of a good night sleep disminished quite a bit :)
I put in my earplugs - which i have now unfortunately lost :( - while they play a stupid movie about a sinking ship that didn't have any sound anyways.
I arrived in tacna at 0400and looked around but couldn't find any busses to chile in the terminal, I was starting to get slightly stressed out.
at 0600 the tourist info opened in the terminal so I rushed in and the friendly lady told me that, for chile, I had to cross the srteet and go to the international terminal. relieved, I did.
even before entering the terminal - which, akwardly enough didn't have any busses in it - a guy jumped all over me asking me if I wanted to go to Arica. I told him yes, but thanks ,no, I'd go by my own means (knowing it ain't always safe to accept averything when you'r travelling on your own). I finally gavve in, seeing the other german tourists in the terminal were too and the guy took my name for the paper work then asked me 3.000 pesos. I opened my eyes as big and wide as pizza plates and nearly told him to go have sex with himself before I realised that it corresponded to 18 soles. it's just chile that's weird I thought, and gave him 18 soles. then I went to change my last remaining soles to pesos - and surely got screwed on the exchange rate, but there was not time :) The guy took my backpack and shoved my into a car with deafening music and I only stopped stressing when 4 other locals got in too with travelling gears. they actually all smelled better than me, it was really pleasant. the "taxi" driver took everyone' ID and my passport - which I didn't really wanna give but all the others had done so and the american woman had told me they'd done the same for her, so I didn't wanna hurt his feelings - and arranged all the paperwork at the border where, anyways, they don't really check anything.
the guy was driving 160km/h when the speed limit was 30 and I was hoping I wouldn't die there 'cause it was all grey and desert and didn't look like a very nice place to die in. given the choice, I'd prefer bolivia. the music was still blasting.
We arrived in Arica and I understood, by myself, that Ihad to cross over to the other terminal, for there weren't shit. in the other terminal, I went around looking - in vain - for a bus to sanpedro de atacama. I finally asked a guy who told me I had to go through calama and that the busses only left at 2130. I took the ticket and left him my backpack contempleting the big day I had ahead of me in the grey and humid city of arica.
I walked the awekening-grey-sea-side-city and found nothing interesting. I read in the park and quickly fell asleep. staye there for 1h, still there wasn't anything going on. I then went to the city-mall by the terminal where Ihad a cofee, then lunch. I left to smoke then went back to go on the internet. I stayed there for 2h, listening to "le jeu des dictionnaires" (a belgian radio program I love).
I went back into the terminal to have -yet another-cofee and read. by that time I was bored to death and smelled like shit.
little note: they have public bathroom in the terminal and, where you pee, they have, on the ground a little thing representing a sea-horse. it's the cutest thing I've ever pissed on. (see how bored I was to notice such details :)
I went to sit, and the big woman next to me was pushing me aside so I went for a smoke. so did the big woman. she stoke up a conversation and I told her all about myslef and she told me little about herself but complimented me nicely on my spanish skills (again! but now I think I know why : it's because you can see I'm trying real hard :) and gave me her adress in calama in case I needed anything. unfortunately I was only staying there for 20' but I took the adress anyway. I'll send her a postcard. she was a nice old and fat lady. I then got on the bus - without my sleeping bag, but I didn't freeze to death, so it was ok. they showed a bad movie, but I was so tired of reading I was really happy with it :)
I slept on, only being awakened by the 10,000 customs and ID checks they have in chile (you actually can't take the road for more than 20 minutes without encounbtering one :) and got to calama in the morning. all good
I took a taxi to "algo del norte" and the guy made me pay 2000 pesos for a 4 minutes ride, I belived I got screwed - again! - but I had no strenght to argue.
when I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, I was astonished! I was awaiting a big city, with loads of stuff and I got to a tiny city with dust roads and buildings barely taller than me. all there seem to be in this town was hostels (43 of them!!!) and tourists (those i couldn't count). getting used to the idea this was a small town, it all turned really nice and I had breakfast on the main sqaure, real sunny and real pretty (nice change from arica). I checked in a hotel on the main square with "baños privado" and had my first shower and tooth brush in two days. heaven.
chile is quite expensive, thought, compared to my latin-american standards and a hotel room is almost as expensive as back home.so I decided to only stay for 2 nights.
being all clean and smelling good, I headed to the tourist office and asked info with which I then sat and contemplated what the town had to offer : desert, desert, death vaslley, moon valley, desert, horseback riding and a museum. I quickly elected the horseback riding and the museum as my activitites and went to book the horseback riding for the next day. an nice friendly lady told me it was 5 hours the next day and that there was already a german chick booked as well. all fine. seeing my budget running low I decided to go replenish my pockets at the cash machine but it was broken so I sat in front of it and discussed a bit with a french couple. they finally fixed it and I got my money and went into the museum.
it's actually quite funny 'cause the guy thanks to whom the museum has been built is a belgian priest who comes from really close to where my dad's from. the museum was really interesting, retracing the region's history until the spaniards came (and most people did it backwards so I don't think they understood much of it :)
next, I'm out the museum, sneezing because of the A.C. and I cross the main street to have a fag and read in the sun. I look for my book and can't find it. where is it. then I remembre I'd put it on the cash machine, go back and see it ain't there no more. shit! I hoped the french couple behind me took it, and since it's such a small town, that I'd bump into them at some point.
and I did. going back to my hotel, all sad at the loss of my book, I saw them eating at my hotle and went over to ask if they'd seen it. they had it and handed it back to me and I sat with them chatting (they'd been travelling for a year, from montreal to there)until the evening when they left and I went for food and then a good night sleep.
-the rest of the trip is for later 'cause my bus is in an hour and I still haven't eaten :)

16 August 2006

from being alone to UWC gathering and "peruvian experience"

well, I did go have a coffee, but, of course, things didn't go according to plan.
I choose the cafe with the best view on the main square and, as I was about to open my book and order a coffee, an american woman, seemingly alone turned to me, asked me if I was alone and if I spoke english and after getting positives answers to all those tricky questions (asked in spanish) invited me over to her table (in english). I figured it's always a lot more fun when you're with someone else and decided I could join her. she introduced herself (but of course I forgot her name :). she is a bio-molecular-chemist something, working for a TV station in L.A., middle-aged ('bout 35 I'd guess), had been travelling in latin A. for the past 4 month, thought it would be her last "big" trip 'cause she wanted to have a family,...we talked about ourselves, Bush, the USA, Iraq, Peru, Matchu pitchu - then I had a pisco sour and a coffee - Belgium, Anthropology...after two hours she fslt hungry and I didn't, so she decided she'd go eat and I wouldn't :) However, she wanted to go see some live music in the evening but thought it was no fun by herself, and asked me if Ihad any interest in live music. as it happens, I love it, so we decided we'd meet in the same cafe at 2200 and I went for a shower and an hour of rest while she went for food and shower.
at 2200, while waiting for her to arrive, I shared a cigg or two with the waitress who loved her job, knew people from all over the world because of it (blablabla, she talked shit lots :)the american finally got there and we took off to a pub where there were more tourists than locals, and after a caipiriña and a white russian, they'd tured up the music so loud it was hard to talk over it :) so we left and asked at my hotel (I had to change my sandals for it was getting cold and it was on the way anyways) if there were anywhere more "typical" we could go to. they told us NOT to go to avenida XXX (cant recall the name) cause, yes, there were lots of club but also lots of people with knives and chains who would -haing drank a little too much - gladly molest us and take all there was to take. We figured we'd go somewhere else and he told us that just down from the "plaza de armas" there was a couple of clubs fopr locals, but not too dangerous 'cause there is also a police station.
we went for it.
it was quite big, had big screens all over with loud music on the dance floor but you could still hear yourself, and instead of s/ 10 for a cocktail (about 2.5 euros), it was s/ 10 for a jar of cocktail. kinda like the "grande casa soiree cruche" (Belgian reference). people there were piss drank and really friendly, some puking here and there and some others checking the woman I was with with such intensity she decided it wouldn't be wise to try to go on the dance floor. we drank our jar of Pisco Cesar while talking about drugs, then, exhausted and slightly "tispy" we headed back to our hotels.
a good night sleep - for earlier that day I had gone to buy some earplugs :). - althought they were still making a ruckus undeneath my balcony.
Being in no rush whatsoever, I woke up a 1200 and after shower went for lunch and a little internet session where I started organizing the year with the PIO's and Dauphin.I read the news that didn't look too good. and went back to my hotel to read on my balcony, looking at peruvian life going by. at 0600 I figured it was time to call the girls to see if they were back but all I had was the dad telling me they wouldn't be back before 2100-2130. so I walked around, enjoying the city until marie called me back at 2000. we agreed to meet at 2200 in front the cathedral and since I wasn't far from it, I went to sat down. There were lots of stuff going on on the square so I went to take a look.
A live peruvian band had dressed up some tourists in feathers and were making them dance in front of choking-with-laughter-locals at the sight of those unable-to-move-in-rythm-gringo's :) after having watched my fellow european for a minute or two I decided they should end it there and I should stop watching. I stopped wwatching but they kept "dancing". too bad for them. I went on.
the next thing people were gathered around was a painter. and an a-typical one at that : he was painting starwars like landscape with spray-paint (the ones you'd use for graffity's) and make really precise drawings using all kinds of stuff BUT pencils and brushes. the result is quite ugly but it's well done and the technique is impressive.
I went back on the stairs, read a bit and then Marie and Sophie got there. then Brenda and Leo (she's from portugal and was at uwc with Marie and Brenda).
we decided to go for a drink and sat together, drinking pisco until 0100. nice evening all in all and I was invited to come with them for arequipa's birthday on the next day.
after another good night sleep I wandered about the city, called my brother, Bruno, who's leaving for the Costa Rican UWC and whom I won't see till christmas. then i did some more reading while having lunch. then some more wandering and it wsa time to meet the girls. they couldn't make it to the centre 'cause it was full with everyone getting ready for the town's birthday so I went all the way up to brenda's grandma's place. they had been there for an hour and had been fed so much cake, cookies and sandwishes they were about to explode so I came in as a savior and got to finish all the cakes :) - real good by the way! Some of brenda's friends and brenda's brother were there too and they all loked very friendly and very pleased with the fact I spoke (some ) spanish and we could have a little conversation.
we discussed a bit about how to get to the matchu Pitchu (that the girls left for yesterday) and then went to buy their tickets to cusco. then nack to brenda's (enourmous for a 4 membre family) House where they all got changed and all of brenda's friends and brenda's brother (diego) 's friends joined us. we were many and trying to communicate in whatever of the three languages we had in common (english, french, spanish) which made a happy "melting-pot".
once everyone was there, we took a taxi to one of brenda's friend's to begin the party, and after they scared us saying they had 3 beers for 15 ppl, we went to buy 3x18 beers and pisco and it could start for real. I talked with eveyone who wanted to talk to me and the evening went just fine (of course I can't remembre everyone's name nor half the conversations we had :) All of brenda's friends were real nice. .we then left the house intending to go to a club, but the club being packed, us being hungry and people being drank and fighting in the street, we only made it as far as the Kebab place, had one, then all went our separete ways home.it was what Brenda called "the peruvian experience" :)
ear plugs --> good night :)
the 15th, the actual day of the birthday I woke up, refreshed and met the girls for our last day together since they were leaving to Cusco. we hanged out on the square next to san fransisco's church and did some shopping at the "handycraft fiesta" - and marie bought about half of it. then Yfat said she'd be arriving soon and we went outside to wait for her (not without going to a mummy museum that turned out to be a guy making - ugly -clay mummies and showing them for fun --> stupid and laughable (and we had a good laugh :)
Yfat arrived but it was - unfortunately - by the time the others had to leave for cusco so they only just met for 10 min :(
the others having left, Yfat, her boyfriend and I went for a beer and talked about good old times, other uwc'ers we had seen recently and all. unfortunately, her boyfriend doesn't speak english and I was way to tired to try to speak spanish ( I could barely undertand it :) but I'll try today. after the drink, all being really tired and not having done it for quite a while we went to the Cinema (the lady in the water). I really liked the movie, and they didn't :)
we went back downtown and watched the end of the parade in the street and at 2200, I told them I had to crash and sleep so I left them. This morning I went to book my ticket for TACNA where I'll get tomorrow 0400 before crossing over to sanpedro the atacama to finally head back to argentina. I must admitI have a bit of a "big heart" leaving Arequipa, the girls and Yfat. I've been here for five days nd it's been really fun (I even start to have some habits : MY restaurant, MY internet cafe...) and hitting the road again - all by myself - will be strange. but we shall see :)
c u in chile.

12 August 2006

from cusco to being alone

so we did go eat and since I didn't have anything left to read, I also went to purchase a couple of books - they didn't have a single author I know so I just did some random picking. being a little bored, we went to the tourism office to ask if they had a cinema we could waste a cuople of hours in, but they didn't. we figured since we didn't have anything to do, we might aswell go play some cards and have a little beer so we went to the gloomy cafe we had been to two days before and ordered a couple of beers. having drank those beers, we were hungry again and so went for a burger, then it was time to get to the bus station to catch the bus. it's funny, we had almost slept 12 hours and we were really tired so this turned out a bit like a wasted day, but fun anyways.
the bus ride was one of the worste so far. it was from 2100 to 0530. The bus looked first class, smelled good and everything but had been so badly designed that you couldn't put your seat back enough (therefore, no sleep), you had NO SPACE for your feet, the TV was barking (and they had chosen 3 hours long king kong movie!!) and when the TV was finally turned off, the music was turned on in the driver's cabin which just happened to be in front of me, and it was loud :) I ended up sleeping on the floor in between everyone else's feet :)
no need to say, the next day we felt a bit tired. we arrived in arequipa at 0530 and took a cab to the city centre, deserted at this time of the day. the others enquiered how they could visit the canion in a day, but since it wasn't possible, we just walked around the city to see all it has to offer (and it's a really nice city) until we'd seen it all and found me a hotel before sitting down to play some cards (in the mean time, I'd had decided I wouldn't follow arnaud and francois to chili and would stay in arequipa to try to meet up with yfat ,marie-emerence and sophie; and had unsuccessfully tried to contact M-E and Soph). we then watched a procession in honor of Señor "smth", protector of arequipa and then went for a last beer before we parted. I went with them to the bus station to pick up my bag and after little "goodbyes" and "goodlucks" I took a taxi back to my hostel.
I had a good shower (first one in two days) and went down a pub to plan my next day while drinking a Pisco sour (national drink, althought chile says it's his national drink....). I wanted to go visit the canion for two days and looked at the timetable and all. having it all set, I went to bed for what I thought would be a good night sleep. it turned out to be just a night, since I woke up two hours later shaking with fever and my ear drums molested by all the party going on outside (and it went on until 0430) No need to say I quickly understood I was not fit for a two day trip in a canion and figured I'd be much better off recovering for a day or two. and so I did. I stayed in bed until 1500 (oddly, there is a lot less noise in the street from 0600 to 1500 than from 2300 to 0430!!) I then had lunch in front of the hotel after what i decided I should try - again - to contact marie-emerence. no I'll go have a cofee on the main sqaure before going back to have a sandwish and another good night sleep. I'ma bit "upside down" and wanna recover before heading south.
so, from now on, you'll be following my lone adventure which I hope will be as much fun as they were with the two other dudes.
C. U. :)

10 August 2006

from la Paz to the matchu pitchu

so I finished my last entry in la Paz, city we weren't too sad to leave. after all that writing we deserved a good meal and so went for a nice little cheap pizzeria we'd found on the way to the hotel : excellent pizza and clean bathroom althought still without any toilet paper :). Tired as we were after a good day of walking around La Paz ( and because backpacking is tiring anyways )we decided to head to the hotel to have a beer and play cards before going to bed. On the way there, Francois who'd been whiping his nose all day with paper hankies he'd stored in his pockets, decides to empty those and does so in a trashcan on the sidewalk. we get to the hotel after having bought 3 beers and Ho!, surprise, he can't find his keys ;). he rummages through his pockets and finally realises they'd been in the pocket with the hankerchiefs. so they gotta be in the trashbin. hoping the trashcan hadn't been emptied yet we headed back to the bin, armed with nothing but a flashlight and the will to find them. after some more rummaging -through the trashbin this time - and with my help as a flashlight holder, francois quickly recovered them keys and, at last, we got to play cards and go to sleep ( we were so dam tired the card playing part didn't even last 30 min). important remarq : the beer was offered to us by francois for all the trouble we'd undregone while already so tired - thanks dude.
next morning, we checked out the nice little place we were at and went for breakfast. the bus wasn't until 1500, and we didn't have anything to do until then and so took our time to break - fast correctly (continental or american breakfast depending on who ordered) and stayed there until 1300 or so. having to much time, we decided to walk to the bus station - which I after found a really bad idea for, at some point it gets mighty steep and with my 20kg backpak it's a real pain in the ass! ( we also spotted two dogs stucked into each other after doing something I won't name here - in case children are reading. it's irrelevant, but seeing those two dogs hopelessly stucked to each other, each trying to go it's own way, almost getting hit by every passing car had something surreal to it). after all that hard physical exercise up and down La Paz we finally got to the terminal where we were rewarded with a viewing of the spanish version of the starwars trilogy which we conciensciously watched since we had two hours to wait before our bus. The bus, which finally left at 1630 instead of 1530 was a first class bus we paind 18 USdollars for a 6 hours trip - I thought it was a all nigth trip and it's the only reason I had agreed to paid, but was then taken back to reality by my co-travellers and was astonished they'd agreed to pay such a price for such a short bus ride. On our way to puno, we watched bedazzeled - shit movie, and dubbed in spanish!- walked over the border where we were greated out of bolivia, asking us to come back soon, and into Peru, whishing us to stay for long and asking how much money we were planning on spending in the country - god knows why :)
We got to Puno at around 2300 bolivian time, but had gained an hour so it was only 2200 over there. we called a hotel, graciously ignoring all the taxi driver asking : - "hola amigo! Taxi?, tienes un hotel? tengo uno, Buen precio!" (this -the hasseling - hadn't happened neither in argentina nor in bolivia, but we quickly realised it was entirely part of the turistic part of peru - and can get really annoying at times). We then chose a taxi of our own liking who drove us to the hostel we had chosen and we quickly collapsed into bed knowing we'd have to wake up early the next day if we wanted to go on the titicaca lake and leave in the evening for Cusco.
The next morning we did wake up early and, skipping breakfast - which I hate to do - ran to the boat place to get ourselves one for the lake. by the time we got there, they were almost all gone or going and, having not much choice left we went for one who - pretty much - screwed us over asking one price, then another, and which we finally paid in USdollars, oficially getting screwed, but we were all in a bit of a rush. they took the money, went to get some gasoline and we were finally off to the URU island. they are impressive. they are all made of "roseau" (in french, in english, no clue, but it's an aquatic plant that's half in half out the water and sticks out straigth - kind of a water bamboo) and therefore float on the water. and people live on them. loads of people. every week they have to add a new layer of plant to replace the one that drowned and every ten years they gotta build a new island. no need to say they don't really have time to do anything else than pick up " roseau". they also make amazingly big boats with the plant. well, you've understood, it's impressive ( and it's mainly thanks to tourism that they can keep this way of life, funny ain't it, for one tourism is good for local communities).
we left the the floating island and headed for the real island (3 hours boat ride, I slept most of the way through and got sunburned on only one side of my face - not funny :). we got to the real island. funny fact: there ain't shite at the bottom of the island and you gotta walk all the way up a billion really steep stairs before you get to a restaurant ( and not having had breakfast in the morning, with the lack of oxigen and all the lungs destroyed by the ciggies, we were begging to be slayed by the time we made it to the top.) the restaurant was good but nothing fancy and then I had a coca-tea and read stiglitz while the others walked a bit around the island and took pictures. then back to Puno - we played cards under the amazed eyes of the local and a couple of germans. In Puno we went to book the bus for the evening for cusco and had dinner in a nice restaurant but which didn't really feed us enough so we were still a little hungry when we got out :)
the bus ride for cusco was one of the best so far - I slept all the way through and had a little kid beside my who didn't invade my space at all. we got there at 0400 but not wishing to wander the street of sleepy Cusco until an hotel opened, we stayed in the bus until 0630 - as the bus companies are obliged, by law, to let us do. We then took the taxi to "La Plaza armas" (as is called every main square in every city of peru) and found a hotel to our liking before going for a mighty big breakfast (in french the adjectif given by the guide is "guarguantuesque")and then touring the city to see what it had to offer.
Cusco is a really beautiful city and the main square is particularly interesting with all it's schiselled (is that the way you write it?) balcony's and it's two "grandiose" churches. The rest of the city centre is also very nice (and clean compared to the rest) and there are traces left of the inca's everywhere.
we also went to book the ticket to visit the machu pichu and other ruins which was a real pain for my wallet since the train ticket is 44 USdollars, the ruins ticket 10 euros, the ticket to matchu pichu 30 euros, the bus to get from aguas calientes to machu pichu 6 USdollars and a couple of little busses in between finished eating off my budget for 4 days :)
The rest of the day was spent playing cards on one of the only terrace of the city while drinking some beers and talking to local kids and foreign spanish woman. we then went to have another beer and engaged in warm discussion that lasted all the way through dinner. francois then went to sleep while arnaud and I accepted all the free drinks offered by the different clubs around the main square (mostly cuba libre) until it was time to go to back to the hostel - and luckily we managed to walk back :)
The next day, the head hurting a little and the stomach a little upsidedown, we walked to the (mini) bus station where we were rushed into a bus and, before we realised there wasn't any seating space and we would have to stand for an hour, we were driving with difficulty on the hills surrounding Cusco, taking along any person who wished to get on the bus and everytime we thought they couldn't possibly fit anymore poeple in it, another two or three stepped in. the roads being what they are, and the busses being what they are, we were nothing short of puking all over everybody else when we finally got to the first ruin site we had to visit. after 20 min spent going to the bathroom for diarrhea problems and to take a hold of oursleves, we stored the bags and decided to walk up to the ruins since the guide(our hated book) said it was only a 50 min walk. An hour and a half and a good lot of sweat (for, once again, it's steeeeeep!) after, we got to the beginning of the ruin site and it has a way of not making you regret to have walked for it - and in addition to that, you feel so much better than all those tourists who came with their bus and have little shorts and walking sticks as if they were gonna go up some real high mountain and do some intense physical exercise when all they do is walk from the bus and back :). we wandered in the ruins for another 1h30 and after visiting it all, we took the taxi back to town.by that time we thought :"damn man, the incas were good!" and we hadn't seen the machu picu yet!
down town we had a little lunch (with chicken claws in our soup, YUK!!) and saw our first rain since the beginning of the trip. we hopped in a bus for the second ruin site - which was also the place we had to take the train for aguas calientes - and got there around 1400. we stored our backpacks in a little cafe next to the train station and took a most unusual taxi to the ruins. it's a motorcycle with a trailer inwhich you can sit. I thought we were going to top over or fall off many times but it curiously never happened. the ruin site was as impressive as the first one though a lot less tiring to get to since it was at the same level as the village ( just a couple of hundred stairs to go up, nothing!) We visited, then bought some food -supplies for the machu pichu, had dinner and took the over-expensive train at 2000.
we arrived in Aguas Calientes at 2200 and rushed to find a hotel. Since there are no road and only the train to get to Aguas Calientes, everyone gets there at the same time, and since we hadn't booked anything (and we never do :) we were afraid we wouldn´t find a place to sleep for 2 nights. but we did, relatievely cheap and with private bathroom (a first during the trip! :)
we then thought it'd be a good idea to go buy the tickets from the tourism office but, two minutes before we got there it closed. at that time, we were planning on waking up at 0400 and walk all the way up the machu pichu to see the sun rise. we were a little lost and speaking french loudly when we heard a little french voice say: "si vous voulez des infos, j'habite ici moi!" (trsltion: if you want any info, I live here!)
the guy turned out to be french, to have a brother living in beauraing,the city where francois's family comes from and he told us what we needed to know in order to visit the machu pichu correctly : wake up at 0400 am, eat, buy the entrance ticket at 0500 when the thingy opened, buy a bus ticket to go up, take the bus at 0530 am and so get there first. we tchatted a little more, listened to his -peculiar - life story and noticed the setting up of the "couvre-feu" (I think in english it's smth like "cure-few") by the local cops before heading to bed quickly 'cause the next day was going to be a big day.
We did wake up at 0400, ate, bought the tickets, the other ticket and got on the bus at 0530. we weren't the first one on the site, but we certainly weren't over a hundred. when the gates opened we all rushed to the top of the hill and (since you can't see anything while going up) what we discovered once on top got everyone drawing out their cameras and taking millions of pictures. as a matter of fact, it is impressive, and in the dim light of the morning, it's almost religious (no wonder it was full of temples). I ain't even gonna try to describe those magical instant and I won't put pictures iether for I can't do it now (but will try later, promise!) but you really have to come and have a look for yourselves. WAWOOO!!
I lost the other two and wandered the ruins by myself, trying to catch the explanations of the various private guides around and so gathered quite a bit of info on that amazing inca city. we finally found each other and by 1100 we were outside having a well diserved lunch (tuna sandwish and sausages, yummy! :) after which we walked down hill for an hour and finally got back to aguas caliente around 1230. we were literally worn out. dead, on our knees. we took a nice and refreshing shower, and not knowing what to do with ourselves we went to the hot water springs from which the city got its name and lingered in the hot water for 1h30. we were a bit disapointed by the look of the girls and almost scared by te look of some local mamas but it was a good experience all in all, and very relaxing. it got us hungry too. so at 1500, on the way out from the springs, we went for three big pizza's (not really good, but cheap!) a couple of beers and a game of cards. an hour later, we were out on our way to bed and just stopped by an (overly expensive) internet cafe to check our mails (but I was in no mood to write this diary then). then bed....which felt good :)
this morning, we woke up at 0400 (AGAIN!! will you say, and I will agree!!) because the cheapest-but-still-extremely-expensive train back to Ollantaytambo for back packers leaves at 0545 but we had to be there by 0530 (eventhought it leaves late!)
and headed for the train -which akwardly doesn't leave from the train station but from some bizzare place outside of town and it ain't said anywhere.
we slept most of the way through and in ollantaytambo took the bus to the last of the 4 ruin sites we had to visit. out of the bus in chicheros. I went in the local cafe because my 2 days ticket had expired and I didn't wanna pay a new one for just one ruin site and the other two went to visit them - I didn't regret not buying the ticket, apparently it wasn't worth it and they only stayed 45 min (walk included). we then had a b-fast that looked like a lunch in the cafe and took a taxi back to cusco (25 min, slept all the way through:) In cusco, where I'm writing from now, we booked the ticket for arequipa tonight and we are gonna go have lunch for we are hungry again. then it will be chile, then back to ArG and B-A. don't know when I'll write again, but until then, C.U.

05 August 2006

Potosi - sucre - REpotosi - la paz

hello y'all. I left you 5 days ago,in uyuni and a long way has been traveled since then. indeed, we did (almost - for we didn't go to santa cruz) every major city in bolivia. let me recall those last five days.

After exiting the internet cafe, 3 tired belgians walked over the street and, freezing cold - once again - entered the first cafe they found open ( because not much is on sundays in bolivia) and played monopoly ( arnaud won if anyone beside him is interested in this fact) until their heads hurt ( and their lungs too for smoking up there is painful...). after this very interesting and incredibly valuable for the knowledge of bilivian culture, we ran into our mighty cold bed and quickly fell asleep....or the other two did for, rehearsing for the national day of independance, I had below my window a group of (drunken??) young men playing all kinds of instrument but without really listening to each other. and they played late around the bonefire. goodnight

the next day, a little tired but happy to leave uyuni we went to take the bus advised to us by our guide and it was indeed not the worst bus company one could have taken :) We arrived in potosi, charming - and steep - little town at around 1200 and went to find a little hostel to put down our mochillas (backpack). it was a nice one with a room for the three of us, and commom bathroom. the usual.
by then we were hungry and the book told us there was a nice " intellectual" cafe ran by uni students that served some good burgers, so we figured it'd be a good option. it turend out the burgers were good, but the guy was definitely NOT an intellectual and if he is a uni student, he's got to be a freshman and I don't think he'll make it to sophomore :) we asked three burgers, he brought 2. we asked for a third one and three more, he brought three...then we hasseled him a bit and he brought the fourth. when it was time to pay, he had to hide behind his counter to substract 2.50 from 20....and as you can see I was a bit pissed off by then, for I was really hungry and the others were always done when I hadn't even recieved my burger yet :) but well, it's all over and makes nice memories :)
out the intellectual cafe. into the street. as usual, we first went for all the churches and took a lot of pictures. we watched the sun set over potosi and then went looking for a bar - we found one - and played couillon while drinking cerveza (tea for me, I was feeling a tiny beetsy sick by then). two ours later we went to a restaurant where they had no french fries ( and that was exactly waht we were looking for back then) but it was pretty much the only one opened that didn't serve ONLY chicken and we didn't feel like wandering the streets any longer because they had schoolbands playing all over and it was hard to get around.
bed...nice and warm....wake up at four 'cause your stomach and your intestins aren't feeling well. you hit the jackpot : LA TURISTA!! yup, I got sick ( the others a bit too, but I also had a cold and felt rather "not well" :)
the next morning, althought as usual Francois tried to get me out of bed to go climbing some hill to have an overview of the city (I'm sick of those overviews, but he seems to love going up half an hour to see loads of roofs :) I resisted and argued my way into staying in bed until they noon. so they went to get the bus tickets for the afternoon and francois went up the hill all by himslef for arnaud let him down half way up because you had to go through many parts of town he didn't feel too comfortable in. so he joined me in the room.....and we did some reading (dan brown, stiglitz, bret easton ellis) . I felt a lot better after that half day of rest, and francois was happy cause he'd gotten some good pictures, all good.
the afternoon was dedicated to some cultural visits as, with all the tourists in potosi, we went to "la casa de la moneda", biggest museum in bolivia, and i was quite nice. we were explained how the spanish made their coins back in the day - and it was a hell of a physical job - and then saw some mummy of the incas, some jewelry made of the silver extracted in the mines, and the thing that captivated me the most was a time line figuring the world since adam and eve (980 ACN), going with Mathusalem, then the names of the 4 only women we know from before the "deluge" (that big rainy day with noa and stuff) , how the first stone tools were made in Denmark and then I don't know 'cause the guide was calling us out of the room
and that thing was at least 10m long.
after the visit - we cut it a little short - we went to get our bags and walked over to the bus station where we met a french tourist we 'd met before (it´s funny here, you always meet the same people, you'll see if I don't forget to recall it :) and then borded the bus to sucre. Three hours later we were in sucre. cute little city too.
as usual, we needed to be fed by that time, and went looking for a restaurant for we don't really trust our giude anymore, it's full of wrong info's (one advice, never buy the "petit futé"). we found a meat place where the sole dish was meat, the only choice was wether you wanted it with a bit or a lot of fat :) it sounded good. the meat was enourmous and enourmously delicious. on the way out, we found ourselves a little bar where a couple of locals laughed at us, then with us and a couple of bottles of of cerveza disapeared down our throughts. good night sleep...just awoken once by my stomach shouting TURISTA :)
the second day in sucre we did all a good tourist has to do. after all that, francois wanted to go on the hill to overview the city, arnaud and I, bored to death with "miradors" decided to buy a - local - coke and chill while waiting for him. he then eventually came down and we went to see the first cathedral ever build in bolivia which just happened to be next to a really "chic" restaurant that just happened to be no more expensive than any other and that had a terasse overlooking the city ( that kind of overlook I'm more than ok with :). so, ditry and stinky we ate in that refined place and had a good laugh at what a comical situation that was :) - imagine, by now we REALLY don't eat like our parents taught us to, and we just really didn't fit :)
On the way back down to the city, we took a couple of pictures and decided to go play "couillon" in the park - it's really nice now for they have plenty of stuff for the 6 of august coming up. we were a bit bothered by all the kids around who wantted to shine our shoes and some coins from belgium for their collection (but that they were going to exchange 20m further) and couldn't understand that is you put shoe shine on my fabric eagle, they are ruined :). they also took a great liking in pulling our leg's hair ( for we had shorts - unlike everybody else - and natives don't have hairylegs) and deciding whom amongst the three of us had the most (I won without contest when they looked at my face and my arms. after having each won one or two games, it was time to buy some local alcohol and return to the hotel and prepare for our first night life experience in bolivia. we drank the alcohol - grape something that tasted like cheap vodka -while playing cards and after dinner, we returned to the bar we had gone to the previous day util the "mama" kicked us out. we hadn't enough so we hooked up with the first local we met and asked if he knew of any place still opened. he did. we went.
we were greatful for the indication and offered him a "BOCK" and asked him who he was and what he was doing. apparently he was a ingeneer in agronomy and had a great cereal to sell with which you can make more money than cultivating cocaand so it was really interesting listening to him, althought none of us can recall teh name or the look of the plant. by this time, arnaud was out, sleeping on the table. francois and I hooked up with the last two poeple in the bar : French speaking suiss. 42 year old guy. 30 years old chica. 2 kids , 10 and 8 - fortunately not there. after a bit of talking the guy - a bit against his wife's wishes if I can recall - invited us back to their place and we went there, drank some good wine and talked about most random things. they turned out quite nice, never said why they'd come to bolivia althought we asked each of us a good couple of times but let slip that he was an ex-heroin addict - club owner in lausanne ( which would have given him a good reason for taking off)
the next day is a blurr. we woke up, showered, slept in the park, ate, slept on the roof of the hotel, took the bus. wasted day. but waht a nigth :)
the bus ride to lapaz was cahotic. we had taken bed-bus so we thought we could sleep easier (12h30 is a hell of a bus ride) but it turned out you sleep jsut as bad in those as in the sitting ones. adding to that, we were still wearing shorts and the heater was off so we shook more than we slept.
two nights in a row was too much and when we got to la paz, the first 2h30 were dedicated to sleeping.
once we woke, we went to the sole burger king in the whole country 'cause we wanted to eat something we knew. it wasn't good - it's burger king!! - but it felt good ( and they had paper in the toilets :) probably the only once in bolivia.
the afternoon was walking around, going up the "mirador" to see the city from above and buying the tickets for Peru for tomorrow afternoon, gift shopping and internet writing.
La paz is a bit of a weird city and we ain't staying too long 'cause we like it a lot less that we liked potosi and sucre. it´s quite polluted, doesn't have as much to show for itself than the other two and is a hell of a lot more crowded.
i'm tired now, i've been writing for over an hour, but we'll meet again in puno or in cuzco. hope you enjoy. I do ! :)