Friday, 7 December 2012

Stop jumping

Arrived in Uyuni with a few hours to kill, took a picture of John in a tiny railway car so that made him happy then bought me a trilby. Pretty sure that makes me a tool but it was the lesser of two evils with the still peeling burnt scalp.

At our tour office we couldn't halp but notice two loud, irritating Australians and two miserable looking Americans. Crossed our fingers that they wouldn't be in our jeep, which, of course, they were. Charlotte was bumped off to another company but looking at our group it felt like a bit of a result on her behalf.

After an hour in the car with the Australians I was ready to get out and walk back. Our worries about them had been confirmed and then some. They were loud, rude, selfish, disrespectful of our driver and just occasionally, annoyingly funny. Every time they saw a dog they shouted 'Perro' which, as you can imagine, was fun for all of never. The Americans on the other hand were a decent just engaged couple who could hold a conversation.

Salt Flats stop 1: Train cemetary. Some rusty old trains. They'd made some swings and a see saw out of some of the remains. It was a load of idiots taking pictures in silly poses. Not my thing. In fact I'll take this opportunity to say how much I hate jumping photos. WHAT ARE YOU ACHIEVING YOU MORONS? Sure take a photo as a memory but then lets just enjoy the place.
Wherever there is a popular attraction I'm forced to endure:
'You jump on 3 I'll click on 2'
'Damn, okay I think I have to click on 1'
'No you jumped on 2'
'Nearly got it, maybe I click on 1.5'... And so on until anyone who wanted to just sit and enjoy the view has cut their wrists any anyone who isn't sat with me being miserable and intolerant has formed a queue to go through the whole same dimwhit jumping process. Who was the first person to start this trend and how do I have them murdered?
Had to wait ten minutes for the Australians to finally get back.

Stop 2 - The salt flats themselves. Interesting place. Each Jeep that turned up had a load of white people get out taste the floor and confirm that it is indeed 'salty'.
Having had our twenty minutes of staring time we once again had to wait for the Aussies. So delayed that I  had to shout out to them and point out that the driver had been beeping his horn for them. They had been busy taking 'nudey photos'.

Stop 3 - Lunch. One of the Australians was incredibly rude to the driver to the point of threatening him because he wanted to get into the bags on the roof of the jeep and get his sunglasses. Our driver, Gregorio, was half way through preparing food and rightly ignored the twat.

Stop 4 - Cactus island. Weird island in the middle of the flats. It has Cacti on it. Got a bit of time to walk around and leave the Australians which was good because I'd had enough of them calling Gregorio any name but his own. 'Greggo, Gregorrrrry, Gregamundo'.

Stop 5 - Salt hostel. Pulled up to what looked like a dump from the outside. Team Australia tried to start a mutiny and wanted to steal the Jeep and go somewhere else. Me and John got out and had a look at the place. It was charming, with salt floors and walls and a great view across the flats.

Day two - Some incredible views of flamingo filled lakes and volcanoes. I'd also managed to be a little less irritable around the Australians.

Day three - Up at 4:30 to see bubbling mud and geysers then take a dip in hot springs. Not a bad way to start a day. One of the Aussies heard me whinging about them always being selfish and late and I was impressed to note that he asked what time we should get out of the springs. He was still 5 minutes later than the rest of the group but this was an improvement. Couple more stops before leaving the group and crossing in to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Lunch and a stroll around then 23 hours on a bus to Santiago.

La Paz

On our first night in La Paz we signed up to go and watch Cholita wrestling. It was simply bizarre but one of the most entertaining afternoons imaginable. Every fight had a clear goody and baddy, usually indicated at the start by the referee affectionately hugging the baddy then kicking the goody in the crotch. The first fight was between a man in colourful mask and a dodgy dancing man in a skeleton onesy. After this came the cholitas themselves - women in bowler hats and frilly dresses with big petticoats. It was certainly no WWE in terms of the acrobatics but they didn't hold back, as one observer put it we saw a whole lot of gusset. They would also steal people's drinks from the audience then bash each other with the bottles covering the audience in fanta.

Day two we were off to cycle 'The World's Most Dangerous Road'. The road descends from 4700m to 1200m and is one hell of a day out. I bottled a couple of the designated photo spots. I was quite close enough to the edge that once claimed 80 lives in a day thank you very much. There was even the ridiculous suggestion that we all do jumping photos at a particularly scenic ledge. I must have jumped all of half a centimetre from the ground and was told to have another go, my reply was of the sweary variety. I don't like heights but the scenery and fun of the ride made it all very worth while.

Day three. I was not a well boy and spent the day poorly sick in bed. David was suffering even worse, so much so that he took himself to hospital and spent the night on a drip. We'd been planning to move on that night but when John and Charlotte went to the bus station they found out that the last bus to Uyuni had left earlier in the morning because the next day was Census day.

Day four, census day. For the first time in ten years Bolivia was having a census and to do this they had decided to shut the country. Nobody was allowed out on the streets without government permission so for us it meant a day sat in the hostel. We had cards and there was a bar, it was fine. In fact we were in the best company possible. Pontus is the biggest fan of games on the planet, not a minute would go by when he didn't turn whatever was happening in to a game of some sort so we had a good day. In theory the hostel was not allowed to sell beer on census day but they got round this by hiding everyone's drinks and telling drunk people not to speak to her when the census lady arrived.

Final day in La Paz was spent drinking tea after some hugs goodbye to David, Pontus and Angela then Charlotte, John and I headed south to Uyuni and the salt flats.

Machu Picchu and that

Lima, Peru. Went with John to look at the central squares. Found a little shop selling people's old black and white photos so bought John a picture of a group of old women who were having a great time. He got me a man on a horse. Followed this excitement with a 22 hour bus ride to Cuzco.

Cuzco, Peru. Machu Picchu as you may have heard, is a pretty good place to stare at. We stared at it for two hours and it was a whole bucket load of awesomeness. Rather than hiring a guide we made our own tour and so if you are to ask me or John for the history of Machu Picchu we would tell you that it was built by a colony of half Russian/half Dutch people who had a big thing for goat molesting ceremonies.

Next day in Cuzco we wandered about a bit and got John a hat and sunglasses. Within 24 hours he had lost the hat and broken the glasses. Next move was on to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. On the bus we met Suffolk David and Swedish Pontus who I'd met in Quito, their Australian friend Angela and a tall, friendly Manc called Charlotte. For the next week they became our travel family. When buying the bus ticket we'd been told the bus was definitely directo. Directo my arse! Near the border we were bundled in to a minibus with our packs strapped to the roof and after the border there was another minibus change, but this is all part of the fun of travelling.

Went to the ropey Copacabana beach and took a dip in the lake unaware that it is essentially a gert big sewer. Walked up a hill which was not very tall but because of the altitude it was one of the hardest hikes I've had. Collected some wood on our way back down and John and I built a fire by the lake to see out the night. A thunderstorm came and spoilt our fun, completely soaking us and battering us with hail. During the day we'd got sunburnt. Me through my hair so badly that I had a peeling bonce for the next week giving me quite disgusting, chronic dandruff.

Nice day out visiting Isla Del Sol on the lake followed by a short bus to La Paz.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Meeting the Bro

Got to Lima the day before John was arriving and walked to a hotel recommended by Lonely Planet. It was fully booked and so was another nice looking place on the same road. I turned a corner to be presented with a choice of two rough looking hotels, one had a big neon sign advertising the 20 soles price and adult films, I chose the other. It smelt a bit but it was cheap and I needed a wee so I took it. When I laid down on the bed I noticed it had mirrors on the ceiling, a classy joint.

Explored a bit of Lima, then back to the hostel for early night of TV and sleep because I was down to the last of my cash. Had to throw a pair of pants in the bin because a poo disguised itself as a fart. Sneaky bugger.

Successfully met John at the airport, this was no small feat for anyone who knows my brother or me. He'd brought my replacement card with him and it even worked allowing me to get money out for the first time in weeks.

Went out for Chinese, served by a giggly 12 year old waitress. Back at the hotel I didn't mind sharing a bed with John but there was something not right about sharing with him under a mirrored ceiling.