Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bolivia is the natural alternative to abortion

The plan after Uyuni was to take the train to Tupiza because we had absolutely had it with the Bolivian bus system and figured that the train would be the best bet. Well, they somehow managed to make the train ride equally if not more bumpy than the off-roading bus ride through the desert and I was actually flung against the window the entire time. By the time we got to Tupiza, which is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid were gunned down, I was completely green and very worried about a repeat of the after-effects of the Uyuni busride. We tried to elicit some sort of sympathetic response from the locals by saying I was pregnant. It didn't work. I only got an extra pillow after paying for it. Tupiza is a real old west town complete with incredibly scary townsfolk, and the need to get indoors as soon as you can see your shadow in front of you, or the sun is going down. you absolutely CANNOT get lunch past 12:00, even if you are pregnant, starving, and trying very hard not to vomit. Even if you offer to pay double. Even if you cry. The townsfolk will be in their restaurants watching tv and absolutely will not serve you; some of them will even forcibly remove you from their restaurants by pushing you out the door, and doing a really scary excorcist laugh when you turn around and gasp. Luckily we found a nice family who agreed to serve us and it turned out to be really delicious steak and quinoa soup for less than ten dollars. We had been planning to go horseback riding in the mountains but after the horrible response from the locals we were too afraid and really just wanted to get the hell out of there. Not to mention the fact that I was still a flattering shade of puke-green. Absolutely sick to death of proletariat transport we decided to just get a taxi to drive us to the border and figure it out once we were OUT! OF! BOLIVIA!. The taxi was pretty cheap and the drive was gorgeous, the surrounding mountains were red and looked a bit like Arizona, it was really too bad we didn't go horseback riding but after going in Salta, I knew we made the right decision because it would have been way too scary if I didn't have complete faith in our guide and the docility of our horses. At the border the bus company tried to rip us off AGAIN selling us super-camas with hot meals and seats thats recline all the way back but this time we were too smart for them and checked our tickets when they gave them to us only to discover that while we were paying for the beds, they had only printed regular bus tickets so we demanded our money back immediately and once again discovered that the service didn't even exist. We ended up booking a 7 hour bus to Salta, even though we had no idea what Salta was. Obviously this was no uneventful busride, and was in keeping with our record of being incredibly bizarre, scary, confusing and I really wished I could have taken out my camera. The bus was PACKED with indigenous people who had smuggled alcohol aboard and were congregated around our seats (literally sitting on our arm rests) passing the bottle around and chewing coco leaves and spitting them on the floor. The bus stank, they were all so loud and so drunk and we were incredibly confused as to why every single one of them had about a hundred blankets and towels and bags full of stuff that they kept moving around and checking on. We learned early on that some of the blankets served a purpose since the bus was once again FREEZING and at 2 in the morning our bus pulled over and everyone started getting off. Oh and I forgot to mention that they all spoke a weird hybrid dialect that didn't have much to do with Spanish, plus they were slurring because they were drunk and we couldnt understand a single thing they said. So we had no idea what was going on except that as they filed off the bus, they kept giving us blankets and coats and bags of stuff and asking us to keep it. We finally figured out that we all needed to get off the bus, all of our bags were thrown off as well and we had to collect them and bring them inside this building that served as a drug control stop and they were checking everyones bags. Turns out these people were argentinian and had gone into bolivia to buy cheap goods and resell them in Argentina but obviously couldnt be doing that legally since they would have to pay taxes on it or there was a limit to how much they could bring across and they were all trying to get the ONLY gringos (as always) on the bus to take the stuff for them and try to pass it off as our own. Plus, they were trying to bribe us with blankets and coats since we were freezing and quite underdressed. We obviously couldnt take their stuff since we didnt know if there were drugs in them or anything - but the police didnt even look through our bags the only comment they even made was to ask each other where montreal was and laugh about ho it was funny that we were both born in canada. After this one hour long ordeal we had bonded with the other passengers so I was a little less nervous and got maybe ten minutes of sleep. Oh, Jordan was obviously passed out right from the beginning, completely unperterbed by the fat lady falling into his lap every few minutes. Anyways I had fallen asleep for about an hour or so when we stopped once again and a police officer came onto the bus with a heavy duty flashlight and started looking through everybody's bags that were on the bus (which were quite plentiful) he shined the light in sleeping passengers faces (who were passed out drunk) and then even shook them awake very roughly yelling questions that didnt seem to make any sense like "where is the chocolate where is the chocolate!" Jordan slept through this as well. Anyways the bus ride was like a first-class flight after the Uyuni ordeal but the whole thing was incredibly weird and confusing. And SO happy to get out of Bolivia!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ladies is Gauchos too (Bolivian mule riding for some, Italian Stallion riding for others)

If you find yourself in Salta, which you should, it's great - stay at the Patios de Lerma Hotel. It's gorgeous, there's a rooftop patio with two jaccuzzi hot tubs (which are like baths, you can adjust the temperature with a faucet, except housekeeping draws it for you and brings you bathrobes and slippers) and the people who work here are so nice and friendly and gluten-free knowledgeable. Also it's on the best street in town that has all the best restaurants. Also if you are here, you should do the salta horseback riding tour, it's beautiful and so much fun. We went with a real live gaucho (I was so jealous of his outfit, but I got a SERIOUS cowboy hat. He took us up the windiest road I've ever been on (obviously) for 15k, just one turn followed by a turn in the opposite direction the entire time. So nauseating. Jordan slept through it. The farm we went to used to be an old monestary and the chapel is intact but a family keeps it as their weekend and summer home, renting it out and a bunch of people live there year round working on the land. The horses were so nice and beautiful, and there were five dogs that followed us everywhere. This blog could actually have been called Rachel with a series of barnyard animals if I hadn't already used that title for my Amsterdam blog. Anyways we went up into the mountains, not really on much of a trail, with an overhanging canopy of trees and amazing views of valleys full of chirping parrots. The dogs ran ahead the whole way. At first I was incredibly depressed because my horse would not obey any of my commands and was going incredibly slowly and it caused me to doubt my assertion, self-worth, and strength of personality but luckily Jordan agreed to switch horses with me and my confidence was regained when I realized my horse was just a Bolivian mule in that he was contrary and stubborn. We had a bar b q of pretty much an entire cow, and it was theeee best meat I have ever had, coming from a presque-vegetarian. For some reason we took the horses running after our gigantic lunch and multiple glasses of wine, it was pretty terrifying but a lot of fun, even though i almost got decapitated by a tree branch and ended up sporting it as a hair accessory. Now neither of us can walk and are so exhausted we aren't going to make our 11 00 dinner (because thats when dinner starts here, and we're always too tired to make it to the show, but if you are more lively after intense day-long excursions of exhausting physical exertion, go to the vieja estacion for the show, the restaurant is so cool. and if you're dining a little earlier so you can pass out on the most comfortable beds ever, go to la lenita and get the "mashed potatos" which is actually mashed potatoes wrapped in melted mozzarella cheese and fried and is the most delicious thing ever r so jordan told me as i made him describe every bite and get the house wine and steak, sins egg para me) going to do the aforementioned passing out now, pictures and really funny video of me screaming while galloping into the sunset to follow.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


if you are going to Uyuni, do not bother staying anywhere but La Petite Porte. Christophe, the owner is the nicest person you will meet in all of Bolivia *as is his Janett, who also works there*. If you're Spanish is less than perfect, it will be a welcome relief to converse in French (he's from Lille, France) or English. He will bend over backwards to accommodate any requests and will help with travel plans, even calling hotels to book them for you. It's like staying at a friend's house with the added bonus of luxurious privacy. The hotel is BEAUTIFUL, full of light, open and airy and every detail is perfect I want my home ot look exactly like it. The best part is that there´s a tv with dvd in your room and he has 100s of dvds to choose from which will come in handy because there´s nothing at all to do in Uyuni after the sun goes down (not that there´s all that much to do during the daytime either, aside from seeing the salt flats). Before doing the salt flat tour we had a couple days in Uyuni since I was gravement infirme and couldn´t leave my bed or even take my head out of a garbage bag. Luckily I was able to recuperate in comfort while watching Lost in Translation, Snatch and The Heartbreak kid while Jordan tried to find me broth. Here´s the thing about Uyuni (and in my experience, as well as everyone I´ve spoken about it with since, all of Bilivia) even though the town exists solely as a stopover for tourists en route to see the salt flats, it does not ctaer to tourists in the least. Absolutely nobody wants to work, even though they are living in squalor and you can´t even pay extra for service. Restaurants close at exactly 12:30 and will not serve you afterwartds because the chef and waitors will be sitting inside watching a movie. No matter if you´re starving and about to pass out, haven´t eaten in days or are willing to pay them triple the prices on the menu, they will forcibly push you out of their place of ¨business¨. Laundry places take about a week to do your laundry and again when offered more money to do it faster the lady replied Ï honestly just don´t feel like it¨. Perhaps the weirdest part of Uyuni is that absolutely nothing is made there - they import everything from mustard and chocolate bars to clothes, drinks, fruits, vegetables. Nothing is fresh and nothingis local except for the salt (which you´ll be needing a lot of if you´re going to be eating the food). They get everything they need from this huge open air market where there are stalls selling everything from soap and pharmacy items to televisions and hosuehold appliances and if it isn´t there then you can´t get it. The museum was closed when we went because there was a change in government and the new government fired everybody in order to create postions for their friends but there was a problem at the museum, somehow things got broken and now it has no plans to reopen üntil there is a new government. They had plans to open an airport in Uyuni, but only got so far as to make a runway which was then completely destroyed because the locals went drag racing on it and went there to learn how to drive. It is the strangest, most backwards and middle-of-nowhere-town ever. The salt flats, though, are pretty much worth it. They are completely otherworldly, you feel like you are driving across an alien planet or walking on the moon. I have never seen such colors anywhere. We went on a private tour with the only nice Bolivian we encountered aside from Christophe and Jannette (only one of whom is atcually a native bolivian) and got to drive up a volcano and see pre-inca skeletons that they foundin a cave. They say that the skeletons are a family ( the kids skeletons are especially haunting) and they either dies of natural causes such as starvation or else they were locked in the cave as a sacrifice to the mountains. The highlights of Salta were sedifintely CHRISTOPHE and his amazing hotel and restaurant (the only place to get a good meal) he´ll have atable ready for you right by the fire, the music is really good, the service is great and the food is delicious, the salkt flats were incredible and I always love seeing dead people.