World Trip, Part XIV - Bolivia

Trip Start Jul 30, 2008
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Trip End May 02, 2009


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, March 2, 2009

After four spectacular days in Salta, I woke up early and it was pouring rain. The online forecast called for five more days of rain, so I checked the forecast looking north and it appeared better. So, I jumped on a bus heading further north, and during the long bus ride, the weather cleared up completely. The scenery of the mountains and desert landscape was just incredible. This was one of the best bus rides ever. After a quick walk thru town and over a bridge, I made it to my next destination.

Welcome to Bolivia!

The Place:

Years ago, I heard good reports about Bolivia, and how it was such a great country. However, in Uruguay and Argentina I met travelers who had been there recently, and all they did was shake their heads, roll their eyes and describe Bolivia as "frustrating". (Sadly, they weren't kidding.)

There was a big line-up at the border waiting for the Bolivian immigration officials to finish their sacred lunch, but all the foreigners got in, except the one super nice American girl. It appears that Bolivia doesn't like America and has put some rather unpleasant requirements on US visitors, including a stiff visa fee - payable "only" in US dollars. That poor girl. We had to leave her behind, and we don't know what happened to her in the end.

The other foreigners, including three hysterical Brits, and I got thru at La Quiaca/Villazon and immediately boarded a bus for another spectacular journey - this time to Tupiza.

Well, the lessons you learn traveling, I tell ya. Firstly, one should try not to travel on a Sunday in a third-world country, which I did. This makes it impossible to get to a bank to get money. And, second, one should always try and find out when national or public holidays are! Another thing I didn't do. Luckily, I still had a few American dollars on me.

Tupiza is quite stunning for a small town, and is nestled in a red rock canyon. After settling in to a private room, I set out on the town with the Brits - it was Carnaval (Yes, again!). After watching the parade and walking around, we got dowsed with foam and water balloons and cannons. Hysterical! :)

The next day, I realized that buses aren't frequent and reliable like they are in Argentina. I had planned to tour town with the Brits and make it up to the mirador (lookout), but didn't want to spend another nite there. I tried to wake the Brits up, but they were sleepy-heads, and I had to head on to Uyuni without saying goodbye. :(

It was a long, amazing bus ride to Uyuni. I survived the nine-hour journey on a one-way dirt road (where is my chiropracter?). About an hour into the journey, the bus rounded a bend, and even tho the driver honked the horn, we had a head on collision with an oncoming truck. I can't believe we all survived it with all the damage to both vehicles.

Uyuni is quite a crappy place, and arriving in the pouring rain did not make it any prettier. Dirty, smelly, and weird. But Uyuni is the best departure point for a the Salt Flats excurions. The next day, I was able to get on a tour of the Salar de Uyuni. For the next two nites and three days, I packed in a car with six others for an awesome tour of the railroad junkyard, the Salt Flats, fumeroles, hot springs, flamingo-filled rivers, a walk around a cactus island in the salt flats, lakes, and volcanos. The best was Day 3 where we stopped at the tri-country territory - standing in Bolivia, but looking at mountains and volcanoes in Argentina to the left, and looking at mountains and volcanoes in Chile to the right. Very cool! Also very cool was Night 1 in the Salt Hotel - the entire thing is made out of salt, except the toliet! Ha!

I was only back from the tour for a couple hours before I caught my 14.5 hour, overnight bus directly to La Paz. La Paz is a trip. This huge metropolis is built in what looks like a volcanic  crater, but is really a steep-cliffed canyon. To see high-rise buildings built right into the cliff faces, and hanging off them; and the center of down way down at the bottom of the canyon with some incredible buildings following an old river bed is mind-boggling. Everyone raves about La Paz, but honestly I didn't find it exceptional, and there are not a whole lot of things to see and do there...unless you like shopping.

The Food:

The only good thing I ate in Bolivia was the fresh fried chicken and chips in Tupiza. The food on the tour was not bad either, but nothing special. The rest was, in a word, "disgusting".

The hygiene and sanitation in Boliva are just aweful, and I spent a great amount of time sick from the food, and on the toilet. Every other backpacker I met was either sick or sitting on the pot as well. Bolivia is like Europe, where you have to pay for toilets; and like Central America, where you have to provide your own (buy it!) toliet paper.

I thought Quilmes was bad, you should try the Bolivian beer, Pacena. Yuck.

The People:

I am going to borrow a quote from my Israeli roomie in La Paz: "Bolivia is beautiful, but you people suck!". He also stated that Bolivians are "stupid, stupid people". Back in Dallas, when a friend found out I was there, he told me he had found Bolivians to be "just nasty, nasty people". Sadly, I have to agree with all of these comments.

In my opinion, Bolivians join the Guatemalans, Costa Ricans, and Jamaicans as the most miserable and undesirable people on Planet Pink. Sadly, I would have to describe 99.99% of Bolivians as rotten, nasty, rude, unpleasant, inconsiderate, impolite, scammers, rip-off artists, liars, cheaters and thieves, and not helpful.

Even tho I acted humbly, put on my supreme nice game face and pulled every nicety possible out of my butt, Bolivians are still just horrible people. From the street vendors, to the market vendors, to the hostal staff, to the tour guides and operators, to the taxi and bus drivers, bar staff, Bolivians score 0 out of 10.

The 0.01% of nice people were the little old lady who gave me directions back to the city center, the barber who cut my hair, (and when I gave him a five pesos tip, gifted me with an ankle bracelet), and the nice guy at the Hard Rock Cafe in Laz Paz who actually thanked me for visiting his country (I didn't have the heart to tell him what I truly thought of Bolivia and its people). I am sure there must be nice people in Bolivia, but they are impossible to find.

Rhetorical Questions/Comments for Bolivians:

* You people really do suck! Simply aweful.
* There must be something in the air because some aweful backpackers and foreigners can be found in your country too.
* If anyone ever finds me in Bolivia again, I allow him/her to call the looney police.
* Garbage, garbage.....everywhere!
* Few ATMs and banks around, but at least you're willing to freely lend tourists money!
* I recommend you freely distribute the following to foreigners: Toilet paper, Immodium, Depends, barf bags.
* Is that leaded gas you are burning?
* I saw more toilets than churches.
* Your country smells.
* You have trash bins in La Paz, so why don't you use them?
* How about some paved roads?
* You think it's just a fart, but it turns out to be something much more messy (Ewwww....sorry, folks!)
* If Armageddon starts in your country, I won't wonder why, and I won't bat an eye. Seriously!

Photos: On blog.

Next Stop: Home for a colonic! (Oops, I am already there!)
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