Blockades and Altitude

Trip Start Apr 21, 2003
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Trip End May 07, 2004


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, October 12, 2003

These are actually emails that I wrote, prior to discovering Travelpod. This is the second half of the email sent to friends/family. I've broken it up, mostly, so that my map of travel (above) is more accurate. Read: I'm a nerdball and want to look cool :)

______________________________________________________

Now we are in Bolivia. We thought we would just check
out how serious they are about all the riots and
strikes. We made it through to Tupiza, and then almost
to Uyuni before we hit a blockade. Emma and I were
excited that we might get to be part of Bolivian
history, but in the end it was more or less
uninteresting.

There was a small explosion off to the side of the
road, but that was about it. When our bus driver
asked, the blockaders weren't even sure why they were
blocking the road - just because everyone else in the
country is protesting something, and they didn't want
to be left out. After just more than an hour, they
moved all the big rocks out of our way, and the two
trucks, one jeep and our bus were permitted to carry
on. We were hardly going to make international news!

It was amazing how different it is just crossing a
border. The roads change from paved to dirt, the
houses turn from nice european style to modest brick
homes, and the steak and dulce de leche (the sweet
that is put in every Argentinian dessert) disappear.

We spent a couple of days in Tupiza where we went
horse-back riding through valleys and canyons of red
and gold that were sprinkled with cacti. We rode for 7
hours and the time flew by, the scenery was
spectacular and we loved every minute of it.

Now we should be in San Pedro, Chile, but in fact are
in Uyuni again. We are fighting the altitude sickness
that forced us to take a bus back halfway through our
Uyuni Salt Flat tour.

The first day of the tour was wonderful and we danced
around all kinds of beautiful and other-worldly sites.
But that night Emma was sick pretty much every half
hour, and I was feeling a bit off myself. When I told
our guide, in my horribly spanish, that she had been
sick all night, he immediately blamed the 'altura' and
said she had to get to lower altitude as soon as
possible.

The only way for us to get back to Uyuni together was
on one of our favourite buses that carry 20 people
more than there are seats, plus some poultry. While
this is usually part of the 'experience', a half full
Argentinian bus with reclining seats and movies would
have been very welcome yesterday.

But who are we to complain. We were lucky that our
guide drove us the half hour to the nearest town to
catch the bus, and then somehow managed to convince
the conductor to let us on, even though it was more
than full already. In the end he wrangled us the two
front seats. And he paid for them - very sweet.

Eight hours of hell on wheels, and we were very happy
to crawl into bed. We have just slept the better part
of 24 hours and haven't been able to eat since
yesterday morning.

So we lost the last two days of the tour, and the
money we paid for it. Serves us right - we read about
how to prevent altitude sickness, and instead of
following directions, we did the opposite and tried to
climb 1500 metres (from an already dizzying 3000) in a
day and a half.

Although we are still feeling a little off, we think
we should take the bus to Chile at 4am tomorrow, in
order to continue on with South America. Hopefully we
will be in Peru by mid-week, and then we will see what
happens. If things in Bolivia get worse, we will skip
La Paz and all the bargains it is said to have, and go
through northern Peru into the Amazon and Brazil. Our
plans change on an hourly basis, so who knows.

I should stop writing now, since I have been trying to
write this for a week, and have already practically
written a novel of debatable interest.

Let me know how you are, and what is going on. My one
e-mail, from American Airlines, today was a little
disappointing, although I know I deserve it. Still, I
would love to hear from you.

Lots and lots of love,
Joanna
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