Destination 3rd World
23.05.2008 - 24.05.2008 4 °C
We got on our luxury bus which would take us to the border of Argentina and Bolivia. We were joined by an English fellow named Pascal, who was a male model from London. He also had several other names for reasons I can't remember as his conversions were quite dull and was hammered/hungover. On the upside he brought loads of food and in our rush we had forgotten to bring anything edible. I don't know if I mentioned this in the last blog but Conor was still very drunk from the night before. He had somehow ended up at a house party with a bunch of argies and had swapped his Irish cricket jersey for an Argentina football jersey. It took us several times to wake him and after drowning him in water he finally started to pack. Conor probably forgot a couple of things and his bags were all over the place but wasn't until we were on the bus that Conor noticed that he had much more money than he thought. He did spend quite a bit on drink last night but all in all Cordoba hadn't been that expensive when compared to Mendoza, Buenos Aires, Rosario...
And I guess, we did eatin the hostel meal nearly every night which probably saved us some cash and we were only there for 4 nights. Our bills with the hostel were still a fair bit but... and that's when it hit Conor. In his drunken stumblings to the taxi he had failed to pay his bill at the reception. We were in fits of laughter as Conor tried to work out if they could track him down. Then he had a little dilemma of the conscience which didn't last long and we were on our way to the border anyway so what could he have done. In fairness to Conor he did consider ringing them and paying by card but he had also been screwed out of money a couple of times on our travels so maybe this was Karma's way of paying him back.
Conor was still clearly hammered just before he realised he hadn't paid his bill
We were travelling in the downstairs part of a double decker bus, the "Super Cama" section, which we pretty much had to ourselves. Throughout the journey Ian made quite a few trips to on board lavatory as the change to a high protein diet (i.e. steak for breakfast, lunch & dinner) did not agree with his digestive system... or to be more accurate his excretion system. Little did we know the bus conductor had to attend to the lavatory every time Ian used it. The conductor finally lost his patience and burst open the super cama door. He started giving out to us. But we hadn't clue what he was on about, only Ian might of had a clue. He soon realised that we didn't have a word of English between us and started shouting... "NO KAKA! NO KAKA!" We then all new what he was talking about and Ian turned a bright red.
We had been getting great use out of our High School Musical Top Trumps and we were playing consistently. Everyone we meet was invited to play but the games within the group got highly competitive, so we had to start taking notes of our battles. After several hours we finally stopped in some god forsaken village in the middle of nowhere. We were starving and Conor with his now legendary appetite left the bus to find us food. But he wasn't even out the door before he was surrounded by Argentinians trying to sell him all sorts of food and drinks. It was as if the paparazzi had just saw Britney Spears stumbling out of a limo, but instead of America's favourite drunken mess, it was our favourite drunken mess. After spending the equivalent of a little under 5 euros Conor had rolls, sandwiches, drinks and a big wheel of cheese for all of us to much on. Some of it wasn't that edible but at that moment in time we didn't really care. After finishing some of Argentina's famous crustless sparsely filled sandwiches, we watched what must be the worst film of all time, and I've seen some really bad movies. 'All Babes Want To Kill Me' takes us through the life of a caucasian ninja born into a Japanese family. As a child we spent his days eating paint which for some reason made him perspire a scent that drove women so mad with anger that they'd tried to kill him. The film was written, directed and starred the same guy, Colin Miller, which is normally a good way to tell that a movie is crap. It wasn't even that the film was soooo bad that is was funny, it was just plain bad. And because it was on the bus's TV monitors we couldn't turn it off or turn down the volume. Pure torture.
We finally get some food thanks to Conor!
High School Musical Top Trumps Results
After a grueling 20 hour journey we finally reached the boarder town of La Quiaca in northern Argentina. It was hardly dawn when the bus stopped and it was freezing. We quickly put on all the clothes we could find. And after having nothing but sunshine since we landed in Rio weeks ago, this was quite difficult to find anything warm. We also had no idea where to go in this little town and no buses to taxis were allowed cross the border... and our bus was the only vehicle in the town anyway. Slowly a line of backpackers started following the one person who had done some homework for our journey to a small bridge a couple of kilometers outside of the town.
After getting stamped we started wondering aimlessly around the streets of the Bolivia side of the border in the town of Villazon. There were endless shops spilling on to the streets offering all sorts of counterfeit goods and indigenous styled clothing. The town had an erie feel as most of the buildings were run down and nobody here had any English, some of the people didn't even have Spanish as they only spoke Quechua, the indigenous language. It kinda felt like that movie black hawk down, without all the war and helicopters... and black people... so it really wasn't anything like that film, but I guess we did have heavy backpacks.
The freezing cold border at about 7am
Bolivia didn't seem that inviting
And we loved Argentina
We then went looking for something to eat with only one preference. We didn't care what we ate as we knew everything in Bolivia will make you sick no matter what, the restaurant just needed to have ESPN. But we would of been lucky to even find a place with a TV let alone satellite TV, this was the 3rd world after all. After visiting a couple of places we did manage to find one place that not only had ESPN but also served whole chickens... that's right Quinno, we were watchin Munster in the Heineken Cup final with a whole chicken... each! It was probably nowhere near as good as actually being there but it was the best we could do.
We then headed to the train station and after suffering through their horrible toilets (which Ian probably made a little worse) we randomly ran into our friends from Buenos Aires, Daz and Andy who had seats right beside Jack and Ian on the train. The train to Uyuni was quite comfortable and since we meet the lads we were all exchanging stories and having a laugh. This meant we didn't have to suffer through the awful Bolivian music videos being played aloud throughout the carriages. We also had a chance to admire the barren landscape of remote Bolivia. We even opened the window and peered into the distance and narrated our travelling journey in the style of Micheal Palin. After doozing off on the train we were awoken at the end of our journey at about midnight by the Bolivian Army's Brass Band playing full blasted marching up and down the station at Uyuni. We found our hostel and after a Wizard of Oz style encounter with the door man we headed to bed in the coldest hostel of all time. We tried our best to put on more clothes, hats, socks and gloves and wrapped ourselves in everything we could. The next morning we went for "Aqua Cliente" (hot water) showers which was this cold tap perched high in a little room with a drain. It also had a contraption that anyone who has travelled South American will know about. Its a funny little white cylinder which attaches to the a tap to become a shower head and creates "Aqua Cliente". To produce aqua cliente it must be connected to the mains and Bolivian electrical work is only surpassed by the inability to cook. So we all had our cold showers & electric shocks and headed off for our Salt Plains tour.
The mighty Munster on ESPN while we ate loads of chicken
A little Micheal Palin moment for Derek
The train through the Bolivian Desert
"I always bring a pen with me! Wait, where's it gone??!!" - Conor, who never has a pen
"AAAAWWWKKKK....mmmm I'm not swallowing that" - Dave clears his throat the morning after the night before
"A litre???!! whats that in centimetres cubed??!!" - Jack becoming too accustomed to the ridiculous measurements used in South America
"Horstitute" - Tilly trying to explain what "putting a horse out to stud" means