A Travellerspoint blog

Bus To Bolivia

Destination 3rd World

sunny 4 °C
View Otatu - Our Trip Around The Universe on TADtheband's travel map.

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

Posted by TADtheband 21:42 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Che's Gaff, Cordoba

Ireland (feat. Dave) Vs Argentina

sunny 28 °C

We arrived in Cordoba in the morning and started off with a walking tour of the city. Our guide was the beautiful Vitoria who would continually play with her hair as she told us the tales of the city. Even though we didn't have the slightest bit of interest in the all churches she was showing us, we were totally mesmerized by her Latin accent and her womanly ways. She took us to downtown Cordoba and that's when the history finally started to get interesting.

Firstly we went to the underground Jesuit crypt which was made from forgotten foundations of an attempted cathedral which was never built. The Jesuits used them for years as a quiet place to pray. They had no natural light, it smelt weird and it was hardly four foot in height at times. They were then used as mass graves when cholera ravaged the population in the 1800s. They were then rediscovered in 1989 and most of the labyrinth was converted for art exhibitions, although most of it still stinks. Derek worked out that he was roughly the same height as the Jesuits and had no problem strolling around while the rest of us slouched around... happy out!

We then headed to the jails where left minded protestors in the 1970s where tortured. Police would break into homes at night a drag anybody who was alleged to be a part of leftist movement to the nearest jail. Then they packed them ten to a cell with no windows, only a letter box of light. The prisoners would live in their own filth and would hardly ever live out their sentences. So we locked Dave Blainey in the jail for invading the Falklands. Vitoria really got our attention when she started talking about the 1978 World Cup. Apparently, the Argentine's and brought the world cup to their country to distract people from the military regime that was suppressing the nation. They then fixed all their matches so the Argentinean people would be blinded by the success of their team, so the government could continue to jail and torture anyone they believed to be apart of a possible socialist uprising.

A church that they didn't even bother to finish

They burnt this one

Deep inside the Jesuit crypt

The center of the converted Jail

Now we know why the legendary Dutch team inspired by Cryuff never won a World Cup, it was all a conspiracy to suppress the masses. We finished up at the first university that was established in Argentina where we grabbed some dinner and enjoyed the "scenery". The day itself was a scorcher and the long walk got the better of us, we also had a big hangover from our wine antics in Mendoza.

The next day we walked to the shopping district so Conor could get a new charger after melting his first. We also were still in search of the infamous Point Break DVD. After checking a couple of DVD shops without joy, we found a small DVD kiosk where they just burn DVDs as you request them. It took ages to describe the film in our crappy Spanish but it wasn't until we brought out our charade skills did the man recall the movie we were searching for. He searched his database and predictably he had no luck. He proceeded to call 5 other places and still nowhere had it. It wasn't as if the film wasn't released in South America, everyone we asked about it knew of the movie. We took a stroll over to a huge Phoenix Park style park and brought a little picnic with us. We had a lovely time and finished off the day by skimming stones on the lake and shooting the breeze as sun bid us goodbye.

We hit the town that night but struggled to find a crowd. We did find an Argie wearing a 1995 Everton jersey sponsored by Danka... pretty feckin' legendary. There were a lot of arty hippy types out but no one was really up for the craic. So we got hammered and started annoying people at random. The Everton guy knew nothing about Everton... and probably didn't want to know... but we wore the ear off him telling about legendary players and how they won the FA cup against all odds. Then, full of red bull and divelment, we proceed to annoy the bar staff, the hotdog guy and a taxi driver (who drove us around the world when we drifted off for a while) before waking up the whole hostel as we arrived home... which was the hostels own fault for not putting us all in the same room!

The lads go shopping for some good, honest, locally sourced food

Tilly acting the maggot

A couple of bottles by the park

The following morning/afternoon we went for another tour in a town about 20 minutes outside Cordoba, it was a bit like the Malahide of Cordoba. We were off to visit a Jesuit settlement and Che Guevara's first house and Leandro was our guide. We followed Leandro around the settlement and learnt how the Jesuits were the nice guys compared to the Spanish conquistadors who just went around killing everyone and pillaging everywhere. Once again Derek was in his element, never having to crouch while walking through the buildings. There were a couple of English gap year students on the tour with us and they had the cheek not even be hot, let alone sound. We managed to survive their company as they completely ignore us, apart from our occasionally hilarious comedic remarks during the tour... they lapped them up without contributing anything to the group. In fairness they were probably the only English people we meet that we didn't get along with. Since we left for South America we found that every Brit that we met was either sound or absolutely legendary! No wonder they ruled the world for so long... they're lovely!

Leandro then took us to one of the most expensive and most exclusive hotels in Argentina. The beautiful building stood on top of a hill with rolling gardens leading down to a spectacular view of the landscape. This place was so classy that it had clay tennis courts! wow! It was the first time Jack had even laid the eyes on one. Although we shouldn't of been that surprised because David Nalbandian, currently 7th in the world, is from Cordoba. We were itching for a game but unfortunately we didn't have our whites or rackets so we didn't get a chance to cover ourselves in red dust. We stopped for some lunch and enjoyed some matte. Matte is a drink like hot tea that is drank religiously from fancy little containers with even fancier little straws. Apparently everybody brings around hot water in a flask, a little matte cup & straw and a bag of matte herbs. Its a surprisingly nice drink even in the heat... but never drink it before drinking beer, we found out that you'll end up sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time if you do. After this, Leandro introduced us to a brand new hilarious game. We went over to the lake and Leandro told us to pick up a stone, run up to the lake and throw it as far as we could... with our bad hand. The stones hardly travelled 5 yards and Leandro was in stitches, "You guys look like gays" he laughed. Throwing stuff with your bad hand in hilarious fun.

Our next stop was Che Guevara’s childhood home which was located in a nice middle class part of town. The house takes you through Che's life. As a child he suffered from asthma and was forced to sit and watch his friends play so now there's a statue of a child sitting on the porch watching out longingly. Derek found the little statue fascinating and had us in stitches as he worked little Che into many a sexual position.

Messin on the bus

Derek fits in perfectly

Outside the Jesuit settlement

Sneaking food into the place, say nothin'

Havin' a slash Jesuit style

Actual clay courts... wow!

Wandering around the fancey hotel

Derek and Jack failing to master a jumping photo

Derek befriending a young Che Guevara

Che's Gaff

He was a surprisingly handsome man in his day

We then learned about his life as a doctor and saw the bike that he drove while travelling around South America. If you have seen the Motorcycle Diary's you'll know the bike I'm talking about. We all noticed that Che was indeed a very handsome man in his day, before he got the beard and militant get up. The irony of it all was that he hated commercialism yet there was now a "Che Shop" selling all sorts of merchandise bearing the famous his silhouette. More importantly there were two incredibly hot Argentinean girls who loved our accents. But alas, our lack of Spanish and their broken English just left us all standing around being awkward. Leandro spotted this and decided that we needed to learn something a little different... something that he doesn't normally tell his tour groups... how to chat up girls using Latin Spanish. Leandro explained that argentine men tend to be quite aggressive when it comes to women and we had to compete with this. But we had an ace up our sleeves according to our friend... we were foreign and rich! He was convinced that no matter how badly we'd attempt his chat up lines (why don't you kiss me? you've beautiful eyes, you are a man killer) we'd definitely score. We didn't, not one girl understood what we were trying to say that night. But fortunately, it was a student city so there we're plenty of girls with near perfect English.

The small hostel we were staying in offered a homemade style dinner each night, and that night it was Disco Chicken. Now I don't know what was exactly "disco" about this chicken but it sure was delicious. It was a nice hostel but there wasn't much craic. They did have a weekly football match between staff and residents. So we went down to this community centre where they had muck pitches, not tarmac, not cement nor grass... just muck. It was a six-a-side game under floodlights in the evening heat. We had our English friend Dave Blainey who qualified for Ireland under the granny rule and one of the hostel staff played with us too, although we did doubt his commitment until he started busting in to his countrymen on the other team.

The game started off badly for the Ireland with the well drilled argentines cutting through an unorganised Irish defence. Conor decided to sit back and tackle hard and with Derek beside him handling the distribution. This gave the team a much needed structure. Dave Blainey ran riot in the hole and with the two lads behind him he had the freedom show off his talents. Tilson and McCarthy formed a lethal combination up front. McCarthy was the target man using his arse to guard and hold on to the ball as Tilson and Blainey made runs into the box. This formation also counteracted Magee's tendency to score numerous own goals which nearly cost them against England in Mendoza.

As Ireland came back into the game and took the lead the Argentineans started to tackle a little harder and play a little rougher. The Irish relished in this challenge and the Argentineans found themselves shoved up against the walls, sandwiched by tackles and falling face first in the muck... and a lot of this was done by McCarthy's arse. Then, in what became regular event during the next few months of our travels, Ian's bowels began to rumble and he ran off to the toilets leaving Ireland a man short. At first the Irish decided to batten down the hatches and sit on their lead. But the ten man syndrome kicked in and McCarthy and Dave found themselves in loads of room as the argentines pushed forward trying to take advantage of the Ian's rectal problems... he was gone for a good 15 minutes.

Derek and Conor also pushed forward when they had the chance and the goals were flying in. Argentina couldn't find away to stop the counter attacking tactics of Ireland. The Argies would get numerous corners after being forced to shoot from distance. Then Ireland would easily clear the ball to McCarthy who'd find himself one on one with the keeper. Blainey was blasting the ball from all angles and every shot found itself buried in the top corner, the boy couldn't put the ball wide, every shot was a screamer. When Tilson finally reappeared Ireland were able to contain the Argentineans attacks and began to solidify their lead. The Argies were quite agitated by this and one or two disputes could have led to blows but thankfully nothing happened. Our time ran out but we all decided to play on if it was possible. The manager of the place said that we could play for another 20 minutes and the argentine's thought that this might be their chance to get back into the game, especially after seeing some of Ireland's tired and disappointed faces after hearing that they would be playing for another 20 minutes.

But as Argentina pushed forward for goals, Ireland started turning on the style. Tilson was found on several occasions running down the pitch while soloing the ball. Then he scored a volley from his own half which even had the angry Argentineans applauding. Dave's skills, long shots and use of the walls led to numerous goals. Derek was constantly hitting Alonso style passes for McCarthy to finish in the back of the onion bag. And Conor found room to burst forward and blast the ball at from distance since he didn't have to cover for the weak Argentinean that was on our team. He even managed not score an own goal this time, go Conor!

The Argentine’s were very graceful after the match and we went out with them that night. They took us to a club that was full women and the DJ played great music that we actually recognised... this was a rarity in Argentina. They were a great bunch of lads and they loved our Irish tuxedo t-shirts.

Ireland out celebrating another win... unbeaten in Argentina!

Derek learns how to tango... it has nothing to do with orange flavoured drinks or slaps in the face!

Our opposition joined us for some drinking madness

Derek getting the dragon all wrong, its meant to be sexy Derek!

Jack caugh out by Ian's stylish black and white phase.

The next day we headed downtown to a sports bar to watch the champion’s league final. There wasn't much of an atmosphere but after we shuffled half the furniture in the place to surround the TV people started wondering in. The toilets in the place had life size pictures of the "Pepsi Soccer Girls", who were like the Argentinean cheerleaders... it was one of the best toilets we'd ever been in. Conor had absolutely no sense of direction in Cordoba and was continually getting lost when left to his own devices. He was making a phone call when we left for the sports bar which was hardly 5 minutes from the hostel. It wasn't until half time before Conor finally arrived at the bar, out of breath and confused. As you might remember, it was a great match, full of drama. Conor was getting very angry as his beloved Manchester United locked horns with the Chelsea millionaires. United held their composure under the pressure of penalties and won the game. But Conor's reaction to Van der Sar's save against Anelka's penalty was of such anger you would of thought Manchester had lost the match.

For our last dinner in Argentina we went to a rock'n roll themed steak house across from the sports bar. Once again we struggled with our menu as it was in Spanish. Ian, who has never eaten fish, found himself with a mouth full of calamari after ordering what he thought were onion rings. The steaks, as usual, were ridiculously big, our waitress was ridiculously hot and we had a ridiculous amount of cocktails. All in all it was a great way to end our time in Argentina. We headed to the bus station after a tearful goodbye to Dave who was on his way down south to chase some skirt. He sprinted down the street after our taxis as we saw his tearful face for the final time... it was emotional.

Til and Conor share a special moment


"Look at those silhouettes!" "They're not cigarettes, they're people." - Derek and Tilly getting their lines confused

"Oh my god, he was gorgeous!" - The lads when they saw the poster of Che Guevara in his 20s

"Hahaha they're not onion rings!" - Derek just after Ian fills his mouth with the breaded crustations

"Oh! I need a shit" - Ian... several times a day

"f... sake Tilly" - All the lads rolling their eyes to the heavens as Til runs down the pitch soloing the ball before planting it in the back of the net

Posted by TADtheband 05:33 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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