Mountains! Waterfalls! Food Poisoning! Salt! And so much more...
16.02.2012 - 12.03.2012
I apologize for the delay in this post. Internet in Bolivia was hard to come by, and I admit once I began procrastinating, it became difficult to motivate myself to hunker down and write this post. But now we're in Argentina, I have great internet at our hostel, and my female companions are off riding horses so I simply cannot delay writing to you all any longer. I hope you, my faithful readers, can forgive my tardiness... I only hope I am not too late and that you have not simply lost faith in me.
We left the jungle and spent one final night in Cuzco. Drawn by the convenience, we returned to the dreaded Loki, but found it emptier than usual. We were informed by the obnoxious bar manager that February is always slow in Peru because rumors about Machu Picchu being closed tend to spread around that time. We were delighted to have a relaxed night, and got the hell out of there first thing in the morning. We took a bus out east to Puno, a small town on Lake Titicaca that is also very near to the Bolivian Border. I'll just start by saying this: Puno sucks. There are no redeeming qualities to make up for its grubby and charmless appearance. You might say, "but Gregory, surely Lake Titicaca, the mystical lake where Incan creation stories claim life itself began, is a sight to behold!" Well yes, it certainly is... if you can look past the landfill that is the shoreline. We managed to enjoy ourselves nonetheless, because lo and behold, it was the final weekend of Carnivale! Our hostel owner befriended us and brought us along to the town's big final party in something that resembled a town hall. He didn't speak English, and through the bits of his speech we understood, it seemed that we were being sneaked into the party. He told us to put our hoods up because we were "too white." We began to feel uneasy, and extremely uncomfortable. We made it in unscathed though, and proceeded to attract hundreds of confused stares as we were the only four gringos in the entire building, and stuck out like the sorest of all thumbs. Our host then introduced us to his friends, and brought over crate after crate of beer. He wouldn't even let us finish a beer before shoving a new one into our white paws. After a while the Cuzceña lubricated the whole situation, and we didn't feel so out of place anymore. We met a fellow from Florida who was married to a local and he informed us that we had stumbled into the biggest party in Puno, and that we were witnessing "the Rush of Peru" performing on stage. I'll just tell you now, seeing the Rush of Peru is like seeing the Pope of Israel... it just doesn't translate in a meaningful way. It was one of the most bizarre traveling experiences I've ever had. There were children playing amidst their drunken parents, there was a elderly woman in traditional garb passed out in a chair right next to us, there were more crates of beer than in all of Ireland, and the bathrooms were so full of intoxicated Peruvians that most ceased to use a toilet altogether and simply relieved themselves on the floor. And with that strange, blurry night behind us, we bid farewell to Peru.
We crossed the border (or lack thereof) into Bolivia the next day and spent a few days in Copacabana, another small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We stayed in our worst hostel yet, complete with moldy bathrooms and the most uncomfortable, lumpy, and sheetless beds imaginable. It was a pleasant enough town though. We went rowboating on the Lake, climbed a nearby hill, and ate some atrociously unpalatable food... welcome to Bolivian cuisine. The rest of our companions went out to the Isla del Sol and the Isla de la Luna while Georgia and I stayed behind due to a toe injury that rendered her invalid for a few days. We went from Copacabana to La Paz, but left immediately for a nearby town by the name of Coroico. There used to be only one road to Coroico, and so many people died on it that it was nicknamed "the death road." Luckily, a new road was built recently, and we made it there without careening of the mountain's edge. Coroico was quite possibly the most beautiful place we've been so far. It contains dense jungle vegetation, beautiful waterfalls, and misty mountains. We swam in a nearby waterfall, but aside from that we mostly just sat back and enjoyed the scenery. From Coroico we returned to La Paz, this time to actually spend a series of nights there. We wandered about the gigantic city and visited the local markets. We stopped at the witches market where they sell knickknacks and llama fetuses which are apparently thrown under the foundations of 99% of Bolivian homes for good luck... the fetuses, not the knickknacks. We also visited their largest market and wandered for a few hours only to realize that a good ninety nine percent of the stuff they sold there was absolute garbage... I left with empty hands and sore ankles. We made a stop in Sucre after that, and enjoyed staying in a fabulous hostel for a few nights. It had a wonderful kitchen, so we got to take a break from Bolivian cuisine and eat something that had a flavour in it that wasn't salt. I don't know what it is about Bolivia, they eat so much salt I can barely believe it. The other day we saw a man dumping salt on his salad. We made a day trip out of Sucre to a nearby town with a nice little market in it. While there we also ate some of the worst food we've come across... salty chicken broth soup with french fries in it followed by their quinua dish which was: plain quinua with salty melted cheese on top. We took a rickety overnight bus from Salta to Uyuni, which is home to the Salar de Uyuni, some of the world's most spectacular salt flats. Uyuni is a poor excuse for a town, but the salt flats were absolutely amazing. The ground is a gigantic mass of white salt with about an inch of water on top of it. It doesn't sound like much, but it basically acts as a gigantic mirror reflecting the sky. Look at some pictures of it... it looks like you're walking on clouds. We had a great photo shoot, a little picnic, and salty shoes, but it was really quite something. After the salt flats, we started making our way to Argentina, with just a short stop in Tupiza. The town was charming, and I even took part in a local type of purge. It was so easy, it simply involved eating their food! I left for the border the next day weighing about 20 pounds less... I had left everything in my digestive tract, and I mean everything, in the bathroom of our hostel.
Crossing the border into Argentina was a completely different experience than crossing the border into Bolivia. Apparently the Chilean-Argentinian border was closed due to a discovery of landmines, and so the border crossing we found ourselves at was busier than a Walmart on Black Friday. We waited in line for about five hours in the heat of the day, cursing our luck and the ineptitude of Bolivian officials. At the end of that line was one Bolivian man leisurely stamping passports and chatting with his friend... we were out of Bolivia, but not yet into Argentina. From there we waiting another three or four hours in line to get into Argentina, praying the whole time that the border would not close and leave us stranded between the two countries. We waited, I stepped in dog poop, a little boy peed on the bridge we were standing on, babies cried, dogs fought, and finally we made it into Argentina. We immediately hopped on an overnight bus and headed to Salta. Our day had started at 8 in the morning on the 10th, and ended at about 11 in the morning on the 11th... it was the longest day we've had yet. We're still in Salta right now in a lovely hostel run by the friendliest and most helpful gentlemen, with hot showers, a new kitchen, and beds with sheets. Argentina is just so wonderful it makes me want to cry. Every frustrating thing about Bolivia just isn't an issue here. There aren't people trying to shove worthless goods down your throat, there isn't garbage everywhere, their Spanish isn't a mangled slur, their food is not a salty mass of garbage. Don't get me wrong, Bolivia was great, but it just seemed to wear us all down with time. We leave tomorrow to take a 17 hour bus to Buenos Aires where we have a beautiful apartment booked for the next two weeks.
And that my dear readers, is all for now.