Sucre (7 May 2012)

Okay, so this is two years later, and we still haven’t finished our blog on the 4 month Americas trip in 2012. So this is a next step towards finishing our blog about our adventures in Bolivia..Last time I blogged, we were at the end of our Salar de Uyuni trip and dropped of at Uyuni where we booked an overnight bus with Matthieu and Sonia.

The overnight bus from Uyuni to Sucre was an 8 hour nightmare. Luckily it was only 8 hours and not 16 hours like one of the bus rides in Argentina. The “semi-cama” bus was more like a local bus, no leg space, no reclining seats, and a crazy bus driver going much faster than he should. The two promised bathroom breaks happened next to the bus (literally). Definitely a culture shock. Luckily we arrived safe and sound in Sucre at around 5 am the next morning – super tired. We didn’t book a hostel in advance, so the four of us (Matthieu and Sonia went along)¬†went in search of a place to stay. We took a taxi to the first hostel, and then walked to two more hostels before finding a place to sleep. We only stayed until 10 am, checked out and went in search of a better place to stay. After the Salar tour, we were all looking forward to a little bit more luxury. Cobus and I first checked out, and about 2 km further we found a nice 3star hostel (more like a hotel). A little bit later Matthieu and Sonia arrived at the same place ūüôā

Our first day in Sucre were spent sleeping. We didn’t have energy for anything else, except finding something to eat. Also, all the busses and taxis were on a strike, so we couldn’t really go far. For dinner we went to a great bar/restaurant, called¬†Florin.¬†Cobus had some catfish, and I had a llama steak. Both meals were prepared to perfection, and we can absolutely recommend this place.

Dinner at Florin, and a stroll around the town square

Dinner at Florin, and a stroll around the town square

The following day we tried to book an excursion going to one of the nearby communities outside of Sucre. To our surprise, the answer was the same everywhere – none of the excursions were 100% safe to book, since they didn’t know when the roadblocks will be open again. There were suppose to be a strike everyday of the week the week we were in Sucre. So having not much to do except stroll around in the city, we went to the much advertised Dinosaur museum in their Dinosaur bus. There were lots of lifesize plastic dinosaurs around which was cool, and far away (really far away)¬†in the distance you could see the dinosaur tracks. Funny thing is you had to pay to get inside the museum, and then you also had to pay to use the binoculars in order to see the dinosaur tracks in the far distance. The museum hasn’t been open for too long, so with a few more years and more funding, hopefully they’ll be able to make it much nicer. At the moment it might be better do book a bike tour to a different place outside the city where you can see other dinosaur tracks up close. Back at the hostel we were advised to book a bus for the Wednesday night to La Paz, otherwise we might get stuck in Sucre for a while due to all the roadblocks. We booked the same bus as Matthieu and Sonia, and then joined them for dinner¬†at a closeby Italian restaurant. The restaurant was in the owners house, and with the owner being Italian, it ensured a great atmosphere and great food.

The dinosaur museum

The dinosaur museum

Dinner with Matthieu and Sonia at Cafe Monterosso

Dinner with Matthieu and Sonia at Cafe Monterosso

On Wednesday we didn’t book any tours, since we thought we will be leaving that night. We checked out at the hostel, and went sightseeing in the city. We also tried to find flight tickets from La Paz to Rurrenabaque in the Amazon basin as we weren’t up for a very bumpy 18 hour bus ride in Bolivia’s semi-cama busses. In the afternoon we were¬†surprised to find out that all busses were cancelled for that night due to roadblocks between Sucre and La Paz. No busses were scheduled for the rest of the week. We ended up spending the rest of our Wednesday finding a way to get out of Sucre. The agency who were helping us (I think their name is Real Andean Adventure) was an experience in itself. The two woman working there were not so good in dealing with lots of customers. It seemed the way they were trying to keep everyone happy, was to help everyone a little bit, then, not finishing, help someone else a little bit, then someone else, then getting back to you, then moving on again. In the end, everyone were helped during the same time period, whether you were there first or last. I think we spent 3 hours in there.¬†It was crazy! I almost went crazy! The¬†cherry on top¬†was of course when the lady made a mistake with our booking and we lost our tickets to Rurrenabaque on the Saturday. The next flight we could get was on the Sunday. At that point we decided to go to another agency who managed to book a flight for us on the Saturday to La Paz and the Sunday to Rurrenabaque (at least we knew they made no mistake this time).

On Thursday we visited La Recoleta, where the Mirador and the Franciscan monastery are situated. The Mirador, with its sweeping terrace decorated with white columns and arches, is situated on the plaza of La Recoleta and offers a beautiful panaromic view of the whole city. This Franciscan monastery was founded in 1601 and is one of the most beautiful examples of colonial architecture in all of Bolivia. The monastery museum is worthwhile for its anonymous sculptures and paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries, including numerous interpretations of St Francis of Assisi. One of the highlights is the magnificent wooden carvings on the church choir seats dating back to the 1870s, each one intricate and unique, representing the 26 martyrs who were crucified in 1597 in Nagasaki  (they were all Franciscan missionaries in Japan).

Mirador with Franciscan monastary and view over the city

Mirador with Franciscan monastary and view over the city

Inside the monastery - beautiful woodwork, a very old cellar, and gardens

Inside the monastery – beautiful woodwork, a very old cellar, and gardens

We also went to the Museo de Arte Indigena in an¬†old building¬†close to the Mirador.¬†The museum is part of a project to revive hand-woven crafts of Bolivia. There are a series of exhibition rooms and a shop selling woven goods. It seems that someone did extensive research on Jalq’a and Tarabuco weaving (two different ethnic groups) so lots of¬†insightful information was¬†available¬†– you can¬†get an English¬†version of all the information in the museum in the form of a book. There is an extensive display of examples of modern weaving by the Jalq’a And Tarabuco weavers – both very different. The Jalq’a come from around Potolo valley and their weaving always uses red and black. The patterns chosen is characters from the spiritual realm (for example demons). Every piece is different¬†and¬†designs are inspired by dreams with¬†no written record of the different patterns. All are done from memory and passed down from mother to daughter. Tarabuco designs, on the other hand, focus on scenes from everyday life, for example animals, people working, etc. The background is always white with the characters woven in different colours including black, blue, purple, red, yellow and¬†orange. We were also privileged to see¬†a Jalq’a woman weaving¬†– it¬†was¬†fascinating to¬†watch her. We tried to figure out what she was doing, but the method of weaving seemed very complicated. We definitely recommend a visit to this museum!

The weaving museum - definitely worth a visit

The weaving museum – definitely worth a visit

Since we spend so much time in the museum, we didn’t have much daylight left. However, we stopped at a few shops and appreciated some local art. We also passed through Plaza 25 de Mayo, the colonial heart of the city surrounded by¬†many of Sucre’s most important¬†historic buildings and restaurants. We visited a small coffee shop called Flavour, with some of the yummiest sandwiches we have had on our trip. The restaurant owner is¬†also Dutch like the owner of Florin – there seems to be quite a lot of Europeans living in Sucre. That evening we treated ourselves to some pizza bought from a street vendor. The pizzas are made in a portable little pizza oven – Cobus was very impressed by the simple yet practical design. We also went to a traditional dancing show Origenes – it was a bit touristy, but very insightful and interesting to see all the different types of dances in Bolivia.

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

On Friday, our last day in Sucre, we decided to visit the local food market. We tasted as far as we went and had a great time. Our favourite remains the¬†fruit salad section where you can order a fresh fruit salad or smoothie¬†topped with cream. All the fruit salad vendors look exactly the same, and they all try to compete for your business. Actually, in all the different sections, the vendors in that section look exactly the same. It’s like visiting a market in Africa – everyone sells exactly the same thing! We also visited a few local art shops, and bought ourselves 2 table cloths. It was about all we could fit into our backpacks…

The market and the pizza oven

The market and the pizza oven

We left our hostel the Saturday morning early by taxi – luckily there was no taxi strikes that day so we could get to the airport in time for our flight to La Paz.

1 Cor 13:4-5

4¬†Love is patient, love is kind…, 5 … is not easily provoked.

Salar de Uyuni (3 May 2012)

Our Salar de Uyuni Jeep tour organised by¬†Turistur¬†Los Salares started between 7 and 8 am on the 3rd of May. Our group consisted of 6 people, namely the¬†guide and his wife who was the cook (Segundino and Porfidia), a French couple we met that morning (Mattieu and Sonia), and Cobus and I. From Tupiza, the salt flats and lagoons tour takes 4 days to Uyuni. If you do the salt flats and lagoons tour from Uyuni, most of the companies do 3 day tours (since you don’t see the landscape covered on the first day from Tupiza). Our Jeep was fairly comfortable, accept for the 2 seats in the back, and¬†Cobus had some difficulty to sit there with his long legs. Other than that, the Jeep was perfect for the tour. It was also clear from the start that Segundino was a very responsible driver, for which we were grateful.

The first day’s drive took us through dry but beautiful mountainous landscapes, a lot of altitude gain, small isolated towns, deserted towns, llama herds and extreme temperatures from warm to cold. The first day was a long day in the Jeep – we were trying to cover as much ground as possible in order to take it more easy the following days, when there were more to see. We stopped in a small isolated town for lunch, where Porfidia provided us with a nice cold meal. The inhabitants of the town was not¬†as curious as we expected and no one came to greet us, probably because so many tours stop there. The children seemed more curious, but once they saw a camera, they turned their faces and walked away. The Bolivian people didn’t seem to be very fond of having their pictures taken – according to a guide book some of them believe that a photo captures their spirit.

From top left to bottom right. 1. Our Jeep. 2. Santos 3. The dramatic landscapes of the first day. 4. The llama herd. 5 – 8. The town and surroundings where we had lunch.

After lunch, we passed by a big llama herd (cool!!) and through¬†the ghost¬†town San Antonio, which¬†some tourists¬†refer to as “small Machu Picchu” at a very high altitude of 4690 metres. According to legend,¬†the town was famous for its wealth of gold, but the devil ruled there and forced the¬†suffering villagers to flee.¬†Here we had our first encounter with a strange animal, the Viscacha, which looks like a cross between a squirrel and a rabbit and hops like a kangaroo. Further along the way, we also saw Vicu√Īas, a relative of the Llama. Vicu√Īas are wild animals¬†and¬†look similar to the llama with less wool. Later we saw¬†a beautiful sunset, got our first sighting of one of the¬†high altitude lagoons, and arrived at¬†Quetena Chico¬†between 8 and 9 pm in freezing temperature.¬†The hostel where we stayed was basic as they told us, with no showers, cold water and uncomfortable dorm rooms beds. All the hostels in these small isolated towns provide similar facilities. Porfidia quickly supplied us with warm coffee, hot chocolate and cookies, and started preparing dinner in the kitchen. It felt so strange having a cook and¬†guide doing everything for us – I guess that it is part of what you pay for, but still not something we are used to. A second group from the same company stayed over in the same hostel. When dinner was served, we realised that we definitely got the better cook of the two, in fact, we had a great cook! Her vegetable soup was DELICIOUS¬†with lots of flavour. After dinner, we went to bed with¬†almost all our¬†clothes on (it was so cold) including our beanies, thermals, gloves and socks.

Top left to bottom right: Our first sight of the snow covered Andes peaks; passing out from lack of oxygen in the ghost town; a viscacha; the first high altitude lake we saw; sunset

The next morning we were back in the Jeep again at 8h30, with an eventful day ahead. There was lots of lagoons on the list of sights, and it included visiting¬†the Polques¬†hot springs (which sounded great considering the cold weather).¬† On the way to the first lagoon, we passed through a type of marshland with all the water frozen. What amazed us was that the llamas were grazing in these icy cold frozen “grassland” and did not¬†seem to be affected by the cold at all.

Ice cold

Continuing our journey, we arrived at the first lagoon, Laguna Kollpa. The lagoon was still frozen half, however, 5 flamingos dared standing in the water. The surrounding landscape is desert area, which makes the water such a special sight. The second lagoon was home to more flamingos, and were less frozen. It was also a little more beautiful with a nicer setting, but very similar.

Laguna Kollpa and a random giraffe walking on water.

After the first two lagoons, we passed through more¬†arid landscapes and the Salar de Chalviri (salt flat). We reached the hot springs at noon, where we stopped for lunch. The number of other Jeep tours increased exponentially at the hot springs as the tours starting from Uyuni joined the scene.¬†While we were warming ourselves in the hot water, Porfidia prepared another delicious meal for us. After lunch we continued to Laguna Blanco¬†(white lagoon)¬†and Laguna Verde (green lagoon) at an elevation of 4300 metres. The colour of the water of Laguna Verde is different shades of blue/green, depending on the time of the day.¬†Its colour is caused by sediments, containing copper minerals. The Licancabur volcano in the background makes a beautiful picture. We arrived at the lagoon a bit late, as the colour of the water wasn’t so bright as just before noon.

The salt plains, hot springs (with Matthieu and Sonia) and Laguna Verde

It was freezing cold at Laguna Verde, so we didn’t stay for too long and continued our journey north to the Sol de Ma√Īana geysers at an altitude of 5000 metres. The geysers were an interesting and great smelling site (just joking). Needless to say, at 5000 metres it was even colder than at Laguna Verde. Added to that we were all struggling to get enough oxygen at the high altitude. However,¬†it was definitely worth seeing the surreal landscape of steam and boiling mud.

The geysers

Our last stop for the day was Laguna Colorada (red lagoon). It turned out to be¬†our¬†favourite Laguna. The lagoon is a shallow salt water lake containing red sediments and algae whose pigmentation result in the reddish colour of the lagoon’s water. The lagoon also contains white¬†borax islands and blue water areas,¬†contrasting with the red coloured water. Hundreds of flamingos feed on the algae in the water. It is really a¬†spectacular¬†but unusual¬†sight.

Laguna Colorada

Our day ended at a nearby hostel in Wayllajara, which was even more basic than the previous one. It was also much colder than the previous night, but luckily there was a fireplace where we could warm ourselves. We played a card game, and in true Potgieter tradition¬†we¬†taught¬†Sonia and Matthieu¬†the game “poepkop”. Porfidia supplied us with hot water bottles for the night,¬†for which we were very¬†grateful.¬†Despite the hot water bottle, I¬†woke up in the middle¬†of the night¬†struggling to stay warm. Luckily there were extra blankets¬†I could use.

Top left to bottom right: Facing the below zero temperatures outside; getting warm around the fire; the poepkoppe; the dorm rooms in the hostels; early morning; kersvader

The first stop on the third day of the tour was the petrified volcanic rock formation called Arbol de Piedra. The surrounding landscape was dry desert with no water or anything green in sight (the Desierto de Siloli). We saw some vegetation returning after a few kilometres. The higher peaks of the Andes in the far distance were covered with snow.

The petrified tree (Arbol de piedra) and surrounding desert. After a few kilometres some vegetation returned.

We reached some more high altitude lagoons with the mountains reflecting in the water and lots of flamingos – great for photos!

Stunning reflections in the high altitude lakes

One of the last lagoons we passed by – there was lost of flamingos. Absolutely gorgeous scenery.

After enjoying the scenery at the lagoons, we had lunch further along the route with the semi-active Ollague volcano in the background. One could see smoke rising from the volcano.

Extreme sports near the volcano: 1. Eating 2. Looking over the edge 3. Push-ups 4. Jumping over the volcano

We continued to the town San Juan de Rosaria and visited the necropolis (mummy graveyard) and museum. It felt a bit creepy looking at all the skeletons, but it was still interesting. The¬†oval shaped tombs were constructed¬†from¬†volcanic rock. They believe royalty was buried in this graveyard (due to the elongated skulls). The royalty were buried in the fetal position according to their believes of being born into a new life after death together with personal items and offerings. Continuing from the necropolis we passed some of the farms where they cultivated quinoa. They don’t have a lot a machinery, so farming is on a small scale. The communities living in these harsh conditions amazed¬†us – it’s a lifestyle based on simplicity, hard work¬†and day to day reliance on the land.

After San Juan we reached the Salar de Chiguana salt flats. The train route from Chile to Bolivia passes through here.

Waiting for the train…

On our way to our final destination next to Salar de Uyuni, we arrived at the scene of an accident Р6 girls in a Jeep with their two guides. We assumed the driver was in a hurry since it was getting dark, and saw the deep ditch in the road too late. Luckily there was only a few broken noses, possible broken arm, scratches, and a few stiff necks where it could so easily have been fatal. Seeing the accident and how easy it could happen on these roads, we were immensely thankful for our very responsible driver/guide.

Our final destination for the day was the salt hostel at Puerto Chuvica, on the border of Salar de Uyuni,¬†where we spent the night. The entire hostel¬†is built from salt – very impressive!¬†We were¬†privileged to get our¬†own private room for a change, and for 10 bolivianos we could take¬†a warm shower – at last! After 3 days of extreme weather and few comforts, the warm shower felt like heaven on earth ūüôā The¬†salt hostel¬†was the most comfortable of the three we stayed in. When chatting to other travellers, it turned out that we definitely had one of the best accomodations next to Salar de Uyuni. For dinner we were treated to a bottle of wine and lasagna. After dinner the four of us along with the other group went for a stroll on the edge of Salar de Uyuni. It was sooooo cold. After a while Cobus and I¬†ran back to the hostel¬†in an attempt to warm ourselves. It turned out to be a bad idea, as I ended up¬†coughing and wheezing and struggling to breathe for 2 hours due to the cold dry air. Why I developed asthma at 29 is still a mystery to me, I’ve never had any problems before.

The hostel built with salt bricks – Cobus valitdated it ūüôā The picture at the bottom right was taken late at night on the salt flat.

The following morning we had to get up at 5 am to be on time for sunrise on Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world,¬†where we would also have breakfast. The first¬†section¬†of the salt flat was still covered with water. When reaching the dried up parts of the salt flat, we were just in time for sunrise. Wow! The Afrikaans idiom “Die oggendstond het goud in the mond” are certainly true! We entertained ourselves by taking loads of pictures.

Sunrise on the salt flats.

The salt flats provide an excellent backdrop for having fun with perspetive.

All the things you can do with a giant bottle :).

Oh what fun it is to jump…

My favourite husband ūüėČ (and me of course)

After an hour of pictures and breakfast we continued to the¬†salt hotel in the middle of the salt flat. Due to¬†the environmental issues caused by¬†the hotel, it¬†is no longer in use.¬†¬†Reaching the edge of the salt plain, we were able to see how locals “farm” and extract salt. We also saw the Ojos de Agua del salar (eyes of water), which are holes on the surface of the salt plain from where bubbles escape.

Salt farming, the salt hotel, ” ‘n uil op ‘n kluit”, climbing a salt mountain, and our little Jeep on the BIG salt lake

We had our last lunch in the town next to the salt plain, where Porfidia treated us to another of her delicious Bolivian meals (quinoa, chicken, different types of potatoes and sweet potato). We finished our tour at the train cemetary next to Uyuni.

The train cemetary

Segundino dropped us at the bus station in Uyuni where¬†the four of us¬†booked an overnight bus to Sucre. Uyuni itself was nothing special – it’s not a pretty town. We had to spend the rest of the day there, which felt too long for the dull town.

In retrospect we think starting the trip from Tupiza instead of Uyuni was the best decision. Ending the last day with Salar de Uyuni is a highlight, and afterwards you can immediately continue your journey to another town instead of staying in Uyuni. Tupiza is great to start the tour, since you can also enjoy the town for a few days. The 4 day tour was an amazing adventure Рalthough there were very few luxuries, seeing the variety of strange and beautiful landscapes made up for the discomfort. We liked Segundino and Porfidia a lot. Segundino being very responsible, Porfidia with a gentle spirit and being extremely thoughtful. They are a great couple and treats everyone around them with a lot of respect. We also enjoyed getting to know Matthieu and Sonia. We decided to stick together for our journey to Sucre by bus.

The arid landscapes in Southwest Bolivia holds a vast amount of unexpected treasures. It’s a place¬†seemingly harsh and without any life, yet in the midst of all the “nothing”¬†it holds a¬†beauty¬†difficult to comprehend. It’s a place where you are brought to silence and¬†appreciation. As for the communities living there –¬†such harsh conditions must surely build character and teach one to appreciate a simple yet rich lifestyle.

Tupiza (30 April 2012)

Once we had our passports stamped, we walked through Villazon in search of a bus to Tupiza – the first place we would stay in Bolivia. We found a very cheap local bus leaving at¬†2 pm Bolivian time (3 pm Argentinian time). It was clear from the beginning that travlling by bus in Bolivia would be a veeeerry different experience¬†compared to¬†travelling by bus in¬†Argentina. The semi-cama busses in Bolivia¬†were similar to the¬†very economical busses in Argentina. Also, you were lucky if your seat was not broken, or if some local didn’t almost sit on your lap¬†(Cobus had the involuntary privilege of providing a older lady a “lap” seat¬†for a while¬†as she¬†allowed other passengers¬†to pass ;-)). The drive to Tupiza was over within an hour and a half, so the uncomfortable bus was bearable.

The lady who ended up sitting on Cobus’ lap

First on our list in Tupiza was to find¬†the tourist information¬†office where someone could direct us to our hostal and provide us with a map. Our hostel, Hostal Los Solares, wasn’t too far from the bus station¬†on the other side of the river, so it was possible to walk with our luggage.¬†Hostal Los Solares may look somewhat¬†rundown¬†from the outside, but once you’re inside,¬†the place is¬†sooooo nice. The hostel is run by a local family, and it was one of the best places we‚Äôve stayed in¬†so far for the cheapest price so far. We paid the same price for a clean and comfortable private double ensuite (with very hot water) than for the dorm room in the shocking Hostal Humahuaca. Santos and his wife are excellent hosts, and gives the hostel a homely atmosphere.

Hostel Los Salares

Santos advised us to go to the Alamo restaurant, which is also one¬†of the¬†eateries¬†rcommended in¬†the Lonely Planet guide¬†book. On our way to Alamo, we saw another strike (I think in almost every country so far we’ve seen at least two or three). Alamo is a good midway restaurant (between touristy and local) and a place to taste Bolivian cuisine.¬†We paid 70 bolivianos for the experience, which included two main meals, drinks and a tip. Coming from Brazil and Argentina, we were so surprised at how cheap it was. Later on we even found cheaper local restaurants,¬†and also realised that the more touristy ones are more expensive, as usual.¬†The restaurant is decorated in green with¬†photos of Hollywood stars on the walls. We enjoyed the music videos¬†which included music from the 60’s through to the 90’s!¬†Some of the music videos we haven’t¬†even seen before.

The Alamo restaurant

Back at the hostel we met Tara and Alfred from Bristol, UK. They¬†have been¬†touring around the world for about¬†8 months, with one more month to go. It’s interesting how many travellers you meet in South America that are travelling for more than 6 months.

Tara and Alfred were one of the nicest¬†couples we’ve met so far, and we were disappointed that we could not spend more time with them¬†– they were leaving the following day.¬†Also in our hostel was 3 travellers from Germany who have been doing volunteer work in Buenos Aires for a year.¬†Two of them worked¬†in an orphanage and the other one were¬†aiding handicapped people in their daily tasks. There are a lot of travellers¬†in South America, particularly from Europe,¬†who do volunteer work at some¬†point or another, and it is amazing (and heartwarming) to hear what some of these people do.

Cobus, Linke, Tara and Alfred

Cobus, Linke, Tara and Alfred

Tupiza is surrounded by dramatic red escarpments which jut ruggedly skyward from the coarse, gray terrain. Legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended their notorious string of bank robbery raids¬†near Tupiza, where they were¬†caught by the Bolivian army. A¬†horse trip seemed appropriate in this cowboy country and¬†we booked a 5 hour horse trip for the¬†morning of the second day. Our guide was a 16 year old boy named Luis.¬†He couldn’t speak any English, and we only a little Spanish, so we didn’t have a lot to say to each other. The landscape is a beautiful extension of the landscape seen in Northwest Argentina.¬†The horse ride was great, but¬†we¬†quickly had to accept the fact that¬†we were not leading¬†those Bolivian horses, they led themselves. The horses¬†know the road so well, they just do what they want to and for 5 hours I was not in control at all. The horses¬†either walk very slow or run very fast;¬†you just have to go with the flow.¬†I¬†got a bit worried¬†two thirds into the journey when my horse¬†broke away from the other two and kept on running. After that, I asked the guide to take the reigns of my horse for the last part of the journey as my legs were getting tired from¬†clutching to¬†the saddle (obviously a 5 hour horse ride for an unfit person was a bit enthusiastic). Cobus’ horse was a mare and a bit more laid back, so he was disappointed he didn’t get to ride my horse. He later on switched horses with the guide, and almost fell off the horse, hehe.

A cowgirl and cowboy from South Africa ūüôā

The scenery around Tupiza

After the horse¬†riding, we¬†met up with a cool couple from Ireland,¬†Donal and Jemma,¬†and two guys from England, Damian and Alex. All of them were¬†on an extended travel trip through¬†South America. We went to Alamos again as we all enjoyed the food there. We had a very nice evening full of laughing and chanting along with the music videos¬†from the 80’s and 90’s.

Alex, Cobus, Linke, Donal, Jemma and Damian in the Alamo

The next day we were so stiff from the horse riding! I struggled to walk around like a normal human being, so we walked veeerrryyy slowly through the¬†town and the markets. In contrast to Argentina, Bolivia operated more similar to South Africa in terms of the working day. There was no siesta time as in Argentina, but rather a normal 8 – 5 pm day. I was caught by surprise in the market realising that some of the more traditional local people didn’t want business from tourists. They made it no secret that they prefer the traditional life style, without¬†any tourists. At first the unfriendliness¬†really upset me, but later on I realised that I actually prefer the honesty above people putting up a friendly face in order to get more business! We bought some supplies for the Salar de Uyuni trip, which included¬†a pair of sun glasses, beanies and a pair of gloves. Afterwards we decided to try out one of the MANY Italian restaurants in Tupiza (believe me, there is a whole street dedicated to Italian restaurants). We were disappointed¬†with the food and the prices were much higher than the other local restaurants.

We booked a 4 day trip across the South West of Bolivia to Salar de Uyuni through Hostal Los Salares, who organise their own tours. The trip would start very early the next morning, so we decided not to stay up too late. Unfortunately, reorganising and packing for the trip took longer than we expected, so the early night did not happen.

Tupiza was such a nice town to start travelling through Bolivia. We definitely recommend¬†staying in this town for at least a day or two. Bolivia seemed to hold some great adventures for us and we were very excited about the next 3 weeks! Although I was somewhat upset about the unfriendliness of some of the locals, Santos and his wife showed me the opposite,¬†by being very hospitable people. Bolivians seemed to be more genuine in their approach. Also, there were no expectation with Bolivians¬†to receive¬†a tip for every simple little thing they do, like we found in Argentina. We tried to tip the guy who loaded our luggage in the bus, but he didn’t want to take any money. In Argentina some of the guys didn’t want to give our baggage claim tickets¬†to us if we didn’t tip them.

The experience of “honest unfriendlyness”¬†was a reminder to me to be genuine at heart, genuine in my approach to people. It reminded me also as a christian, to be genuine¬†in my¬†christianity – no fake morality; no fake religiousness; no fake conversations with God, but rather open and honest, even if it means exposing¬†my worst feelings before Him in prayer.

Psalm 51:6

6 Maar U verwag opregtheid diep in ‘n mens se hart: laat ek dan diep in my binneste weet hoe U wil dat ek moet lewe.

Matthew 23:27-28

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.