Our next blog entry finds us having left the safe confines of Sucre and travelling cross country. Before we left our short lived home however, we managed to keep ourselves busy for the few days left.
On Monday after classes we headed for the Castillo de Glorietta, which had served as an orphanage and army headquarters in its time. The architecture and interior was an amalgamation of almost every possible 19th century western influence. The castle was certainly unique if a little garish and we took delight in determining why 2 single childless men would have need for a princess tower and share a single bedroom… The evening was capped off by carving maggots out of potatoes and crying over onions, then consuming the pique produced.
Our penultimate day arrived and after lessons we embarked upon a treasure hunt designed for our pleasure and his amusement by Pete. This lead to us running all over Sucre solving his clues and answering the questions he was too afraid to ask!!! It also resulted in the addition of a new member to the group, in the form of Lolita the llama who has been with us since, becoming increasingly windblown and dishevelled. We had an excellent last meal in Sucre, dining in a french restaurant where we gorged on steak, a welcome relief after the horror and hallucinations of dirty Chinese!! George ordered the waiter and Pete the dream.
Our final day in Sucre. We received our deserved medals for our stunning victories in last weeks football match. We said our goodbyes to the teachers and some of the group went out for saltenas with Yerko and Cecilia. Having packed up, we boarded the bus for Potosi, the highest city in the world. It wasn’t a long journey, at about 4 hours but a strange Jackie Chan movie helped pass the time. Having arrived late at the hostel, we grabbed a quick dinner at a place resembling an English pub, complete with mincing waiter.
The next day we headed to the mines in Potosi. Having bought supplies of coca leaves and juice for the miners we headed underground, resplendent in our wellies, onsies and builders hats!!! Despite illness everybody coped with the heat and dust even though it was sometimes difficult to breathe. It was amazing to see the conditions and the ways in which the miners worked, sometimes for 18 hours a day; the Tio and its huge importance to the miners was especially memorable. Kate had the joy of receiving the Tio’s fertility blessing. After the dust and the ginger faces of the mine we drove to a natural thermal lake to relax. A lunch of llama steaks coupled with duck chasing and diving, meant that we were fully replenished upon our return to the hostel.
Friday morning saw us on an early bus to Uyuni and from there out on a 3 day tours of the salt flats and Altiplano. 11 tourists, 2 drivers, 1 cook and only 6 rucksacks piled into 2 Landcruisers and headed off into the wild. Having spent our first afternoon awed by the stunning rock formations, Johns ability to scale even the most sheer rock faces and having taken hundreds of photos of Lolita in her natural environment, we arrived at our first shower-free hostel. We were greeted by very welcome tea and biscuits followed rapidly by a huge and tasty dinner and spent the evening playing a very sweet game of poker.
On Saturday our diplomatically chosen car crews initially headed out to a sulphurous volcanic plateau, which billowed with eggy smoke. After patrolling the area and observing the belching pools of molten rock, it was our turn to be observed as we headed out to the local thermal baths. Gringos in the bath seemed to be more of a tourist attraction than the baths themselves particularly to one man in blue! In the evening we played a fierce game of bingo with Thumble holding the lead, however her victorious first line was a poisoned chalice, when her success was rewarded with a giant foam chicken to be worn from dawn til dusk the next day. George was the overall victor and was delighted with her prize of chocolates “Para ti”
A 4.30 am starlight departure on Sunday had us arriving at the salt flats for sunrise in a “Pete-esk” 20 minutes by 6.30! The sunrise was sensational as were the fried pancakes that greeted us at Isla del Pescado. We spent the morning eating, flicking, and stamping on each other in a range of ingenious, if unoriginal perspective shots. Lunch was spent at the salt hotel, where we dined under a salt roof, at a salt table, sitting on tiny salt stools. The boys(and a couple of the girls) were awed by the vision of a true pensive traveller meditating on the environment. After lunch we headed back to Uyuni and prepared for the 12 hour bus journey that was to come by eating our weight in pizza.
rhg, champers, lan