post-title Bolivia team – Treasure hunts, silver mines, salt flats

Bolivia team – Treasure hunts, silver mines, salt flats

Bolivia team – Treasure hunts, silver mines, salt flats

Quest News

Better late than never. here’s what the Bolivia team got up to during Week 3
– their last days learning Spanish in Sucre, and a little bit of adventure
through Potosi and the Uyuni Salt Flats. They’ve certainly made up for the delay
in sheer blog quantity – enjoy!

The treasure hunt turned out to be a huge success, with points being awarded
for originality, which included “capture a titanic moment”, where Gaby and Emily
convinced a German couple to strike THE titanic pose atop a church as they sang
the theme tune into the video camera, getting dodgy haircuts at local barber
shops, riding Bolivian lions and forcing the odd sexy local to dance salsa in
front of the city cathedral. 

Sunday morning was an early start so we
could get a full day of spending lots of cash on llama tack in a market 2 hours
away. Many jumpers were bought, Saskia snatched up a lama teddy and Gaby and
Katy bought an old fashioned map of South America. This is the same market where
Hugo bought the dreaded laser pen, more to come later! It’s safe to say we came
home with empty wallets! Later in the afternoon there was a footie game between
Sucre and Potosi, us obviously supporting Sucre (Sucre obviously winning)!
Diving seemed to be the order of the day, and a few questionable calls saw the
ref being escorted off the pitch by riot police. Fireworks were launched semi
constantly throughout the game, falling at random in the stands to explode in
the faces of wary spectators.

Monday: The advanced group finished a
terrible Spanish movie with Penelope Cruz, and the beginner’s group were off to
a slow start as they weren’t feeling very motivated. Meeting the advanced class
at the local creperie later in the day soon changed that! After a quick lunch,
we stocked up on drinks and sandwiches, to give to the convicts in our prison
visits. Any fears were
unfounded , as a game of football (prisoners vs. Questies) quickly
loosened tensions, and although we had a few good goals by Gaby and Eshan the
prisoners kicked our butts! After a quick tour of the prisoners’ bedrooms, and
chats to the inmates, we left, but not before a prisoner gave a bracelet he made
to Gaby, and she in return offered him one of hers back. 

The football
wasn’t over though! The prison game was just a warm up session for our match
against the Spanish teachers! The girls of course played a good clean game, and
did us proud by beating the teachers…the boys however took to violence to beat
their teachers, Emily the referee was ignored by the players, as they are
chauvinistic pigs who can’t take a girl’s opinion on board (Gaby is typing this
one!). They trashed Spanish teacher Orlando, Pete tripped him, Hugo kicked him,
and he fell on his tailbone all by himself! But we still won! Wednesday’s secret
mission to the black market was soon revealed when we were all handed
personalised Bolivian footie shirts, the highlights of which were Caroline’s
nickname being “puffer fish” due to the multiple sunburn, and Pete’s “wow
factor” because of a previous Canadian crush.

Tuesday was the last day
of Spanish lessons, and we all got Spanish diplomas with saltenas (a bolivian
speciality), followed by a trip to the local brewery. We were allowed to try
unfermented beer, and when the gents heard it was a natural aphrodisiac, Gabe
downed the tin! The rest of the day was spent packing, and a last night out at
Amsterdam bar and then moving on to locosts bar where Hugo manned up and tried
the Julius Caesar…not the brightest of ideas we’ve had as it got him to forget
the majority of that night, it was agreed he probably shouldn’t have manned up
quite so much. That night we also decided on a theme for trekking the Inca
trail, after a long discussion, we all agreed on Shrek and assigned ourselves
characters, with Pete getting stroppy at not being Puss in Boots-Gaby bagged
that one, and he decided to mix up some characters and be 3 blind
pigs.

On Wednesday we left for Potosi, got dirty (code word for fried)
chicken, and wandered round the mint museum. That night we went out for posh
steak, and chocolate smoothies. Gaby disgraced herself taking on a steak with
potato and rice big enough for 5, and was filmed fitting basically a cow in her
mouth. The night was uneventful after a long day’s travel, so it was back to the
hostel for bed.

Thursday started off shaky with Emily worried about the mines. We met our guide, Sol, who dressed us in appropriate not fitting
wellies, pants, jackets and a helmet. She taught us the local ritual of the
miners; chewing coca leaves with ash to avoid hunger and tiredness. We stocked
up on coca, and juice in order to thank the miners along our tour inside the
‘man eating mountain’ for their hard work and allowing us to visit (seeing they
get no benefit from our tourism) After a couple breakdowns (Carolyn couldn’t
breathe due to dust and Emily crying because she had to crawl through a 4 meter
tunnel) Sol, our guide, took us to see the Tio (the devil). Above ground miners
believe in god, but once they move underground they believe the power of god
cannot reach them so they chose to believe in El Tio. To show him honour, they
pour sugarcane alcohol 96.6% over his various body parts, the head, arms, legs,
and (massive) erect penis. They also sprinkle coca leaves and offer cigarettes
and beer. Every time before a miner would drink he would have to pour some on
the ground as an offering.

After having come out of the ground we went
back to the hostal to pick up Gaby, and quickly change into bathing attire. We
went for a short drive to a thermal lake. The water was hot compared to the
outside temperature and made it all the harder to come out of the water. However
when our lama BBQ was prepared and ready to eat the challenge of leaving the
water was no longer a challenge. Having devoured our piece of meat and feeding
bones to the dogs, some of us went in for a last dip, while Gaby and Carolyn
went to hunt for kittens to cuddle. Dinner that night was simple, and prepared
by that week’s cook team, Eshan, Katy, and Gabe. The carbonara was yummy, and
with full tummies we all went to bed, ready to leave early the next morning for
our next stop Uyuni.

Friday we left early to get to Uyuni, met with the
Villa Maria group for lunch, and went onto our 4 day trip in 4X4 jeeps around
the Bolivian countryside. The first leg consisted of a 5 hour drive to our next
hostel just outside of Uyuni. We found out that Rita our cook was amazing and we
were all thankful from having brought her along. After dinner we were given a
small musical show by the local children who seemed even less motivated to be
there than us. We gave them our tea cookies and a bit of money as thanks and
said our goodnights. Poor Gabe however had to miss out on dinner due to having
caught what we found our later was a stomach bug, which would come back to haunt
all of us one…. by….. one.

Saturday morning was an early start, and
then back into the car to visit various natural wonders. Our first stop was a
quick visit to the red lake, followed by a stop at the geysers which shot up egg
smelling smoke. Finally we stopped at the overly crowded springs and decided to
take a dip after having eaten, in order to wait for majority of the other
tourists to disperse leaving the thermal pool to ourselves. Lunch was cooked by
Rita, and was an amazing combination of potato, sweet potato, chicken, and
avocado for Katie our vegetarian. The thermals were much hotter than anticipated
so most of us ended up sitting on the side with our legs dipped in. Here Pete
decided to announce the winners of last week’s treasure hunt. The winners Gaby,
Hugo and Emily were given a cooled bottle of champagne (which they shared with
the rest of the group), in the hot water, with an amazing background view of the
Andes.

After our wonderful lunch, we moved on to the next hostel where Gaby and
Emily were forced into sharing a room with Eshan and Gabe who snored terribly
all night. Here we discovered that Eshan was the next victim of the haunting
stomach bug. After dinner we played a game called black magic, where Katy and
Gaby had a secret code which had to be guessed by the other players. Too much of
our frustration we still have not been able to figure out the secret code.

Sunday we switched car teams and returned to the red lake in the morning
for a better look at the 40,000 flamingos that have chosen it as their habitat.
We learnt that the water was red due to the algae in the water, and that
flamingo’s are pink due to the shrimp they eat. Our next stop was at the rock
valley, where we tested our climbing skills, and took some epic photos. After
the rock valley we headed back to Uyuni in order to be able to see the salt
flats the next morning at sunrise. Oh yes, Sunday the stomach bug had moved onto
Hugo.

Monday morning we rose at 4a.m to leave at 5. We drove off in the
dark and arrived in time at the salt flats to see the sun rising over the
mountains. Poor Katy however had to miss out on the fun because she had been hit
by the bug that morning. We drove off to breakfast at the Salt hotel (yes a
hotel fully made out of salt) where Rita had prepared a sponge cake for us.
YUMMM. We drove off to a secluded area on the flats in order to take some epic
perspective shots. After we took all our photos we parked our two 4X4’s and
strung a volley-ball net in between them, and the match could begin! Emily,
Carolyn and Gaby decided this was the appropriate time to sneak off into the
distance in order to take some cheeky photos. We then went back to the salt
hotel for lunch which again was amazing because it was prepared by Rita.

We then
went back to Uyuni in order to pack. Here our cook team came back into the
picture because we had to say goodbye to Rita. They decided for take-away pizza,
and we then all got on the bus at 8p.m to head off for La Paz. Everyone expected
a chill night bus ride however we were all heavily disappointed when we found
out the road was horrible. We could all agree that that was the bumpiest bus
ride we had ever been on.

Tuesday we arrived in La Paz at 7:30 a.m. All
of us knackered after a crappy 16 hour bus ride we carried our bags across the
bus terminal to the taxis where we all drove off to our next hostel Copacabana.
Here we met our newest temporary team member Ola, yes that is her real name. Ola
started in the Villa Maria team but decided to join us for 5 days while her team
went on the apolabamba trek. Pete briefed us on what we could expect in the
jungle and what equipment we had to go out and find. We split up in teams and
went to collect the necessary things such as wellies, working gloves, socks and
the unnecessary orange juicer, renamed the jugonater. Saskia and Gaby went off
to find somewhere to have our Shrek costumes made for the inca trek. For dinner
we decided to have our last supper at the English pub ‘Oliver’s Travels’, where
Gaby with her cocktail waitress experience whipped up some tasty mojitos for
us. We all returned with full bellies to pack and prepare for tomorrow’s 17 hour
bus journey to Rurrenebaque.

We are now two and a half weeks into the
jungle time! Our first ten days were spent in a tarantula infested shack in Jacq
Cusi. In our time there Pete cracked out the whip and worked us hard on
construction. In brief summary, we faced the treacherous jungle life of foot
fungus, bora bora fears and lack of construction worthy material but loved it
all the same. Nevertheless, when Gabe took a liking to buckets and caring bricks
became an obsession for all of us we knew it was time to get out. A 20 hour bus
ride expanded into a three day trek as we moved from Jacq Cusi to Ambue Ari for
the next stage of our jungle experience. We are now settling in and very much in
awe of the magnificent pumas, jaguars, ocelots and jungle animals that we are
working with. With another ten days to go there will be many more adventures to
be had and stories to be told!