To South America and Back

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tupiza (Terror) Tour

Anything that went wrong on our trip was my fault, and I accept full responsibility, beause right before we signed up for this little "adventure" I was sitting in our room thinking, "man, I would really like something interesting to happen."
And it did.

First however, I should start with a list of things that we were promised when we signed up for our not-that-cheap tour.

-bars of chocolate each... I don´t know why, but whatever.
-2 Liters of water per day
-a stop at the burial grounds of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
-an English speaking guide
-that the "professional" guides would be carrying all the necessary medical equipment for any problems, especially "soroche" or altitude sickness.
-a very "professional" tour, this was being stressed over and over.
*keep all these things in mind when reading below*

Day 1:

First things first we had to clear up the fact that no one in our truck, as far as the guides went spoke any sort of English. We went back to the tour company headquarters, and all they had to offer was some free postcards, and a "Oops, sorry, your guide has a bad stomach." Miraculously he showed up and got in the truck, and upon questioning about the stomach ailments mumbled something about Carnival being a good time last night. In other words...J. Milton our illustrious guide, was hungover. Great way to start a four day trip.

The Players: Or, those who went on the trip together.
-One junked up 4x4
-Two Bolivians; Rodrigo the driver and one Juan Milton Luna Vargas (J. Milton) an English speaking guide come cook.
-One couple from South Africa; Vicki and her thick necked rugby playing husband Chris who spent most of the time.....well, you´ll see.
-A hilarious couple from Stafford, England, Barnaby and Caroline who, aside from teaching us loads of English slang, and becoming the best of friends seem to have "lost the plot" or "gone completely mental" if you prefer. They did also introduce us to the coolest t-shirt site ever. Threadless

The actual trip started off a little on the bumpy side, but as we traveled through dry riverbeds we had some great views of the surrounding mountains. I never had any idea that Bolivia could be so huge. You glance at the country on a map, and compared to Argentina and Brazil, it looks like nothing. Yet, here we were, traveling for about 8 hours through barren valleys with their hillsides dotted with wild llamas and donkeys.

We started to make friends with our compatriots, the six of us being stuck in the back of a jeep together. There was a running competition between Barny and I as to which country, the U.S. or England has better bands. We lost points for Bon Jovi and someone else whom I can´t remember, but gained them all back at the mention of Phil Collins...
Nothing really strange happened this day except that we went so high into the mountains that Chris´lips turned blue from lack of oxygen. I pointed this out to our austere guide J. Milton, but he just shrugged. The incident was soon forgotten as we descended to a lower altitude for the night and the "donkey" stew was brought out. We played cards for a while into the night, getting to know each other a little more. Chris started to get a headache and I....which I attribute fully to J.Milton´s cooking...and as Barny and Caroline have been so adept at saying "had a little problem with my bum."
We saw no chocolate. Drank loads of coca tea (you know, the stuff they make cocaine from) and were given a two litre bottle of water... to share.

Day 2: Terror Begins
My bum was a little better by the time we departed at 6:00am. Just enough to walk around, and get into the jeep. Chris was faring a little on the worse side. It seems that he did not get any sleep at all the previous night and this was confirmed, because I saw him up both (ok, all three) times I was running to the toilet to jettison my donkey. Not good.
Our itinerary took us past some local ruins, a kind of ghost town, which was pretty cool. There was still a huge stone structure that used to be the church in the middle of the town. Apparantly sometime right before the town died the local priest ran off with all the gold in the church.
Chris stayed in the car and slept.

The day was however pretty interesting. The landscape in Bolivia is completely insane. As you travel over hills and through valleys every little tract of land is different from the last. Desert, green hillsides, granite, shale, blue lakes, green lakes, rivers, is always changing.
The weird thing is that every time we got out of the jeep Chris stayed in to sleep...I mean, this guy was sleeping all friggin day. His wife didn´t seem that concerned though, so we pretended that we weren´t.
We did start to notice that Sr. J. Milton Esquire did have the slightest clue as to what was going on...and his vocabulary was limited to names of cities and their current populations including llama. Don´t get me wrong this is great, and his English was obviously better than my Spanish. The problem was that he seemed pleasantly oblivious to the condition of Chris.
He was starting to look a little bleak when after about 9 hours of sleeping, the guy still wanted to sleep more, and his face and hands were starting to really turn blue and his breath was getting a little ragged and liquid sounding. Now, I don´t claim to be any sort of expert, but from the stuff that I have read about Altitude Sickness...well, this seemed to be it.
It was discussed around the car that maybe we should skip the geysers our last stop of the day and try to get Chris to the next area where we were going to stay, get another jeep and get down to Uyuni where there was a proper hospital. The other problem was that our accomidations for the night were at 4300 meters, which is about 14000 feet, and definitely not good for someone with some fluid building up in their lungs.
Our jeep was a little slower than all the rest. The exhaust was having a few problems. Starting the jeep was also becoming a predicament, as Rodrigo had to clean off the spark plugs every time we stopped. That wasn´t bad though, compared to the fact that the jeep was obviously stuck in four wheel drive. Now, I don´t know if you have ever ridden in four wheel drive when it is completely unnecessary, but it is really slow, in fact it feels like you are crawling. You know when you are driving on the highway, cruising along, and you pull into some little po-dunk town and have to slow down, it feels like you´re crawling...well, driving in four wheel drive the whole time is worse than this. End note.

When we arrived at the little gathering of huts we were to stay in everyone in the jeep was a little nervous for the health of Chris. We found a spare bed and some blankets for him while we were sorting out leaving that night...
Boy were we in for a big surprise.

To Be Continued....


At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Chrissy said...

Suspppppppppppppppppeeeeeeeeeeeeeense!!!!!!!!!!! Guys finish your story, I'm on the edge of me "bum" here, awaitin to see what happens to Chris' blue lips!!!
Mwwwaaa, from my red red labios :)

At 1:14 AM, Anonymous lara Yanovsky said...

so what the hell happened????


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