To South America and Back

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tupiza Terror Tours....Continued From Below.

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.

We spent a little time with J. Milton trying to figure out what we should do, and he agreed that we should all just get right back into the Jeep and head toward Uyuni where there would be the proper medical attention for Chris.

-All Hell breaks loose right here.-

Now, some guy showed up, claiming that he was the "boss" and that Chris would be better in the morning provided he take a few asprin and sleep a little. This is when we pulled back the covers to show him that a deeply sleeping Chris was "muy azul" and it would be better if we just rushed him down to the hospital. At this point a conference was needed...all the drivers got together outside Chris´ room to...I could only understand some of it, but what I got from the conversation was something to the effect of making us wait until morning, a kind of stall tactic, and then, when we could see that Chris was better, we could continue our tour.

J. Milton looked genuinely like he didn´t know what to do. So, he did the only thing he knew to do, and offered to make us dinner. This took approxomately 2 hours. Two hours to fry us some chicken and chips. To his credit this was the best meal that he made on the whole trip.

It didn´t make anything better though, and we especially Vickie were all getting a little nervous by hour 3 at the accomidations. We presented this prospect to J. this time a little more forcefully, and stressing the fact that we were worried about our friend. Barny and I politely (while backing him up against the wall) suggested that he get the driver and we get going.

J. Milton wasn´t seen again for 45 minutes.

Barney and I went looking for him and found him conversing behind the shed with a rowdy drunk bunch of the drivers; I knew it was time for action. I wrenched open the passenger side of our jeep which was sitting near our door, applied my hand forcefully to the horn, and left it there. At close to Midnight this got the desired effect as J. Milton, our wirely little guide, came sprinting around the corner.

Vickie erupted a quick mix of insults and swear words in his direction. I pulled him into the light, hoping to confront him on what the hell was going on, only to find blood spouting out of his nose and lip. Apparantly the other drivers didn´t like the fact that J. Milton was taking orders from the Gringos.
"I can not find driver."
This was the only thing he could say, but lucky for him the driver, looking a little bleary eyed, appeared from a darkened corner of the building. Barny informed him that yes, in fact, we would be leaving tonight. But when he questioned whether or not Chris was better I really thought that maybe Barny was going to rip his head off and was thankful when J. and Rodrigo said they were going into the back to get ready to leave.
After about another 20 minutes of waiting I was ready to rip both of their heads off. Barny and I burst into their little kitchen to find J. Milton, Rodrigo and another man sitting around a small stove talking.
J. looked like he had been crying and was holding something over his swollen lip.
I let him have it. Now, normally I don´t get that worked up with people, but I was a little sick of being jerked around at this point.
This is what I said:
"J. we need to get going our friend is really sick and I realize that your friends here are trying to teach a lesson to the silly gringos..." I put an emphasis on the word for the benefit of the other two, knowing full well that they didn´t speak any English. Their eyes lit up. Rodrigo stopped fingering the sausage he had ripped open and threw it into the fire.
"...we need to all get in the jeep and start driving down to Uyuni, or Barny and I are going to be really mad...¿tu entiende?"
It only took us about 45 minutes from this point to get them into the jeep and ready to go. Barny and I had to escort Rodgrigo to find more gas and help him pour it, via homemade funnels, into the vehicle.
Then we were off.
Everyone was more than a little worried about the well being of Chris since he hadn´t moved since we placed him in the vehicle an hour earlier. None of our rumaging around, or yelling, or shaking the gas down into the tank had stirred him.
The only good thing, was that he was now sitting upright, and his sloggy sounding lungs seemed to be doing a little better with this new position.

We left at 12:30 am... five whole hours after our arrival.

We made it about an hour and a half before the jeep died.

Then we (everyone without blue lips and ears) started pushing the jeep, every once in a while getting a good start. When we did get a good start Rodrigo would roar off down the road. I think to charge up the battery a little, as the alternator was very obviously done for. This was pointed out very eloquently by Caroline as we sat and watched the three men (we had picked up another, as our two didn´t know the way back). However this roaring off wasn´t working since everytime he got to a hill the vehicle died. We would be stuck walking the half mile to catch up to him.

This continued until 5:30 am. The engine had been taken apart a few times, sparkplugs cleaned numerous, and we pushed until we were numb with cold and no longer talking to each other just swearing at Tupiza Tours.

At 5:45 we stopped pushing and asked for our warm clothes as we would be spending the night and waiting for a jeep to pass by in the morning. Rodrigo said "No" flat out. He wasn´t going to climb on top of the jeep where our bags were stashed.
I thought I was going to cry as my legs went numb from the cold and my chest burned from the altitude. We were stuck somewhere between 4000-5000 meters. Chris was babbling aimlessly throughout the night, a kind of haunting thing that everyone pretended wasn´t happening. He´s just dreaming I kept telling myself.

Dawn-Day 3:

The next couple days went by in a blur. I just kind of sat back in awe that these two characters really had no idea what was going on. Another jeep drove up that morning. We were blocking their way and we all had to yell at Rodrigo from the back to roll down his window and speak with the man knocking there. He did, and the man gave our jeep a jump. Rodrigo started it up, pulled off to the side, turned the key to off, and went back to sleep. I laughed. A sick insane laugh and then covered my head with a blanket. Barny, Caroline and then, in another explosive stunt, Vickie told them what they really thought of their little operation here.

We did get to Uyuni.

The five hour drive took 17 hours.

Chris made it though the ordeal. He spent a night in the hospital swatting flies and getting treatments for extreme altitude sickness. Oxygen, respirators, the whole nine yards. We saw him a couple of days later at the hostel, a little blue, where he told us he would wait a few days before heading out to Machu Picchu (ie really high altitudes)

...the consensus was that we all liked him better when he was sleeping.
He thanked no one for helping him get to a hospital.

Thanks Tupiza Tours, Thanks.
I´ll leave you with this "el coche es muuuuy bien."


At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

You know what? The Staten Island Ferry offers tours for the price of a subway fair, and I've heard you can drink beer and stay on as long as you want. Good news is, there are medical centers in case of emergency, hot dogs in case of hunger. GET HOME!

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

Can I second that? Miss you both!

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