Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Awaiting our overnight bus to the south of Bolivia, we became increasingly alarmed as the rest of the bus awaitees seemed to had come equipped for north pole temperatures. Huge rugs, big hats and heavy jumpers alike. As the bus approached, a fellow traveller's comment of 'It looks like something from the first world war', wasn't particularly far from the truth. Also, we had just heard that there had been a bus crash further up north in Bolivia, where 22 people had died, so survival was our main aim for the night.
The windows on the rather dated bus didn't close properly and we soon realised why the savvy bolivians came equipped for sub zero temperatures. My Bolivian socks, which didn't cover my toes so I could wear them with flip flops, seemed like the biggest disaster. Not entirely sure what i thought the point of socks which didn't cover my feet properly would be. Alas, as we got underway, the only comparison I can draw is that it felt like we were in a mobile washing machine with the rather excessive noisy rattling to match. You see, there was no road, it was a mud track. The route is normally only completed by the 'death train', but earlier in the day we had been informed the bridge had collapsed on the railtrack so there were no trains.
As i was being jumbled about with the cold nighttime wind, I remembered I had poddy (my ipod) to help me through the survival test. Now, poddy has always been there for me - when i was an au pair in France, he was my refuge. When i was sharing a room with a crazy girl in Asia, he was there for me. And when i go to the gym, he keeps me going. However, this time, newly charged poddy let me down. He simply refused to switch on. I really did do my upmost best to resucitate poddy, but there was no hope.
I could have cried. It was just me in the cold being thrown about in a bus version of a washing machine and the faint sound of my friend's electro music beating for 11 hours. Plus, I couldn't drink any water, as the smell of the toilet would be enough for me to upheave the day's food.
Not being able to see through the night's sky might have been a godsend, as at times the bus was at a rather concerning angle but even me who sleeps through ANYTHING, including an altitude change of 5000metres (which is unusual i am told), sat there counting the seconds. Not to mention clinging onto my bag after just witnessing someone get robbed.
When we arrived after a long, extremely cold, rollercoaster of an eleven hour ride, the chaotic immigration from Bolivia to Argentina took 3 hours. One man must check everyone's bag manually for drugs, whereas the illegal immigrants smuggle in by walking in the river nearby. Somewhat easier and quicker it seems.
Upon arrival at the rafting cabin, we came across some decidedly irritating australians who judging by their posing seemed to believe they belonged in laguna beach. As a result, my friend and I decided to join the spanish group, as to avoid them. This included a one hour safety talk in spanish about how to face and deal with the white water rapids. Understanding was worringly limited. Dangerously, some could day. Especially after i had just signed a contract 'incase of death', as in Argentina there is no insurance for such things.
Unfortunately, the plan completely and utterly backfired on me. Not only did i not have much of an idea about the rafting but alse we ended up in a boat with the laguna beach wannabies.
The event reminded me of a 'fun family day out this summer in France':
'WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE WE!?', mother barked. 'PASS THE RUDDY MAP TO YOUR SISTER!!' (I would just like to add that she is 12 years old). The day trip had already taken a rather severe nose dive. Lost in Italy on some dangerously bendy coastal road when we should have indeed been in France. A road apparently only made for one car, an oncoming italian sports car caused rather stressed mother to head for the cliff wall. Anyway, after a 3 and a half hour journey, we arrived at Breil Sur Roya and the river where we would embark on the 'raft de kayak'.
Stupidly, I had said earlier that i was good at kayaking which turned out to be embarassingly far from the truth. Nevertheless, everyone else was in a double kayak and i was in the single:
I was in this thing alone; the rapids, the kayak and me.
As the last of the group to embark on the trip, it made the fact i had apparently got into the wrong side of the boat more embarassing. Ten frenchies staring at me as i attemped to battle the first of the rapids sitting the wrong way. Now, of course everyone is entitled to their opinion but for me 3 hours of tackling river rapids in freezing cold water, getting stuck on rocks and wearing a wetsuit which Kate Moss would struggle to look good in, is not exactly ideal.
However, i battled on, towards the end i even managed to be one of the groups first.
'Hold on to the rope on top till i say go', the teached shouted at me so we could go down the rapids one at a time. So, i held and held, however the kayak had other ideas, infact i held the rope so much the rapids took the kayak from beneath me.
Now, just me and the rapids.
On the way back, i offered to drive, Victoria's level of confidence in me illustrated in her comment 'well, don't think i will be reading in thir journey'..and mother acting as if i was a blind driver 'move to the left','he's breaking..SLOW DOWN'..'get into 5th'.
In the tour of the Bolivian Salt flats, there are many jeeps all stopping at similiar places to admire the stunning scenery.
In another group, there was a Welsh couple which i had befriended in the previous hostel in Chile. They had recently become engaged. Although, I must admit, it sounds awfully unromantic: the woman pretty much ordered him to and even suggested ways in which he could propose. So, i asked them:
'What kind of wedding do you want?'
'How many people?'
'What kind of dress?'
'Where are you going for the honeymoon?'
And i am quite sure they thought i was mad. Although, clearly they were th odd ones, how can you not have been planning these things since your 12th birthday?!
So, in every stop we kept bumping into eachother and both parties felt the need for boring smalltalk.'So how's your tour going?' i asked. Even though i know perfectly well how their tour is going as i am doing exactly the same ruddy thing. The piece de resistance was when we were queing for the ATM together and he said 'so...need some money?'.
'>No, actually, I just like a bit of a queue you see'.