2004 Journey Erik's Travels U.S.A.

The search for Pompeys Pillar

I first learned of Pompeys Pillar in August of 2000. I was driving to Grand Forks, North Dakota to return to University after spending the summer at home. It was my first time driving a long distance by myself and I wanted to check out the sites along the way. I was in Montana just East of Billings when I saw the brown historic monument sign that read “Pompeys Pillar.” I knew it was a historic site along the Lewis & Clark trail, but had no clue as to what it actually was. I decided to check it out so I took the exit and drove along a gravel road for a few minutes to reach an empty parking lot facing a hill. A small sign told me that Pompeys Pillar was on the other side of the hill, to be reached by a footpath. As I usually do along the long drive between Oregon and North Dakota I had a strong desire to get back to Grand Forks and decided to be lazy and not to walk over the hill so I turned around and left.

Pompeys Pillar did not cross my mind again until July of 2004 when I was driving home from a weeklong visit to the Grand Cities. After a day of cruising through the badlands I once again found myself looking at the sign for the Pompeys Pillar exit. It was late at night and I was planning on stopping soon so I figured I would pull into the parking lot, spend the night and check out the site in the morning before I resumed my journey home. I took the exit and in the dark did not see the sign pointing to travel down the gravel road. So I missed the turn but by the time I figured out I was on the wrong road I just decided to keep on driving as I was almost to Billings.

Six weeks later I found myself once more on the road home after spending another week visiting friends in Grand Forks and attending a fraternity brothers wedding. I decided to finally see Pompeys Pillar once and for all. Nothing would stop me this time! I arrived in the evening with plenty of daylight left and confidently took the Pompeys Pillar exit. I took the right road and drove down it a couple miles until I reached another sign that read Pompeys Pillar and pointed to a road that went south under the highway. I made the turn and immediately found myself in the very small town of Pompeys Pillar. I knew that was not what I wanted so I turned around and continued up the gravel road for a bit but never saw anything mentioning the historic site of Pompeys Pillar. So I once again turned around and got back on the highway heading west. Pompeys Pillar had eluded me once again.

2004 Journey Erik's Travels

2004 Travelogue

Sunday, December 28th, 2003

I left home today. Flew from Portland, Oregon to LAX and met Pete and then we boarded out flight for Fiji.

Monday, December 29th, 2003

Today was lost to the international date line.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2003

We arrived in Nadi, Fiji in the morning and went to the Western Hostel. Spent the day looking around.

Wednesday, December 31th, 2003

Today we headed out to a remote Fijian island and to the resort of Melbravo.

Thursday, January 1st, 2004

Still on the island and staying at Melbravo.

Friday, January 2nd, 2004

Took the ferry back to Nadi and stayed at the Aquarius Fiji Hostel.

Saturday, January 3rd, 2004

Another day in Nadi.

Sunday, January 4th, 2004

Flew to Sydney, Australia and then flew to Melbourne.

Monday, January 5th, 2004


Tuesday, January 6th, 2004


Wednesday, January 7th, 2004


Thursday, January 8th, 2004


Friday, January 9th, 2004


Saturday, January 10th, 2004


Sunday, January 11th, 2004


Monday, January 12th, 2004


Tuesday, January 13th, 2004


Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

Drove to Lorne with Pete & Kip. Stayed at the Lorne Chalet.

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

Kip headed back to Melbourne. Pete and I stayed at the Great Ocean Road Backpackers.

Friday, January 16th, 2004

Took the bus from Lorne to Melbourne.

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

Took the train to Adelaide.

Sunday, January 18th, 2004

Hung out in Adelaide during the day and continued on the train towards Perth.

Monday, January 19th, 2004

On the train to Perth. Had a few hours stop over in Kalgoolie.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2004

Arrived in Perth around noon. Checked into the Swan Barracks Hotel. A pretty cool hostel.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004


Thursday, January 22nd, 2004


Friday, January 23rd, 2004


Saturday, January 24th, 2004


Sunday, January 25th, 2004


Monday, January 26th, 2004

Perth. Australia Day. Big party all day at the hostel and down by the river for the fireworks.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004


Wednesday, January 28th, 2004

Rented a car and headed south with Anders & Martin and Ben in his own car. Made it to Margret River and statyed at the YHA there.

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

Drove to Pemberton and stayed at Pemberton Backpackers. Ben stayed in Margret River. Bought a Johnny Cash tape.

Friday, January 30th, 2004

Drove to Albany and stayed at Albany Backpackers.

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

Drove back to Perth and dropped off the rental car.

Sunday, February 1st, 2004

Big Day out music festival in Perth.

Monday, February 2nd, 2004


Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004


Wednesday, February 4th, 2004


Thursday, February 5th, 2004


Friday, February 6th, 2004


Saturday, February 7th, 2004


Sunday, February 8th, 2004


Monday, February 9th, 2004


Tuesday, February 10th, 2004

Left for the roadtrip north. Rented a car with Anders, Martin & Misung. Made it to the Pinnacles and camped on the beach at Kangaroo point with half of the Swan Barracks crew.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2004

Drove to Geraldon and met up with the rest of the crew.

Thursday, February 12th, 2004

Drove to Kalbari and stayed in a trailer at the caravan park there.

Friday, February 13th, 2004

Drove to Hamlin Bay and camped there. We were lured in by the “Cold Beer” sign. This was a boys only drive up: Myself, Anders, Donnie, Ben & Chris.

Saturday, February 14th, 2004

Saw the Stromatolites and drove up to Monkey Mia and camped there. The rest of the crew joined us that evening.

Sunday, February 15th, 2004

Saw some dolphins. Anders and I went on a wildlife boat trip. No wildlife though. Drove to Carnarvan and camped there.

Monday, February 16th, 2004

Car troubles today. Finally got on the road and drove to Coral Bay and stayed at the Nigaloo Club Hostel as it was pissing down rain.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004

Coral Bay. Went on a snorkling boat trip.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2004

Drove to Exmouth and camped at the Caravan Park there. Hot as hell out.

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Exmouth. Went snorkling at Turqouise Bay. One of the best days of my whole trip. Birthday celebration for Gemma at the pub that night. Drank lots of Guiness.

Friday, February 20th, 2004

Exmouth. Girls left to head back to Perth.

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

Anders and I made a break from the rest of the crew and took the Easyrider Backpackers Bus headed towards Broome. Made it to Tom Price and stayed in the dorms at the caravan park there.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

Went on a walk around the national forest. Made it to Port Hedland and stayed at Dingo´s Backpackers. Had a big spagetti feed.

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

Got up at 4am for the drive to Broome. Stayed at the Kimberly Klub hostel. Went to Cable Beach for the sunset.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

Broome. The roads to Darwin were flooded so Anders and I bought airplane tickets for Darwin for later in the week.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004


Thursday, February 26th, 2004


Friday, February 27th, 2004


Saturday, February 28th, 2004

Flew to Darwin. Stayed at Globtrotters Lounge.

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

Leap Year Day. Darwin.

Monday, March 1st, 2004


Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004


Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

Got on The Ghan railroad headed for Alice Springs.

Thursday, March 4th, 2004

Arrived in Alice Springs. Stayed at the Alice Lodge.

Friday, March 5th, 2004

Left on a three day tour to Uluru and King´s Canyon. Did a hike in King´s Canyon. Camped in swags.

Saturday, March 6th, 2004

Made it to Uluru and did a walk around the base. Camped near Uluru in swags.

Sunday, March 7th, 2004

Got up at 4:20am and did a walk through the Olgas. Rode back to Alice Springs and back to the Alice Lodge.

Monday, March 8th, 2004

Alice Springs. Anders and I had our own party that night at the hostel. Went out to the pub for a few jugs and then back for some late night snacks and tunes care of AC/DC.

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

Alice Springs. Anders left for New Zealand.

Wednesday, March 10th, 2004

Alice Springs.

Thursday, March 11th, 2004

Took the train to Melbourne.

Friday, March 12th, 2004

Arrived at Melbourne around 10:30pm to find no Pete to pick me up. Took the metro to Box Hill and walked to Kip & Pete´s house.

Saturday, March 13th, 2004


Sunday, March 14th, 2004


Monday, March 15th, 2004


Tuesday, March 16th, 2004


Wednesday, March 17th, 2004


Thursday, March 18th, 2004

Melbourne. Bought my ticket to Santiago, Chile.

Friday, March 19th, 2004


Saturday, March 20th, 2004

Pete and I left Melbourne for our road trip north. Made it to Canberra late at night and camped for free at a campground.

Sunday, March 21st, 2004

Checked out the art gallery and war museum and drove to Newcastle. Stayed at the Newcastle Backpackers.

Monday, March 22nd, 2004

Drove to Byron Bay. Stayed at the Art Factory. A very cool hostel.

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004

Byron Bay.

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Byron Bay.

Thursday, March 25th, 2004

Byron Bay. Took Jim´s Alternative Tours to Nimbin for the day.

Friday, March 26th, 2004

Drove to Surfer´s Paradise. Stayed at a campground in the city.

Saturday, March 27th, 2004

Surfer´s Paradise.

Sunday, March 28th, 2004

Surfer´s Paradise.

Monday, March 29th, 2004

Drove south to Nimbin. Stayed at Grannies Farm Hostel. I camped and Pete got a dorm bed.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Drove to Bundaberg and stayed at the City Center Backpackers.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Pete got signed up for farm work in Bundaberg. I took a tour of the Bundaberg Rum factory and Pete drove me to Hervey Bay. Stayed at Koala´s Resort.

Thursday, April 1st, 2004

Hervey Bay.

Friday, April 2nd, 2004

Hervey Bay. Got signed up for a three day trip to Fraser Island.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004

Fraser Island. Camping.

Sunday, April 4th, 2004

Fraser Island. Camping.

Monday, April 5th, 2004

Got back from Fraser Island and back to Koala´s.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2004

Pete picked me up and we drove to Brisbane. Stayed at City Center Backpackers.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004


Thursday, April 8th, 2004

Picked up Drew and Leisal at the airport. Drove to Byron Bay. Camped at Biolongi Fields. I went to the first day of the East Coast Blues and Roots Music Festival.

Friday, April 9th, 2004

Byron Bay. Day two of Bluesfest.

Saturday, April 10th, 2004

Byron Bay. Day three of Bluesfest.

Sunday, April 11th, 2004

Byron Bay. Day four of Bluesfest.

Monday, April 12th, 2004

Byron Bay. Final day of Bluesfest. Pete, Drew and Leisal attended this day with me.

Tuesday, April 13th, 2004

Pete´s Birthday. Drove to Sydney getting in around 10pm or so. Stayed at the Pink House in King´s Cross. Pete and I hit up a pub in King´s Cross and had lot´s of fun.

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

Pete and crew left at 6am to drive back to Melbourne. I left a bit later that morning for the airport and to begin my journey to South America. Got warped back in time and arrived at the LA airport to spent the whole day waiting for my flight that night only to find out it was canceled.

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Spent the day hanging out at the Embassy Suites and got on my flight that night.

Friday, April 16th, 2004

Spent all day on planes and in the Panama City airport.

Saturday, April 17th, 2004

Made it to Santiago at 3am. Took a taxi to the Hotel Paris and met up with Thomas.

Sunday, April 18th, 2004

Took the bus to Valpariso and stayed at the Hotel Puerto Valpariso.

Monday, April 19th, 2004


Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

Bus to Chillan. Stayed at Hostel Canada. Ate Chinese food.

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004

Took the bus to Pucon. Stayed at Hostel Lalo.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

Pucon. Lars´ birthday today.

Friday, April 23rd, 2004

Pucon. Went on Volcano climb. Thomas made it all the way up, myself only half way.

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

Bus to Puerto Montt. Residencia El Turista.

Sunday, April 25th, 2004

Puerto Montt.

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Boarded The Magallines for our journey to Puerto Natalles.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

On board The Magallines.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

On board The Magallines.

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

Arrived in Puerto Natalles. Stayed at Patagonia Adventure Hostel.

Friday, April 30th, 2004

Puerto Natalles. Day tour to Torres del Paine National Park.

Saturday, May 1st, 2004

Puerto Natalles. Had to switch to Casa Cecila because the hostel closed for the winter. Took a day trip on a boat to The O´Higgins Park.

Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

Bus to Punta Arenas. Stayed at Hostel Fin de el Mundo.

Monday, May 3rd, 2004

Took bus to Rio Gallegas, Argentina. Ate dinner and took another bus to Caleta Olivia.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2004

Arrived at Caleta Olivia and stayed at Posada Don David.

Wednesday, May 5th, 2004

Took the bus to Trelew. Stayed at Hotel Touring Club. Dad´s birthday.

Thursday, May 6th, 2004


Friday, May 7th, 2004

Took the bus to Viedma. Stayed at Hotel Peumayen.

Saturday, May 8th, 2004

Viedma. Tried to leave but no buses.

Sunday, May 9th, 2004

Took overnight bus to Buenos Aires.

Monday, May 10th, 2004

Arrived in Buenos Aires in the morning. Stayed at Hotel Marbella.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004

Buenos Aires. Took a city tour.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

Buenos Aires.

Thursday, May 13th, 2004

Buenos Aires.

Friday, May 14th, 2004

Took the bus to Rosario. Stayed at Hotel Savoy.

Saturday, May 15th, 2004

Took the night bus to Posoda.

Sunday, May 16th, 2004

Arrived in Posoda and took the local bus to Puerto Iquazu. Stayed at Hotel Lilian.

Monday, May 17th, 2004

Puerto Iquazu. Went to the Iquazu Falls.

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

Took a day trip to Paraguay and got on the night bus to Salta.

Wednesday, May 19th, 2004

On the bus all day. Arrived late at night and went to the Hostel Salta.

Thursday, May 20th, 2004


Friday, May 21st, 2004


Saturday, May 22nd, 2004


Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Took the bus to San Pedro de Atacama. Bus ride sucked. Went over a mountain pass of 5,200 Meters. Got to San Pedro around 6ish and went to the Hostel International.

Monday, May 24th, 2004

San Pedro.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

San Pedro.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Took bus to Calama and then got another bus to Arica.

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Arrived to Arica at 6 am and went to Residencia Stagnaro.

Friday, May 28th, 2004


Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Took a colectivo across the border to Tacna, Peru and then the bus to Arequipa. Stayed at Hostel Regis.

Sunday, May 30th, 2004


Monday, May 31st, 2004


Tuesday, June 1st , 2004


Wednesday, June 2nd , 2004

Took tour to the Colca Canyon. Stayed the night in Chivay at the Hostal Ricarditos.

Thursday, June 3rd , 2004

Finished the tour and went back to Arequipa and the Hostel Regis.

Friday, June 4th , 2004

Thomas left. The solo travels begin. Took the bus to Puno and stayed at Hostel Los Uros.

Saturday, June 5th, 2004


Sunday, June 6th, 2004

Took the bus to La Paz. Stayed at Hostel Happy Days.

Monday, June 7th, 2004

La Paz.

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

La Paz.

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

Took the bus to Cochabamba. Stayed at Hostel Elisa.

Thursday, June 10th, 2004


Friday, June 11th, 2004


Saturday, June 12th, 2004

Took the bus to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Got in late and stayed at Hotel Bibosi.

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

Santa Cruz.

Monday, June 14th, 2004

Santa Cruz.

Tuesday, June 15th, 2004

Took and evening bus to Vallegrande.

Wednesday, June 16th, 2004

Took a taxi from Vallegrande to La Higuera.

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

La Higuera. Hiked down to the El Churo Ravine.

Friday, June 18th, 2004

Found a ride from La Higuera back to Vallegrande.

Saturday, June 19th, 2004

Took the bus to Mataral, waiting from 2pm till 10pm for my bus to Sucre.

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

Arrived in the morning to Sucre.

Monday, June 21st, 2004


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004


Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

Arrived in Potosi.

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Took a tour of the Potosi Mines.

Friday, June 25th, 2004

Took the bus to Uyuni, was held up in a roadblock.

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

Day 1 of the Salar de Uyuni tour.

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

Day 2 of the Salar de Uyuni tour.

Monday, June 28th, 2004

Day 3 of the Salar de Uyuni tour. Six months on the road!

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

Got back to Uyuni from the tour. Took the night train to Oruro.

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

Arrived in Oruro in the morning.

Thursday, July 1st, 2004

Took the bus to La Paz. Staying at the Happy Days Hostel.

Friday, July 2nd, 2004

La Paz.

Saturday, July 3rd, 2004

La Paz.

Sunday, July 4th, 2004

La Paz.

Monday, July 5th, 2004

I went home. Took a full 24 hours from my hotel room in La Paz to arriving at my parents house in Troutdale.

2004 Journey Erik's Travels U.S.A.

Back to GF, ND

Last week I made the relaxing drive across 1,600 miles to visit Grand Forks, North Dakota. The drive went well. My dad let me borrow his Honda Accord so I had a/c and cruise control, which made the trip a breeze. My excuse for going back was a “fix the house” weekend for my fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi. But I really just wanted to see all my old friends that I had not seen since last August or before.

I was in town for six nights of partying and helped work on the fraternity house for three days. I painted, getting the little storage shed we have knocked out and getting the main room in the basement painted, except for the ceiling.

Grand Forks looked great. The town is having a beautiful summer with lots of sun, a nice breeze and a steady temperature in the 80’s F. It was definitely nice to visit but I am kind of glad I left when I did. Most of my good friends have all moved on so there are only a few left that are still holding down the fort. But the trip was definitely worth it and I look forward to returning again in September for another visit.

2004 Journey Erik's Travels U.S.A.

I feel home

Last Monday, July 5th, I left my hostel in La Paz at 4am to start my journey home. I had a full day of flights taking me from La Paz, Bolivia to Santa Cruz, Bolivia then onward to Miami, Florida, USA where I had to wait forever to collect my baggage in order to finish clearing customs. After finally making it out into the airport I only had forty minutes before my connecting flight was to leave so I had to run the whole length of the semi-circle airport to board my flight to Portland, Oregon via Houston, Texas. I finally got to Portland just before 11pm and then took the light rail train to Gresham and walked an hour to get home.

The only person I had told about coming home was my friend in Australia, Pete, as I was planning on surprising everyone else. I got to my parents house about 12:45 am, exactly 24 hours after waking up in La Paz to head out. All the doors to the house were locked so I knocked on the door leading outside from their bedroom and gave them a real shock. They were very happy to have me home. The following day I continued the surprise by visiting all my grandparents.

Well I’ve been away but now I’m back today, and there ain’t a place I’d rather go.

2004 Journey Bolivia Erik's Travels

El Salar de Uyuni

Last Friday June 25th I left Potosi headed for Uyuni to find a tour to the Salar de Uyuni (the desert and salt flats). I took a taxi to the bus station only to find out that buses to Uyuni left from a different office about five blocks uphill from the station. So I wandered over there and bought a ticket for the 11:30am bus. About 12:30pm the bus finally showed up and we started the journey. Everything went fine for the first few hours. We blew a tire later in the afternoon but it was easily fixed and we were on our way again. About 5:40pm we encountered a roadblock on the road. We waited a few minutes and then the bus turned around to find an alternative route around the roadblock. It was about 6pm by then and the driver told everyone what they were planning on doing. All of the locals on board started getting really upset then because they thought that the other road we would take was too dangerous to travel on and they wanted to wait for the road blockers to go home. Which for some reason they thought would be at 7pm. So after a bit of arguing the driver decided to wait it out. So we sat on the bus until about 6:45pm. The road blockers had left and all the men from the bus went outside to clear the rocks off of the road. Some of the people who were cold started lighting up the small bushes that lined the desert to stay warm. There were not very many rocks on the road and we had about a dozen of us moving them. I was thinking “This is too easy!” when we discovered the huge pile of sand blockading the road. The sand was about four feet high, a bit wider then the road and forty feet long with rocks buried on the inside. The bus tried to drive over it but was not even close to making it so it backed up and two shovels were produced and we started digging. It took about an hour to dig out a path for the bus to drive through. We finally made it to Uyuni about 9pm and were greeted by a throng of tour operators. I already knew what company I wanted to go with and headed over to the Colque Tours office with three English folk I met on the bus ride (Roger, Fiona & Libby). They had spots for the next morning so we signed up for the same four day tour.

We left around 10:30am on Saturday June 26th. There were only the four of us plus our driver & guide Raul so there was plenty of room in our Land Cruiser. Our first stop was the train graveyard just outside of town then we visited a tiny village where salt was processed and bagged. Then it was on to the amazing Salar de Uyuni which is a huge salt flat. Workers scrap the salt into piles and then load it into trucks to take to the little village. All the work is done by hand and each huge pile of salt sold for only one boliviano each (about 15 cents).

The salt flat was amazing and we spent our first night in a hotel on the edge of it. We drank them out of beer after only three bottles so we had to switch to $2 boxes of red wine. But then magically towards the end of the night more beer showed up. At 10pm we were sitting there drinking and hanging out and they shut off the power generator without telling anyone so all the sudden there were half a dozen drunk people stranded in the dark. But we managed to make it to bed and the next morning our group (everyone else was drinking tea) was the last to get up and head out.

The second day of our tour we left the salt flats behind and headed across the desert. We visited several lakes and the Arbol de Piedra which is a rock sticking up in the air that looks like a tree. The whole area around there had just amazing rock formations. We arrived that night to the “cold” hotel where it supposedly got to below zero temperatures at night. There was nothing to do and no beer to drink so we all went to be before 9pm and tried to stay warm.

Day three we got up nice and early and headed out at 7am to go and see the geysers. About 15 mins away from the hotel our car quit working. Raul tried to fix it for a bit then walked back to the hotel to get help. So I waited in the freezing car for an hour while the English recreated lawn bowling with rocks. Raul finally came back with some help and the guy in the other car unhooked his radiator hose and sat there holding it while all the steam poured out. While he was doing that Raul jacked up the back of the Land Rover. Then he started to tighten up the fan belt. I asked them what was wrong and they said there was ice in the motor. Not sure what all the other stuff was doing to get the car working but after a while they gave up and towed it back to the hotel. The Land Rover that had come to rescue us had a group of gringos waiting for it back at the hotel so they went off on their tour and Raul went with them to try to find us a new car. So we were left with the little Bolivian family that ran the hotel who kept laughing at us. So we pulled a table our into the sun and drank coffee and played cards until Raul came back with a new car and driver at 11:30am. So we pilled in and continued our tour to the geysers, a hot springs and some more lakes. Around 4pm we met up with another car from our same tour company which had Ned the 19 year old Welshman and Yuval the Israeli. Everyone else from the four Colque tour cars had continued on to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile so the six of us were the only ones left to finish off the fourth day and head back to Uyuni. So we said goodbye to Raul who went back to take care of his car and headed off for a three hour drive to our lodging for that night. At our hotel we were fed and they had an amble supply of beer. So we ate and drank and then a musical group from the villages school came to entertain us for a bit with Bolivian folk songs. Monday night was my sixth month anniversary of leaving home and well spent I think. We had loads of fun that night.

Our fourth and final day, Tuesday, was mostly spent driving back to Uyuni. We stopped at a few different villages along the way and got back to town around 2pm. We hung out during the day at a restaurant with a very smoky fire pit and then I caught the train to Oruro at midnight with Roger, Fiona and Libby. They headed off to La Paz on the bus and I went off to find a Hostel. I slept for a bit and then hung out around Oruro. It is a very cold place and not too exciting.

Today I am going to head off to La Paz in a bit and chill out there for a few days.

2004 Journey Bolivia Erik's Travels

Bolivian Mining

Thursday June 24th I was in Potosi and went on a tour to the mines there. It was a gringo tour so I once again figured it would be an easy enough venture, but was once again wrong. The tour group met at the tour office in the morning and we headed off to get ready for our tour. The tour company gave everyone a pair of waterproof pants and a coat and a hardhat with a lamp. Then we went to the Miners Market where we bought some presents for the miners we would see on our tour. I bought a stick of dynamite with a detonator and five minute fuse and a bag of some chemicals (ammonium nitrate?) that magnify the explosion for 16 Bolivianos (US$2) and a liter of 96% Alcohol for my presents. Others bought some coca leaves and sodas and waters for presents. After our shopping venture we drove up to the mountain where the mine is that looms over the town of Potosi. The mine was first started by the Spanish in the 16th century and then silver was the main mineral, however nowadays it is mostly zinc they mine because all of the high grade silver is gone or still hidden deep in the mountain.

So we arrived at the mine and started our tour inside. During the first bit I only had to duck a little but the shaft was very narrow. It was ok and there were no worries yet. We visited the museum which was near the entrance and saw a effigy of the devil (El Tio or The Uncle) as the miners call him. The miners offer the statues of the devil coca leaves and cigarettes so that they will have good luck and find silver during their workday. So we finished up in the museum and started the real bit of the tour. The mine we were in (there are loads of different ones) had six levels to it. We entered through the top level and after walking for a bit we came out to a bit of a open area in the shaft. We stopped there and divided up into two groups, my group had six gringos the other five. Our guide Pedro told us about the mine and we rested up before heading down to the second level. To get to the second level I had to crawl on my stomach to fit through this little passageway and then crawl on my hands and knees downwards before sliding down the rest of the way. It was about this time I realized that there I was way in the middle of this huge mountain in a little tiny passage with no easy way out. So I tried to block that out of my mind. We walked through the second level for a while, it is here that it started to get warm and I could really notice how dusty and sticky the air was. We were soon at the passageway to the third level which was much easy to negotiate then the first to second floor passage.

Upon arriving on the third level we met a group of miners working hard. Basically one group of guys would work together in one section of the mine that was theirs and would share all the profits made by the group between them. Some of the miners whacked the walls with picks to break off the minerals and then would dump the minerals into a big wagon which was on railroad tracks. Once the wagon was full, two men would push it and two would pull it with ropes as hard as they could and it would barley move because it was so heavy. They would then have to take it to the end of the mine shaft and then come back for more.

We gave the miners some of the presents we had brought and then moved down the shaft to see the miners in action. After watching them work for a bit we reached the passageway to the fourth floor. I started down but after getting a good look at the passageway backed out. It was a narrow hole that one had to kind of slide through and then grab onto a ladder and then cross over to another ladder below. I thought there was no way I wanted to be down there. I was terrified enough in the “roomy” shafts we had been through already and had no desire to battle my fears. So I hung out at the top of the passage and waited until the group came back up ten minutes later fully covered with sweat and relived to feel the “clean & fresh” air of the third level. I was very glad I did not go down.

We had been in the mines for about two hours at that point and then started back up. I was not looking forward to the small passages I would have to go through but did not have much of a choice. We took a different way back up to the second floor which kind of turned into the passage up to the top. First there was a wooden ladder with shaky wobbly steps which got us up to the second floor then the same passage back up to the top. It sucked so bad. I had to crawl up this incline not knowing what was in front of me because I had to look where I was crawling and kept hitting my back and head into the rocks above me. Towards the top I started getting really out of breath but had no place to stop and had to keep crawling upwards. Finally it started to even out a bit and up ahead the rest of my group had stopped to rest. When I got there I plunked down next to Pedro to try to catch my breath. He started to blow on me to cool me down and after a few minutes I was good to go. We started off again but luckily while scrambling up to the top floor I had navigated all the worst parts in a frenzy and during the rest of the way did not have to crawl again. Just a lot of ducking. Most of the mine looked the same to me so I had no clue how much further it was until I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was at that point when I could see the sunlight pouring in and feel the fresh cold air from outside that I realized what that phrase really means.

I stumbled outside covered in mud, dust and sweat and very happy. After resting up for a couple minutes it was time for our dynamite demonstration. Our guides showed us how to prepare it and then lit the fuses. After lighting the fuses they passed around the bags of dynamite to hold and then went and tossed them in a nearby field. After a couple minutes of waiting they blew up. I was prepared for a loud bang but even so the explosion made me jump. Really, really loud. Then they drove us back to town and that was that. I will be happy if I never go in another mine ever again.

2004 Journey Bolivia Erik's Travels

Sucre Update

I have been in Sucre for the last few days. It is pretty nice here. All the buildings are painted white. I have just been talking it easy getting ready for the next spurt of travel west to the desert and to finish off my Bolivian tour.

2004 Journey Bolivia Erik's Travels

Amigos De El Che

This week I had one of the best experiences of my entire journey so far. I visited the village of La Higuera where Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his fellow troops were hunted down, captured and murdered by the Bolivian Army and the CIA in October of 1967. I guess I should start my tale from the beginning.

I started my journey in Santa Cruz de la Sierra which is a huge city in Eastern Bolivia. My guidebook did not have much to say about my upcoming journey to La Higuera. It said to take a bus to Vallegrande where there are Several pleasant, basic places to stay on or around the plaza. It gave a few details about taking a bus from Vallegrande to the village of Pucara from where there is transport to La Higuera. It also mentioned some Che tours and said if considering a tour, book locally, not from La Paz. Fair enough I thought. So while I was in Santa Cruz I walked around and looked for a tour operator but did not see anything of the like. Oh, well I figured. Once I get to Vallegrande there will be all kinds of people trying to get me to go on their Che tour.

My journey started on Tuesday (June 15th) and the only one bus I could find that went from Santa Cruz to Vallegrande left at 6:30pm and arrived at 1am they said. I was not wild about arriving in a new city that I knew nothing about at 1am but I figured how bad could it be. So I got on the bus and it started out with only myself and one other passenger on it. Interesting considering how full the other buses I had been on so far in Bolivia had been. Kids laying in the aisle and people standing for hours and hours because there were no seats. But the bus plodded along for a while and soon we stopped to pick up some more passengers. But only a few people got on board. So 1 am came and went and I could only see blackness out of my bus window. Finally about 1:30 am we rolled into town. I asked the bus usher kid where there was a hotel and he pointed and said towards the plaza. So I walked up to the plaza which was only a block away and looked around. No hotels or anything. So I picked a street to walk up and didn´t see anything that direction either. I went back to the plaza and picked a different road and started heading up it. The whole time I didn´t see a soul around. All of the people who were on the bus with me had promptly hopped into taxis and disappeared. As I was walking along a couple blocks I spied another plaza and figured this must be the plaza the kid and my guidebook were talking about. There was a residencia right on the corner so I rang their bell a few times and waited but no signs of life. Moving on I found a couple more residencias but no one was home at those either. Shit I thought. What am I to do now. So I picked another street and walked up it. I came to a residencia with some lights on and could hear some people talking and a tv going. I rang their bell and knocked and waited and waited but no one came to the door. So I went back to the plaza. There was a place that I thought might be a hotel but had a weird word on their sign. I knocked and the door creaked open. I poked my head in and shouted “Hola.” But didn´t hear anyone. So I crept in slowly and looked around. I found myself in a courtyard with possible bedrooms all along the upper level of the courtyard. So I walked up the stairs hoping I would find an empty room I could crash in and figure things out in the morning. But all the rooms where under construction and there were no beds anywhere. So I quickly made my way back out to the plaza and closed the door. I was considering sleeping on one of the many park benches, but was not wild about the idea. I decided to go give one more knock at some of the places I had already tried. I was walking across the plaza when I saw a taxi creeping along the street. I hailed him and asked him if he knew of a hotel that was open. He said sure so I hopped in and off we went. Two blocks down the street and he pulled up to a building that was still being built. He said it was a new hotel. It was 2 am and I did not really care too much as long as I was not on the park bench. So he knocked at the door for a bit then I heard a woman say she was coming. Whew! She opened up and was super friendly and took me up to a room. I drifted off into a deep slumber and was awoken at 10:30 the next morning by someone knocking on my door. I answered and there was a different lady who started spouting all this stuff off and the only words I could pick out were man, work, key and room. I told here I didn´t understand and then she just walked away. Not quite sure what to make of it I decided it was probably time to get up and try to track down a Che tour. So I got up and hit the streets of Vallegrande. Things looked much better when it was not the middle of the night and I walked up along the main street and over to the first plaza that I had seen but did not see any tour places. So I decided to eat and then deal with it. I popped into a place and had their lunch which was soup followed by chicken and rice. I admit that I don´t really like to try new weird foods but I was really hungry so I was going to eat whatever they brought me. The soup had some very odd mystery meat in it. At first I thought the small round meat tubes were ham but after trying some of them I am still stumped as to what they were. Anyways, I ate most of the food and then set out of figure out how to get to La Higuera. I stopped to talk to a taxi driver and he reconfirmed my guidebook´s bus story. But I wanted to go then, I did not want to have to wait until the next morning and try to hassle with all kinds of crazy buses. The feeling that I was in the middle of nowhere was starting to sink in. So I took the kid up on his taxi offer of 150 BS (US$20) to drive me to La Higuera. First we headed over to my hotel to grab my pack. He dropped me off and went to go get some gas. So I go to walk into the door to find a big fat lock on the door. Great I thought. I tried fiddling with it and tried my room key even though I knew it would not work. I stood there calling out “¡Hola!” hoping someone was inside even though I knew no one was. So I stood back and surveyed the situation. I knew I didn´t want to stand here all day waiting for the owners to come home. There were no windows yet and on the part of the hotel that was going to be the foyer they had two large windows that were covered up by a big piece of metal. I pushed the metal and it gave way, it was just held up by a board from the inside of the hotel. So I removed the metal and was about to try to climb in through the window when I heard some lady shouting behind me. The lady who had woken me up this morning. She disappeared for a second and then came back waving a key. Then our conversation from this morning made sense to me. The owners were going to work and left the key with her. So I apologized for the window and put the piece of metal back. She let me in and I paid her then ran up to my room to grab my stuff. My taxi driver, Jamie, showed back up and we were off I thought. But apparently Jamie was worried about driving so far away (60km) and he kept asking me how long I was going to stay in La Higuera. One hour? Two? I told him I was going to stay a couple days and he didn´t seem to like that idea so he tried to find another taxi driver to take me. But apparently no one was up for the trip. So we went off to go and get gas which he had apparently not done before. Then stop by his house so he could grab a quick lunch and then we were off. It took a good two and a half hours to get to Pucara and along the way Jamie and I talked about a bunch of different stuff. He asked me why I was going to La Higuera and I told him to visit Che. He said “oh, is he still there?” I said well no they took his body to Cuba in 1997. Then Jamie asked “oh, is he living in Cuba then?” So I had to give Jamie a brief history lesson about Che. Jamie was more concerned about what kind of food we had and how big people were in the USA though. In Pucara Jamie had to ask directions on how to get to La Higuera. I asked him “Haven´t you been there before?” “Once, but it was night and I wasn´t driving.” Alright then. So we got some directions and kept driving along for the last bit of the drive. We finally made it to La Higuera. Jamie pulled the taxi up next to the big bust statue of Che and tossed my bad out and got out of there in a flash.

So I am standing in this remote Bolivian village next to the Che statue with my backpack and no clue what to do next. There were some buildings around mostly houses but two little stores. The statue of che and a little plaza with another statue of Che. And that is La Higuera. A lady peeked her head out from the store and beckoned me over so I headed over and said hi and asked if there was anyplace to stay here. She said yeah, just wait a minute. Apparently the gringo alarm had gone off the second my taxi pulled up and the call went out because shortly after an older guy with hardly any teeth strolled up to me and asked if I needed a place to stay. Yep I said so he told me to follow him and we went down the street to the old school house where Che was held prisoner before he was murdered. After that he took me to the new school house where they have a dormitory with four bunk beds. So I tossed down my pack in the empty room and went to see the next item on the agenda, the schools library. My new buddy, Manuel started asking where I was from and he was amazed when I told him I was American. He said that Americans did not come to La Higuera very often. He told me he had some dollars that he wanted me to look at. So I went back to his house with him and while he was searching for his dollars inside a little old lady, Manuel´s 110 year old grandmother, came hobbling over the wood and rock fence from the corn field. She could barely walk and had a constant shake going. Manuel came back with a $100 bill and said that someone had given it to him in 1998. In La Higuera it is hard enough to get change for a 100 BS (About US$13) much less a $100. Manuel asked me to change it for him so I did, giving him the four twenties I had and then the rest in Bolivianos. After that Manuel hopped up to grab his Che book that he had. But Manuel dosen´t read so he flipped through the whole book showing me all the photos in it and telling me about the Cubanos. He said he would come and get me in the morning to take me to the El Churo valley where Che was captured. So I left Manuel´s house and headed back towards the school, stopping to buy some snacks at the shop. There were a couple little kids following me around so I invited them to play cards with me. So we played war for a while and then their mom called them home. So I just relaxed and went to bed early that night.

Thursday morning Manuel comes in to collect me a bit before 8am. I had just woken up and was still laying in bed so he said something about having a coffee then we will go to El Churo. So I got ready and headed out front to street but did not seen Manuel anywhere. The lady from the “other” store beckoned me over and fixed me a coffee. The town drunk was already hard at work finishing a beer at 8:30am in the store. I finished my coffee and headed off to find Manuel. I went to his house but he was not there so I went back to the plaza and hung out there for a while. He showed up just before 9 am with a small machete and asked if I was ready to go. We started off walking on the road for a bit and then set out onto a dirt path going uphill. Manuel was wildly swinging around his machete clearing the path for us as we went. There were some pretty steep parts so I got to breathing pretty hard and that led Manuel to enquire about my weight. I told him that I was 140 Kilos and that just blew him away. He said that I needed to live with him and eat what he eats for a month and then I would be 100 Kilos, which was as he figured it as much as anyone ever needed to weigh. I agreed with him. So we kept walking along with Manuel turning around every now and then to say “140 Kilos, keep walking.” We made it to the top of the ravine and then started going down a very steep incline. That part was easy enough but I knew that I would be dying on the trek back up. All along the way Manuel would point out where the Army soldiers had been positioned, which was pretty much all over the place as they had 1,800 soldiers in the area to capture Che´s small group of twenty or so revolutionaries. Che had been trekking along the river near there and after a few encounters with the Army had become trapped in the valley. As Manuel and I walked down to the valley floor Manuel pointed out where Che and his troops had been chased and finally we reached the spot where Che had been captured. He had been shot several times in the leg and his rifle had been shot and he was taking cover behind a large rock with one of his soldiers when the Army troops surrounded him. Che told the Army troops “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.” So they captured him and took him back to the school house in La Higuera. Manuel and I stayed there for a bit while I took in the area around me. It was pretty erie being there and I could imagine the gun shots being fired and the soldiers running around through the bushes and trees. After a few photos Manuel and I started the long trek back to La Higuera. It had taken just under two hours to reach the end of our hike and took a tad bit longer to get back to town. Along the steep climb back up I had to stop and rest quite a few times and as we sat and rested Manuel would tell me about Che and his troops. How they had visited nearby villages and talked to the villagers and when they collected food from the villagers they always paid for everything that they took. Manuel told me that the day after Che was captured the troops there received the order to kill him. So two soldiers went walking down the street with a beer in both hands and arguing over who would shot Che. The soldier entered the school house drunk with is gun ready to shoot Che who was bound and laying on the floor. As the solder hesitated before he shot Che told him “Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man!” And then gun shoots echoed throughout the village as the villagers were hiding away in their houses. After a bit more sweating and grunting I made it back to the top of the valley and to the road. We were pleasantly strolling back to town on the road when Manuel suddenly jumped back as a meter long snake slithered in front of us. Manual swiftly chopped it right in half with his machete and then pried open the snakes mouth with a stick to show me the fangs. After that excitement we made it back to town and had some lunch and a few beers. Then I went off to take a nap and rest up.

About 7 pm Manuel came into the bunkhouse to get me and we went next door to the store for some beers. We had a couple beers then I went down to the other store to have dinner. There were a couple of guys just totally drunk there and the Señora made me some dinner which was unfortunately the same thing I had for lunch. Rice, carrots and potatoes which was good when it was warm at lunchtime. But the second time around it was cold and not quite as tasty. But I munched down as much as I could stomach and headed back to the first store to have a few more beers with Manuel. There was another lively villager in the store and the younger Señora who owned the store. I kept buying the beers and the four of us were drinking and having a good time. While I was gone at dinner two boom boxes were produced and the music was flowing. The folks there took a keen interest in me and kept asking me about the USA and how far away it was. When I told them that I had been to Chile, Argentina and Peru first they didn´t know what to make of that. Santa Cruz de la Sierra was as far as most of them had ever been. They all wanted me to come back and buy a house in La Higuera. They said for a $1,000 I could buy a real nice house with two rooms. I think around midnight or so we learned that there was no more beer. So the Señora mixed up some sort of concoction that we drank for a bit. Then I said my goodnights and stumbled back to my bed. I was just about to crawl into bed when Manuel came in and we ended up staying up for an hour or so having a drunken conversation. Then he took off and I went to sleep.

I was sleeping away when I heard the door open and Manuel came in and sat down on my bed. It was 9am. He said that there was a car in town that was going to leave later that afternoon and would take me back to Vallegrande. Good I thought. So I went back to sleep for a bit. Manuel came back a while later and told me that the car had left already. Manuel asked the driver to wait but apparently they didn´t want to. But Manuel assured me that on Fridays there was lots of traffic through the town so it shouldn´t be a problem. So I started to get up and get ready. I had just come back from brushing my teeth in the very deluxe bathroom (seriously!) and Manuel came in with the two little kids in tow to tell me there was another car in town and the driver was waiting for me. So I packed up really quit and headed out. But when I got outside the car had left! So I set up camp on the side of the road to ensure that I did not miss another opportunity. I only had to wait about half and hour before a taxi came driving into town in the direction of Vallegrande. So I ran down to the taxi and the guy asked where I wanted to go, I said Vallegrande and he said get on in. I was set. So I grabbed my pack and hopped in the back seat. We drove down the road a bit and the guy in the passenger seat got out to go have a jaw flap with one of the locals. There was a little old guy all dressed up with his slacks, sweater and top hat in the back seat with me and the young taxi driver. I shortly figured out that the guy in the passenger seat had hired the taxi and was driving around visiting his friends and looking for cows to buy. So after a bit he was ready to go and I said goodbye to Manuel who had sauntered over to the taxi. He said “Bye, I shall see you when you return.” and we drove off. After a bit we arrived in Pucara and stopped there while the guy went around for about two hours to talk to people. It was nice day out and they have a nice plaza there so I hung out and there was a group of locals who were taking a mid day siesta and invited me to share some beer with them. Eventually the guy came walking down the street with this huge bull and as he stopped to talk to his buddies who were hanging out in the plaza the bull started to ram a small van that was parked on the street. So the guy ran the cow down the street and told the taxi to follow him. So I climbed in and we were off. The guy put the cow in a fenced in pasture on the edge of the village and we started the drive towards Vallegrande. We got to town and it looked a lot nicer then my first trip there. Maybe because I knew I could find a hotel because it was still daylight! So I headed back down to the plaza and and went to the Hotel Copacabana. I rested up for a bit and had a shower to cleanse off the dust and headed off to try to figure out the bus scene and find some dinner. I went to the bus office which had a sign saying they had buses to Sucre, which is where I wanted to go, and asked what time they left. The lady started in on this confusing deal saying that I would have to switch buses in a town called Mataral but that the bus left at one pm. So I said ok and I paid for a ticket. Then I reconfirmed that the bus was leaving from the office at one tomorrow. She said, no you have to go to Mataral on another bus down the street and then wait for your bus in Mataral which will come at 7pm. Ok, I thought. Easy enough. I went and found a place to eat and had a great hamburger and a ice cold Coca-Cola for 5 BS (70 cents) and went back to my hotel room.

Saturday morning and I was going to try to escape from Vallegrande. I got all packed and walked around to get some photos. I figured out where my bus left from and had a great lunch at the same little restaurant. As I was walking over to the bus I noticed the strap on my red daypack was about to come unsown. It had come undone a month or two ago but I had sewn it up then. But this time it looked a lot worse. I passed a shoe repair shop so I popped in to see if they could fix it up for me. The kid at the sewing machine said he could certainly fix it and while he was working on it a really drunk guy came into the shop and started talking to me. I was talking to him and asked him, “Are you fixing your shoes here?” The kid fixing my backpack and his buddy both looked and me and rolled their eyes and told me he was the owner of the store. Herman was a very friendly guy and invited me to sleep in his store if I wanted. But I politely refused and told him I had to catch the bus in a bit. After the kid was done repairing my daypack I had some time to kill so I bought a couple beers for us to drink and then headed out to get on the bus. On the bus ride I discovered that my CD Player and only source of entertainment had gone tits up. The radio still works but for some reason it won´t spin the disc around or after starting it and stopping it a bunch will but makes a horrible sound and will only play about half a song before stopping. I also discovered that I had lost my sunglasses at some point in the recent past. We reached Mataral after only and hour and I got off the bus, almost forgetting all my cds, but a lady handed them to me out the window. I asked the bus helper guy where to wait for the bus and he pointed across the street. He asked if I was going to Sucre and I replied that I was. He said “Oh, your gonna have to wait a long time. The bus does not pass until 8 or 9 at night.” Not much I could do I thought and I started my waiting by the side of the road. Mataral is basically a few little shops and restaurants and a fork in the road where truckers stop to have a snack and check their tires ( quite a past time for Bolivian drivers! ) It was 2 pm. Around 4 I went across the street to have a Fanta and kill some more time. But after nursing my Fanta for two hours I went back to my waiting spot. I had no music, no book to read other then my guidebook and nothing to do. So I sat there. Seven o´clock came and went and no sign of any bus. Eight o´clock came and went and still no bus. An old guy who was waiting for a different bus asked me where I was going and when I told him Sucre said “Oh, that bus does not pass until late. Until 10 or 10:30.” Well there was not much I could do but wait. After it got dark it was hard to tell which of the approaching vehicles were trucks or buses so at every approaching headlight I ran out to the side to the side of the road to hope that it would be my bus. There were some smaller buses that passed and stopped but they were all going to local towns near there. Nine came and went and then a few buses started to come. I was pretty sure that the bus company that I had a ticket for was named Bolivar. But I didn´t care and was ready to hop on any bus going to Sucre even if I had to buy another 40 BS ($5) ticket. Four big buses blew right past me without even thinking about stopping and I was hoping that my bus would be kind enough to stop. I figured that they knew they were supposed to pick me up because the lady at the Vallegrande office had called the Santa Cruz office to book my ticket for me. But I didn´t put too much faith in that. So I waited a bit more. Finally I saw my Bolivar bus approaching and the glowing “Sucre” sign in the window beckoning to me. So I started waving my arms like a madman and it stopped for me. I tossed my backpack below and hoped on board. My receipt that I had said seat number eleven. But I knew that there was little chance of my seat being empty, but I did not care. I would have sat on the floor. I hoped and and went back to try to find a seat. The driver turned the inside light on and there were kids lining the aisle and everyone in the totally packed bus was soundly asleep. The bus helper kid asked for my ticket and I gave him the receipt deal I had been given. He said “No, where’s your ticket?” and I told him that I had already paid for it and this was all I was given. So he tells me to wait a second and goes back up front. Then all the lights go out and I am standing in the isle with a bunch of kids behind me and unsure of where any empty seats were. So I waited a few minutes for the kid to come back but he never did. Luckily a friendly passenger told me there was an empty seat towards the front so I hobbled my way up there and sat down relaxed and damn happy to be on the bus. We drove all through the night and finally made it to Sucre about 7:30 am.

Eating pizza for lunch today while listening to The Beatles and watching a steady stream of gringos walk past the restaurant I was a bit sad that I had left the peacefulness and beauty of La Higuera. But I sure will not miss trying to get there or away again!

2004 Journey Bolivia Erik's Travels

Bolivian Boredom

After La Paz I took the bus to Cochabamba. Stayed there a few days and then took the bus Saturday to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It was long twelve hour bus ride through the jungle. I have been hanging out in Santa Cruz the last couple days and going to leave tomorrow night for Vallegrande. Not much exciting to report as there is not much exciting going on.

2004 Journey Bolivia Erik's Travels

In La Paz.

Yesterday morning (Sunday June 6th) I took a bus from Puno, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia. At the border we all had to unload and walk across. However it was a big fiesta weekend and when we arrived at the Bolivian side of the border everyone was at the church marching around and signing the national anthem and other songs. So all the gringos from the several buses were all lined up outside of the closed immigration office waiting for the parade to get over. It finally did and we loaded back onto the bus and were on our way.

But here is my favorite part…

We drove 8 KMs down the road to the town of Copacabana, Bolivia where we had an our to get lunch and afterwards change buses. When we first arrived into town a guy hoped on board to collect the city tax for entering Copacabana. It was a one Boliviano tax so about 14 cents American. And all of the sudden all these tourist start freaking out and bitching to the poor tax collector guy. “We were not told about this.” “Were going to La Paz, we just won´t get out of the bus!” “We refuse to pay!” And they did. At least two girls flat our refused to pay. Other people were bitching about it and eventually paid. But it just pissed me off that these fucking tourists have no respect for the places they visit and can be such ignorant cheap assholes. I really hate other tourists a lot of the time. Oh yeah, and of course these people did not even attempt to speak spanish but blather about in english like everyone should understand them.

But that ugly part out of the way. Copacabana is a really cool town, even though I only saw a little bit of it. It is right on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. I am definitely going to stop back there a couple days on my way back west.

The bus rolled into La Paz around 5pm and parked at a hotel and hostel somewhat near the center of town. I had a hostel picked out of my book near the center of town and figured that it was only about five blocks away or so from where I was. Right away a taxi driver asked me where I wanted to go and I told him and he quoted me two Bolivianos (about 25 cents), but I figured it was not very far and wanted to stretch my legs after being in the bus all day so I told him no thanks. I asked him which direction it was towards the Plaza San Francisco which was near where I wanted to go. He pointed me in the right direction and off I went. I was having a hard time figuring out where exactly I was on my map so I kept walking and asked a few more people where the Plaza de San Francisco was. They kept on pointing me all the same general directions. While I was walking I got to witness the end of the fiesta, Which meant lots of drunk people passed out on the sidewalks and even more drunk people all dressed up in nice clothes staggering around. It reminded me of one end of the night at one of the fraternity parties we used to have. But I kept walking and walking and tried to find myself on my map but when I did it never made sense because it looked like I was walking in the wrong direction. But I figured the local people must know where one of their own central plazas is, right? But apparently not. Eventually I ended up at the Plaza Sucre which I was able to easily locate on my map and figured out that instead of heading the four blocks north that I needed to go originally I had walked about 1 K east. So I had my bearings down at least and started the trek back towards the center of town. It was at about this point I had wished I had taken the taxi guy´s offer, but at this point I figured I set out on foot and I was sure as hell not going to give in a take a taxi now. I made it with little difficulty after that and made it to the hostel fine.

After resting up a bit I set out to wander the streets some more. It was pretty weird because I saw some people that were on the bus from Salta, Argentina to San Pedro, Chile with me walking around as well as some people that ate in the same restaurant as me the night before in Puno. They have lots of cool stuff for sale here though. Like basically any American CD you could want, all for only 10 Bolivianos (about $1.25) as well as any number of DVDs including movies that are still in the theaters now.

There are lots of hills here, the whole city is in one big canyon. It is hard work to just walk around too because La Paz is 4,000 meters high (13,123 feet). I am going to stay here a couple more days and then head east.