We were given seats in the back of the bus with only a few Bolivians behind us, which turned out to be a problem. First of all Lilian noticed the unusually small windows of the bus and a seat that would not recline. Good start for a night ion the bus. Next there was this smell of alcohol wafting up to us from behind. The Bolivians, a happy lot, were already drunk on beer and drugged from chewing coca leaves. Regularly they would come dangerously close to us with their newly opened beer cans. Finally they would fall asleep in the aisle.
We did not get much sleep though, as the roads were pretty bad, but hey, you expect that from a bolivian road! Early the next morning we reached the outskirts of La Paz, where the bus driver stopped and refused to descend into the city center. He admitted, that the brakes were not very good and the descend into the city might be too dangerous. Good, that explains at least, why we kept seeing the bus driver underneath the bus during the frequent stops at night.
We enjoyed two days in La Paz, de facto capital of Bolivia, which for us the heart of South America. High altitude, friendly people and countless markets with colourful products. If you are into witchcraft, you must come here to the witch market and buy a dried lama foetus, sold everywhere (Who buys this?).
We could not miss the Titicaca lake, where we spent to days, before moving on to Potosi, the famous silver mining town, that was once one of the bigest cities in the world with over one million inhabitants in the 17th century. The reason for coming here is the Cerro Rico, the Rich Mountain and its still working mining operations. Part of the attraction for tourists is the fact, that the working conditions are absolutely apalling. The workers make more money than they would in most other jobs in Bolivia, but they live on coca leaves and alcohol. Visiting tourists help by bringing coca leaves, alcohol and dinamite into the mountain. Wnat to hold a dinamite stick with a burning fuse? Here you can do it, the tour guides, often former miners, have the most fun when they leave you with the burning dinamite.
The truth is, it is not pleasant inside the Cerro Rico. Lilian went as far as the underground museum, a collection of mining utensils in a small and damp cavern. I crawled my way through narrow shafts and talked to some of the miners. They certainly have a good sense of humour. I guess you need it when you work with tools that have hardly changed since the middle ages.
The rest of our stay in South America was quite relaxed, mostly because we spent time in pretty argentine cities (especially Salta). A quick detour into Paraguay was another visit to the real (or surreal?) South America. Paraguay's capital Asuncion was almost deserted on a saturday eventing. The following sunday was similar, with one fleamarket being the exception. Police squads were out in force though, almost arresting us because we tried to look over a wall into the main train station (out of service of course). Since I had no weapons on me and they established the Lilian was probably my concubine, we were let off. I think they were after a bribe.
Iguazu falls are justly famous, but more important for us was the beautiful youth hostel Paudimar on the outskirts of Foz do Iguazu. If you are ever in the vicinity, go there. It is more like a ressort and the best budget accommodation I have seen in South America.
I need to mention one more trip, as we mainly did it to get uruguayan stamps in our passports. Well, that is not entirely true, but I had missed going to Uruguay twice before, so this time I was determined. We took the slow boat from Buenos Aires (3 hours) to Colonia and spend a lovely day there and also on the boat.
Next will be Madrid, Frankfurt, Sweden, Qatar, Dubai and Oman!
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