So it`s been a while since I`ve posted, which means that I have been busy (and that I also haven`t had internet in the past 5 days). I ended up staying in Sucre for all of 10 days and enjoyed every day. My Spanish classes went well and I learned the rest of the grammar that I hadn´t learned before. I met some great people there, including a Bolivian couple that work at the Spanish school and an awesome British guy who may now be reading.
On Wednesday of last week, a bunch of us from the Spanish school went and played Walleyball which is a great game I had never seen before. It`s essentially volleyball on a raquetball court. So you can hit the ball off the walls and everything. Intense game, and something I will attempt to bring back to the US.
Another night, we all met up and went out to a few different places, including karaoke. I kept my life-long streak of never singing karaoke except for a few words from Shania Twain´s ¨I feel like a woman¨. Overall, was a great night out.
The next day, we went to lunch at a local restaurant to try something local…something I never thought I would eat. The soup is called Caldo de Cardan, and it consists of vegetables and different types of meat, including dried beef, chicken, and the private parts of a bull. And not just the testicles, but the penis as well. I didn`t even know people at this, but here we were in Sucre chowing down. The texture almost got to me at first, but after getting past that part and the fact of what you are eating, it´s extremely delicious. Later that night, I ate anticucho from a street vendor, which is cow heart on a stick cut into small pieces. Needless to say, a good day of eating.
My last night in Sucre, my friend from the Spanish school had a party at her parent`s house. They have the traditonal party every year, called ¨Niño¨, meaning ¨child¨. The child is baby Jesus. It´s the celebration for the end of Christmas, which in heavily Catholic countries goes from Christmas until January 6th, Reyes. The party was mostly family friends and relatives, and they had all sorts of appetizers. The whole party was focused on dancing in front of the nativity scene. Their nativity scene was an elaborate decoration that took the mother 2 nights to put up. Everyone at the party was extremely friendly, and it was very interesting to see this traditional fiesta.
When I was in Sucre, I met a guy from Holland. He has holidays from work and is traveling around Bolivia and Peru for a few months. He was telling me about what him and his friends are doing while traveling, and I absolutely loved the idea. Before their trip, they raised money from friends, relatives, and acquaintences in order to buy and give soccer balls to kids in the cities they visit. So when they are in a city, they will buy a soccer ball and go to the plaza to play. They invite kids to play, and after playing they give the ball to a kid.
Like I said, I loved the idea, so I decided to give it a shot. I went and searched for a soccer ball and was surprised to find that the cheapest new ball I could find was $10. When the average Bolivian salary is $120 a month, it´s not surprise why there aren`t a ton of soccer balls seen around even for how popular the sport is. So I bought the soccer ball and went to the plaza. It was January 6th, the holiday of Reyes, so I was sad to see several kids working and selling things in the plaza. There were a few kids cleaning shoes, so when one came over, I asked ¨What day is it today¨? ¨Viernes¨ was his reply, Friday. ¨But today is Reyes, right?¨ ¨Yes!¨ ¨Well, do you like soccer?¨ ¨Yes, of course¨ Ök, so I have a present for you but only if you and your friends play with me for a bit¨. So they picked up all of their equipment and we went to a local park. The 6 of us played for about a half an hour before I had to leave for my Spanish lesson. It was a great pleasure to be able to see the kids having fun, especially on Reyes when they were working before. I could never imagine working, for example, on Christmas when I was 8 years old. That´s not a childhood at all. It`s extremely sad to see, and I´ve seen it too often in my time here in South America.
So this brings me to a new idea, which is practically stealing this great idea. For my next big trip, I am thinking of doing the same. I will fundraise money, but will continue the process by writing a blog for everyone who donated and for anyone who is interesting in following the trip. I will have people ¨sponsor¨ a soccer ball, and they can specify a country, city, whatever. For their sponsored ball, I will write their intials on the ball and have a picture with the kids in which I will post on the blog. Good for the kids, cool for the people to give directly, and gives my trip more of a purpose.
So after drinking much more api, meeting some great people, and studying Spanish, I finally pulled myself away from Sucre. I absolutely loved the city and can actually see myself coming back to live.
So I then took a bus to Uyuni, which is a horrible little tourist town. I had heard it was pretty bad, but I tried to give it a chance. Overall, the city didn`t treat me very well and I was happy to get out.
I arrived at night, and it was rainy and cold. I searched around for a tour of the Salar, which is the huge salt lake. Because there is more rain now, all the tours are charging 200 Bolivianos ($30) more than before since it is harder on their 4x4s. After finding a hostel that is much more expensive than other cities in Bolivia, I found some food and got some sleep. I woke the next morning and happily left the town for my 3 day tour.
The tour was absolutely incredible, some of the best, most diverse, and interesting scenery I have ever seen. We started out the first day by going to the Salar, the Salt Flats. It is the largest salt flat in the world, and it`s massive at 4,086 sq miles. Right now, there is water in most of the lake, and this makes the views even more interesting. The place is absolutely flat for miles and miles, and the reflections in the water make it very unique. I can`t even really describe it, so I hope the pictures I took do the talking.
After the salt flats, we drove for about 3 hours to the hostel. The next day, we woke up and started driving more. The amount of snow capped mountains on this trip is ridiculous. I think I saw at least 50 different mountains with their peaks covered in snow. On this second day, we stopped at rock formations caused by the volcanoes. We saw several inactive volcanoes and one active volcano. We drove 2 hours through an extremely high desert, around 13,000 feet. We were so high that the snow covered mountains weren`t that far above us. It seemed like we could easily walk up to the top of these mountains. Finally, we reached the Laguna Colorado, which is a lake colored half in red and half in white. The red is the color from the seaweed, and the white is from salt, and there were hundreds of flamengos in the lake as well.
We stayed in a hostel close to this lake, and then set off at 4am the next morning to visit volcanic geyser. In the cold air, the air coming up from the geyers produced a thick smoke. The cold air reminded me of a cold December morning at home (although not this year). Afterwards, we continued on to the Laguna Verde, the Green Lake. Another beautiful lake nestled in between mountains on the borders of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. That finished the tour, and we then made the 8 hour drive back to Uyuni. It was an amazing tour, and would recommend it for anyone able to do the tour!
When I got back to Uyuni, things went wrong again. I had a friend buy my bus ticket since I didn`t have time, and she bought the ticket for Tuesday night, not the night I got back on Wednesday. So rather than immediately leaving town, I had to stay another night and pay another night in a the hostel. (Good news was that the hostel had tv, and I got to watch 4 episodes of The Office). However, I found I ended up losing my towel on the tour, my sunglasses broke, and finally the bus trip the next day had problems. After 2 hours of the 7 hour trip, the back left wheel of the bus completely came off. Luckily everything was fine except for the bus. After waiting 2 hours, we finally got on the bus and made our way to Tupiza.
So here I am in Tupiza, which is the main place for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Close to here, they had a ranch, and then ended up robbing a mining business. I have never seen the movie, but I hope to see it soon. The area here is like the wild west, with red rock formations and mountains. Finally, tomorrow I will take a horseback tour for 3 hours in the morning. Never done it before, but why not do it here?
Afterwards, I will be heading for the border of Argentina. Looking forward to the change, except for the prices. Will post again soon. Hope everyone is doing well!