Monthly Archives: January 2015

Tupiza, Potosi and Sucre

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Buenas todo!

How´s it going? I hope you´ve all had a wonderful christmas and a great start to the new year! A new year, and seeing as we are still behind on our blogupdates, a new blogupdate.

We crossed back into Bolivia at the bordercrossing town of Villazon on the 29th of november. Getting back into Bolivia went quite smoothly, especially compared to getting into Argentina. We both liked Argentina, and we were very glad we visited. I´m happy we´ve made plans to return to see the rest of Argentina! (well, as much as is possible).

From Villazon, the border town, we were hoping to catch a bus directly to Potosi. Unfortunatly there were only nightbusses, leaving around 19:00. It wasn´t yet noon so we didn´t fancy a 7 hour wait. Instead we we asked around and looked at our map. Hmm, no busses directly to Potosi, so what about Tupiza? The only real town in between the to cities. And we wouldn´t need a bus, we would be able to catch a collectivo (the little white vans that leave when full). We we´re the first two in the collectivo. Munching on some excellently and freshly made popcorn we waited for half an hour. The van was then full and off we went towards Tupiza. (always, always with loud Bolivian music roaring through the van.) We arrived in Tupiza around dinner time and decided to find a hostel. There was a nice one near the busstation. Tupiza seemed like quite a nice place. Quickly setting off to find a place to eat, we found a funny American style diner. This one had its walls full of celebrities’ pictures and whatnots. There was a DVD playing on the TV. The Eagles in concert. (I don´t want to hear Hotel California again, I had just been complaining to Sander that the whole of South America likes to play this song, when the eagles came on…) We ordered a house speciality, snake bites! The name snake bite gives me fond memories of the beer I used to drink growing up in Roermond. This Snake bite wasn´t beer though. It was green hot jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese. The waiter went, aaah they´re picante (hot)! us: Si we want! waiter: but MUY picante (very hot)! They were nice! In a burn a hole in your throat and tongue and make you cry kinda way.

The following morning we left Tupiza (no traces of lasting damage of the snake bites). The bus took us all te way to Potosi. Potosi is one of the highest cities in the World. At around 4090 meters. It´s really weird to think that we are 4km (!) higher than the Netherlands. Potosi is very famous for the mountain which towers over the city. It´s generally called Cerro Rico, which means rich mountain. It´s the biggest Silver find ever and during it´s peak I think over 45000 tons of silver were mined from the mountain. This ofcourse made Potosi, and the Spanish empire very rich. Unfortunately there was also a very big down side. The workers. It is estimated that over 30.000 African slaves were forced to work in the mines, together with over 50.000 of the local Indian population. Conditions were ofcourse very poor and work was hard. Most died. This is quite a bleak history. Nowadays tourcompanies offer tours to the mines for tourists. Some tours being led by ex-miners, who can speak English. Seeing as the conditions in the mines are still bad, and many young children work in the mines, we decided against such a tour. ( you visit a miners market first, to buy gifts for the miners you visit. (coca cola and dynamite(!)) And although a bit curious to what a mine looks like, I´m still glad we didn´t visit. I didn’t take any pictures of the mountain or Potosí, I did however take a picture of this cute mum with kids that lived in our hostel
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The following day we left Potosi and headed towards Sucre, a ´short´ 4 hour busride.

Sucre, The official capital of Bolivia is a white city! We found a cheap hostel just outside the center of town. We had a little bit of a price discussion but we ended up getting our way. What I really really wanted to do was ride the Dino truck! okay this might seem a bit random to you, but just outside Sucre, there´s a wall on which dinosaur footprints were discovered. Everyday a dinotruck leaves from the square to take you to Parque Cretacico (aka dino park). Imagining myself riding a T-rex shaped bus that could maybe roar, I was immediatly excited (Dino truck became my mantra). Unfortunately, I had one of the biggest let downs so far. The day we decided to visit dino park, I was nearly bouncing with anticipation! Dino truck! We walked to the main plaza, from wich the truck leaves. Dino truck! Turned out it was an ordinary bus, no T-rex shape, no special sound effect, nothing. I´m still disappointed. On top of that it was very very overpriced, almost ten times as much as the ordinary bus that took us back to the city from the park. Thankfully, the park didn´t disappoint. The wall with dinosaur prints was very impressive. It was discovered by workmen who were taking layers of off the mountain. Probably mining something or another. Suddenly a layer showed prints, really big prints.
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The wall used to be flat, but over millions of years, the tectonic plates pushed the land up, turning a flat surface into part of a mountain. If you look at the wall, you will see dinosaur prints everywhere over it. It´s estimated they are 68 million years old! Can you imagine that? I can´t. It was weird looking at something so old and trying to comprehend that you´re seeing something 68 million years old! It still baffles me!
68 million yeard ago, there was no Andes, everything was flatter. It is thought that there were various lakes in and around Sucre. The dinosaurs trudged through the mud to get some water to drink, and before the prints would dry up, sediment would settle on them, preserving them for us see.

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There were two tours in the park. The first one is after a short film in spanish and sometimes English (walking with dinosaurs). The park has quite a few life size models of some of the dinosaurs that walked around there.
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The guide takes you past them, explaining what they ate and such. We were glad to recognize the mesosaurus. a dinosaur that used to reside in water and of which a good skeleton was found near Maastricht, in the Netherlands.
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They also had a life size model of the titanosaurus. Until we have wifi and can get pictures up, think of a long necked, long tailed dinosaur that eats leaves (I think they also starred in Jurassic park, the film). Anyway, we have a picture with me standing next to it and it is absolutely enormous! I’m right next to it’s left front leg!
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The second tour takes you quite close to the prints. From the park you can only view them from a platform. But they´ve made a path down to the prints. Wearing safety helmets we were able to get quite close and look at the different prints.
Both Carnivores and Herbivores used to roam around the area. They had been sorted by their prints: three-toed carnivores,
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three-toed omnivores (fatter feet than the carnivores) and four-toed herbivores. Over 5000 tracks are visible, but, exposed to the weather and such, they are slowly withering away. A part of the wall actually collapsed a few years ago, and although some dino prints were lost, the layer underneath showed new and different dinosaur prints. We had quite a lot of fun learning about the different dinosaurs and gazing at the footprints. We also have a picture of Sander standing in front of one of the Titanosaurus footprints. Again, the beast was so big!
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We were mightily impressed when we left the park.

In La Paz and Sucre, you can find young kids dressed as zebras walking the street. These kids jump in front of cars and people and are trying to teach all the Bolivians how zebra crossings work! They are generally quite loved and do their work with lots of enthusiasm!
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Remember I told you about having a certain fruit lady for your shopping? Same principle works with fruit salad ladies! The salads were absolutely exquisite and cost around a euro!
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Another highlight in Sucre was Sanders birthday, the fourth of December. Because it´s hard to give a birthday present here (everything has to be able to fit into your backpack and be carried around for a few months) I decided to pick a really good restaurant and give Sander a great meal as a birthday gift. I found a french one (hurrah for big cities). When we arrived for our dining delight (in the afternoon) we found out that dishes from the menu don´t get served before 8 o´clock at night. a quick talk with the manager though and voila we were able to have anything of the menu we wanted! On the picture below (when it´s uploaded) you can see Sander, on his birthday enjoying caviar for the first time 🙂 The food was absolutely fantastic! (he also has a new haircut)
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That night we boarded a night bus to Cochabamba. Another maniac driver, no sleep and 6 hours later (instead of the 8 we were promised) we found ourselves in Cochabamba bus terminal at 4.30 in the morning. Our destination was Villa Tunari and we were able to get a bus leaving at 5.30. 5 hours later we arrived in Villa Tunari.
What´s in Villa Tunari? Well that is for our next post!

Hope everyone is well! We are in Chili at the moment, slowly making our way down to Patagonia!

oh and we found out that I share a name with a dino, unfortunately, not a herbivore
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much love
Lisa and Sander
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mustache! pre- haircut
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DINO ROAR!

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Our d-tour to Argentina

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On Thursday November the 20th a four hour busride (for us now that is a short ride) took us from La Paz to Oruro. By now I was used to the extremely low Bolivian prices and almost laughed at the taxi driver when he told us it would cost 20bs (= €2,20) to get us to the train station. In the end we agreed to 10bs, which we both knew to be a fair price.
The train to border town Villazon only leaves four times a week, so we bought a ticket for Friday’s train that was supposed to leave at 15:30 pm. Apart from being the starting point of the railway, Oruro has little to offer. We spent almost half an hour walking without even seeing one restaurant. After we finally spotted a pizza place we decided to explore one block more before taking refuge in that pizza place. Our stamina was paid off by stumbling on a vegetarian restaurant, which is like gold in the desert and jackpot to us (read: Lisa). This place even offered meals with meat replacements which makes it interesting for the both of us (to the fact that Sander doesn’t like beans etc – yeah, we really complement each other!). Not only did we find a nice restaurant for dinner, we also had lunch there the next day while playing cards untill it was time to go to the train station.
Ofcourse we made sure to be on time and at three o’clock we were in our seats waiting for the train to depart. By half past three there were still many people outside on the platform. Apparently they knew “the Bolivian times” (an expression we would hear many times more). At half past four a bell had rung three times, the platform was empty (family and friends had to wave from behind the gate) and finally the train started to move. We soon knew that it wasn’t going to be a train ride like the ones in europe. It kept moving slowly (the buses are a lot faster) and we felt the impact of every bump and hump. Unfortunately that was the only Rock ‘n Roll we were getting, for they were playing the awful indigenous music again. We did see two entertaining movies with English subtitles though and last but not least the third movie of The Expendables (we had seen the other two on different rides, like it was planned) and it’s so bad that it’s good and I’m slowly turning into a fan!
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But apart from the ride being bumpy, the train was luxurious compared to the buses we were used to be in. The toilets did work (although in the morning a woman was stuck inside the toilet for at least half an hour because the door wouldn’t open) and there even were toilet paper, soap and paper towels. There was one wagon turned into a restaurant. The food was quite expensive (for Bolivian standards) and not very good, but it was worth it, albeit only for watching the waiter serving the food while swaying from left to right on the movements of the train.
Soon after we left Oruro we crossed a large but shallow lake and we saw something pink. We asked each other: are those..? Then we asked another passenger: “Si, flamingos!” We were really excited. We didn’t expect to see them (turns out that there a loads of them in the south of Bolivia) and it’s one of those animals I really want to see in real life once.
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We also saw one of the most beautiful sunsets so far on our trip.

A couple of hours later there was another surprise (was it really?). We stopped near a train station and had to wait for at least one hour because there was some problem. We saw people with flashlights outside in search for the problem or for the solution. But we weren’t expecting a smooth ride, so we didn’t worry about it too much. Our wagon was only half full, so at night we could both take two seats and therefore we slept quite well.
The next day we didn’t arrive before noon, which meant a delay of about four hours. From the train station in Villazon we walked to the border with Argentina. Or actually across the border because the Bolivian immagration is on the Argentinian side next to the Argentinian one. There we had to queue for at least one hour. We were wondering why it was taking so long until we entered the office. The immigration officers were talking all the time being more interested in each others stories than in our passports. But we got our exit stamp without any problems after which we could get in the queue for the Argentinian immigration office. The Argentinians did put a little bit more effort in, so this time it didn’t take too long. Before we were finally allowed to cross (or continue) into Argentina we had to put our bags through a scanner. The funny thing was that this scanner was build into a van. You put your bag in at one side and you collect them at the other!
Then we walked into Argentina and to the bus station of the little border village. For the first time we had to pay someone for putting our bags in the bottom of the bus. But to be fair, they made quite an effort so they did earn it. At this bus station I read Joeri’s text messages about Roger Federer winning the Davis Cup for Switzerland so the last part of the journey was going to be a very happy one. Were it not for what happened next… After five minutes the bus was stopped by immigration for yet another control. Everyone had to get off and take the luggage out of the bottom of the bus. After it was searched by an officer (“where are you from?” “Holanda” “okay, you don’t have to open it”) everything was put back in the bottom of the bus. But this time not by the specialized people from the bus station and therefore very careless. Welcome to Argentina!

We didn’t feel that way for long due to the very warm welcome we got from Robert and Jane at their home in Tilcara. Robert and Jane are friends with Lisa’s grandad. He told them that we are traveling in South America and they invited us to stay with them. Because they were leaving for their home in France at the end of november, we had to make quite a d-tour for we didn’t finish traveling in Bolivia yet. But it totally was worth all the effort. After two and a half months of traveling we were longing for a place to feel at home and recharge our batteries. We couldn’t have picked a better place to do just that. We were really spoiled by Robert and Jane and enjoyed all the luxuries of their home (warm shower, washing machine, fully equiped kitchen, thick and soft matras, good wine and food and a traditional gin & tonic before dinner). At monday we made a little trek a few kilometers outside the town. The environment was beautiful with rocks of different colours, dune sand and many cactuses. It was the first time that we saw that many big cactuses, another item on my ¨list¨ (which not only contains animals)!
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Robert and Jane left for France on wednesday the 26th of November, but we were allowed to stay as long as we liked. Ofcourse we couldn’t resist the temptation of having a house of our own for a few days! With the house came something else: ¨Dog 2¨. When we arrived we were told that almost every day after dinner a dog came to visit and they would let it in for a couple of hours. But on Sunday another dog turned up. Robert couldn’t resist its begging eyes and gave it some food and let it in. From that moment on we had a dog. It walked around like it had always lived there and slept outside on the terrace. It even followed us to the town and stayed constantly at our side. But on the morning that Lisa and I would leave, it suddenly didn’t turn up. On the one hand it was weird that we didn’t say goodbye, but on the other hand we were glad that we didn’t have to look it in the eyes while slowly driving off…
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On Thursday we had a very precious experience. Robert and Jane are friends with the family that runs a local evangelical church and we were introduced to them earlier that week. José and Raquel are such warm and friendly people and they are very active in doing good for the community. Every school day they cook for a group of children (at least thirty at the time, but the group has been much bigger as well) who don’t get a sufficient nutrition at home. That means hours of cooking every day. Robert and Jane provided them with a lot food, for it’s only a small church so there isn’t much money. And after all the kindness we received in those past days we wanted to give something back. So we helped Raquel with the cooking that day. The children got a nice meal. The main course were fried chicken balls (with carrots, onion and egg) which took a long time to prepare, so we were of much help. When all the children had gone back to school again we were invited to eat together with the family. I was secretly hoping for that ’cause I really liked those chicken balls! José and Raquel don’t speak English (so it was a good practice in Spanish for us again) but their two children are learning it in school and we were asked to help them a little bit with their homework. After lunch we were invited to watch a video. We already kinda knew what we were about to see. Although they were totally relaxt about us not being religious and were even very curious about life (and religion) in The Netherlands, José took the oppertunity to show us a inspirational video about someone who converted himself to Christianity. We watched it without any resentment and enjoyed our coca cola’s. Ofcourse afterwards we told him that it was a really nice story. And that was all he wanted to hear. It was such a nice experience to help these people and their gratitude was wonderful. Although we had only been there for such a short time, we felt that we had made new friends. At the moment I feel again the warmth of their kindness and openness and I’m writing this down with a big smile on my face.
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Saturday the 29th of November we returned to Bolivia. We have had a very nice week in Tilcara and we are very grateful to Robert and Jane for that. And not only because they spoiled us. But also because we got along really well and just had a very nice time. The Dutch would say that it was very ¨gezellig¨, but unfortunately that’s not translatable into English!
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View from the roof terrace.

I hope we will find the time to write about our next adventures in Bolivia soon!

Lots of love from us!

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