Tag Archives: Bolivia

Bolivia in a nutshell

Planned daily budget: USD27 – 187 Bolivianos

Actual daily expenditure: USD19

 

Cities visited:

  • La Paz
  • Uyuni – salt desert
  • Potosi
  • Rurrenabaque – jungle
  • Copacabana
  • Isla del Sol – on Lake Titikaka

Most expensive city: the South part of Isla del Sol

Cheapest city: the other cities had pretty much same prices

Favourite city: Isla del Sol (North), Rurrenabaque, Potosi

To do in Bolivia

  • Shop in La Paz
  • Visit the Coca Museum – La Paz
  • Have loads of 30 cents fresh orange juices in the street
  • Travel to the Salt Desert – Uyuni
  • Visit the famous silver mine – Potosi
  • Admire the nature and animals in the jungle – Rurrenabaque
  • Spend a few quiet days in Isla del Sol
  • Take a dip in Lake Titikaka
  • Have some pink trout from the world’s highest navigable lake, the Titikaka

 

Most challenging thing: finding vegetarian food and walking through streets that the locals treat as outdoor toilets

 

ACCOMMODATION

Most expensive accommodation: 75 Bolivianos per person/night in Rurrenabaque (Hotel Orient), with breakfast, without internet

Cheapest accommodation: 15 Bolivianos per person/night in the North of Isla del Sol (Refugio Wiracocha), no breakfast and no internet

Favorite Accomodation

  • Potosi – Koala Hostel
  • Rurrenabaque – Hotel Orient

 

FOOD

Finding vegetarian food is not easy in Bolivia. The dishes served for “Menu de Dia” contain meat most of the times, and while in Peru it’s easy to have them replace the meat with salad or eggs, here we didn’t find it as easy. The good news is food is pretty cheap eveywhere, including in the fancier restaurants, so most of the times we paid the 20Bolivianos (USD3) for a vegetarian meal instead of the 7 Bolivianos for a regular “Menu de Dia”. Which is not the best when traveling on a budget, but we ended up having some pretty good food around.

Favourite Food: The lentils burger we had in Potosi, in a place called something like Tour de Pizza. Divine! And the freshly squized juices on the street.

What we didn’t realy like: the vegetarian potatoe empanada with surprise meat inside

A very popular dish you might want to try is theSalchipapa: slices of sausage with french fries.

 

TRANSPORTATION

Besides the bus to Rurrenabaque, the rest of the buses we travelled with were basic but clean. Of course they didn’t reach the standards of the Argentinian buses, but we didn’t have any problems with them either.

If you plan to go to the jungle in the North,brace yourself as the roads are absolutely terrible, and many times instead of the 16 hours ride you might end up being on the bus for 24.

The best thing in the country: Shopping (bhahaha) and the fresh and cheap fruit juices on the street. And of course the salt flats and jungle :).

Bolívia dióhéjban

Napi budget: USD27 – 187 Boliviánó

Tényleges napi költekezés: USD19

Meglátogatott városok:

  • La Paz
  • Uyuni – só sivatag
  • Potosi
  • Rurrenabaquine – dzsungel
  • Copacabana
  • Isla del Sol

Legdrágább város: Isla del Sol déli része

Legolcsóbb város: a többi városban nagyából hasonló árakkal találkoztunk

Kedvenc város: Isla del Sol, Rurrenabaquine

Mit is csináljunk Bolíviában

  • Vásároljunk La Pazban
  • Látogassunk el a Coca Múzeumba – La Paz
  • Nézzünk el a Só sivatagba – Uyuni
  • Igyunk olcsó és friss narancslevet az utcán
  • Látogasuunk el a híres ezüst bányába – Potosi
  • Csodáljuk meg a természetet és az állatokat a dzsungelben – Rurrenabaquine
  • Töltsünk el egy pár csendes napot Isla del Sol-on
  • Mártózzunk meg a Titikaka Tóban

 

Legkihívóbb dolog: vegetáriánus ételt találni és átsétállni olyna utcákon, amit a helyiek toalettnek hisznek…

 

SZÁLLÁS

Legdrágább szállás (amit mi fizettünk): 75 Boliviánó fő/éjj Rurrenabaquine reggelivel de internet nélkül

Legolcsóbb szállás (amit mi fizettünk): 20 Boliviánó fő/éjj Isla del Sol-on reggeli és internet nélkül

A reggeli itt is kenyér, lekvárral, dulce de leche-vel/manjarral, kávéval és teával, néhol palacsintával.

Kedvenc szállásaink

  • Potosi – Koala hostel
  • Rurrenabaquine – Orient hotel

 

GASZTRONÓMIA

Vegetáriánus étel után kutatni nem volt egyszerű Bolíviában, mert minden hely csak hús ételt tálalt föl, s amíg Peruban a húst szivesen kicserélték nekünk tojásra vagy zöldségekre, itt nem voltak erre hajlandóak.

Így nem volt más megoldás, minthogy a puccosabb helyekre ellátogassunk, s ebéd menüt együnk 7 boliviánó helyett 20-30 boliviánóért. Persze maga a 20 Boliviánó (USD3) nem drága, de a mi üres pénz tárcánknak nem esett olyan jól J

Kedvenc étel: ööö… hmm… palacsinta (ja, hogy ez nem bolívia étel? J). Amit igazán szerettünk az az utcai frissen csavart gümölcslevek és turmixok voltak. Ami még nagyon finom volt az a lencse-burger, amit Potosiban ettünk.

Ami nem igazán ízlett: Zöldség empanada, meglepetés hús darabokkal

Új étel, amivel itt ismerkedtünk meg, s amit minden sarkon árulnak, az a:

Salchipapa: Sült virsli sült krumplival

 

KÖZLEKEDÉS

A rurrenabaquine-i buszt leszámítva a többi busz, amin utaztunk egyszerű, de tiszta volt. Persze színvonaluk nem közelíti meg az Argentínában megszokottat, de nem volt velük semmi gond.

Legjobb dolog az országban (szerintünk): Vásárlás, dzsungek J J s az olcsó utcai gyümölcslevek

Isla del Sol – back on Lake Titikaka, but on another island

As I’ve repeatedly mentioned before, Lake Titikaka is one of my favorite places int he whole wide world. I could spend a lifetime there and it would still not be enough. So I was extremely happy when I had the opportunity to go back to the lake for the third time, this time from a new direction – Bolivia. We were to enjoy the lake from Isla del Sol (The Sun Island), not from Taquile as the previous two times.


We were to take the boat to the island from Copacabana – the second Copacabana we were visiting in the last 6 months. When we got there, Boca asked me “And … how many Copacabana are you intending to visit? “. “Eventually… all of them, of course” was my immediate answer. Well … why not? 🙂

Once in Copacabana the plan was to get to the island as early as possible the next morning. We found that ferries leave at 8.30 and we were told the North is more beautiful than the South, more quiet and “there are more ruins to see.” Well, if that was the case … we took the advice and bought a 15 Bolivianos ticket to the North. That was where we were planning to go anyway, as Noemi (the Pedagooogia 3000 wonderful lady) told us she was working with some people from a refugio in the North on openning a school for adults on the island. So we were excited to meet the people she worked with, and also to see the location for the school we intend to spend some time in as well in the future.


The North
We headed North then, and after two and a half hours, when our eyes met the piece of island where we were going to stay, we fell in love with it immediately. The simplicity, peace, calm, beauty. We easily found the Refugio Wiracocha, the place Noemi had told us about, and we were speechless at the price they quoted per person per night: 15 Bolivianos (2USD). Simple conditions, true that, but a really charming location and truly wonderful people. We were so happy we were going to spend the next four days there, in that superb location.

They were some awesomely peaceful days, and we did nothing but hang out on the beach, pick and choose beautifully carved stones from the lake, walk around the island, write and read. One day we visited the famous ruins, a visit we totally recommend. One of them is said to be the birthplace of Wiracocha, the Creator God in the Inca faith. That’s where humanity was born, legend says. Then you have some original paths from the times of the Incas, and it’s a tremendous pleasure to step on those neatly arranged stones and imagine how our ancestors walked on them half a millennium ago. We adored that feeling, and we spent a big part of the day in that area.

Another thing that gave us great pleasure each day was the incredibly delicious trout we had every day for lunch, the pink trout from the world’s highest navigable lake. It’s something you do not want to miss if you’re around the lake, either in Bolivia or in Peru.
Boca was super excited about every small or big animal on the island, from cows to donkeys, pigs, sheep and birds. She terrorized them while chasing them to „just pet one”.  I found the image of this blonde girl running after many a desperate sheep and baby pig thoroughly entertaining. Later I appologized to them for my friend’s behavior, and they understood. Good guys, good guys.

One thing to remember when going to the island is that the sun is extremely strong there – at 4500 meters it’s expected to be so, so make sure you have enough sunscreen with you. There are only 3 stores on the island and they’re not that well stocked with sunscreen – we found some only in one place and we paid twice as much as we would have normally paid.


The South
After several days of peace and calm in the North, we decided to go South to spend at least one day there as well, checking out some more Inca ruins. Most people who visit the island move from North to South or vice versa on foot, and it seems to be an lovely 3-4 hours walk. We didn’t choose this option beacuse we had our big backpacks with us, and the idea of walking up and down the hills at 40 degrees with 10kg on our back was not greeted with much enthusiasm. So we chose to take the boat to the South. A choice we do NOT recommend, for reasons I shall share a bit later.

When we arrived in the South we were oh, so disappointed – the place seemed to have been invented exclusively for tourists, and nothing else. A number of hostels and restaurants had been built by the lake, and up the hill (or rather behind the hill) was a small town where the locals live. It’s a half an hour climb, and if you have some luggage with you it’s not necessarily a pleasure climbing the hill with your tongue hanging out, under the bright sun. We stayed by the lake, in one of the hostels that charged 20 Bolivianos a night. The same day we went to see the ruins… and we could hardly keep back the thoughts “Whyyyyy… why did we leave the North … Whyyyyy… why did we come here??” Especially if you go without a guide and you have no knowledge about the ruins, the little trip is really not worth it. Luckily we managed to join a couple with a guide and learned a couple more things about our Inca ancestors. That yes, we recommend.


What we suggest you do
If we had known before how things go around the island, this is what we would have done (and this is what we recommend to you as well): we would have left our backpacks at the hostel in Copacabana. Taken a morning boat to the South (10 Bolivinanos), quickly visited the ruins in the company of a guide, then walked the 3-4 hours to the North. There we would have stayed at Refugio Wiracocha and spent a few peaceful days, without any stress (whihc we actually did, in fact). And from there taken a boat straight back to Copacabana (for 20 Bolivinanos, not 40 as we paid in order to stop in the South).

This way you’d save a few bucks (on the boat tickets and on the cheaper accommodation in the North) and spend time in the more non touristic and more beautiful part of the island. And you’d get to cross the island from one end to the other on foot, a pretty desirable experience, they say.

And that’s pretty much it … 

Don’t forget to enjoy each moment and have a chat with the lake from time to time. It has much to tell, the old fella’.

____
Boat Copacabana – Isla del Sol: 10 Bolivianos to the South, 15 to the North
Boat North of Island – South of Island: 20 Bolivianos
Boat North / South os the Island – Copacabana: 20 Bolivianos
Accommodation in the North: Refugio Wiracocha: 15 Bolivianos / night
Accommodation South – at least 20 Bolivinanos

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Isla del Sol – a különleges energiával bíró Nap Sziget

A Nap Sziget is a Titicaca Tavon helyezkedik el, (mint Taquille Szigete, ahol már jártunk előzőleg) csak a Bolíviai oldalon. Merthogy, a Titicaca tavon Peru és Bolívia osztozik. A sziget különleges energiájáról és inka jelentőségéről már régebben hallottunk, így biztosak voltunk benne, hogy ha Bolíviában járunk, akkor ide is ellátogatunk.

Egy napos túra a szigeten

Utolsó állomásunkként Copacabana-ra érkeztünk, ami itt nem a Rió De Janeiroi tengerpartot jelenti, hanem a bolíviai várost. Ide este érkeztünk, s másnap reggel már merntünk is tovább Isla del Sol-ra. A szigetnek lehet az északi és a déli odalát is meglátogatni. Sokan csak egy napos túrára érkeznek, hiszen a hajó reggel 8kor indul Copacabanáról, ami 10re van az északi oldalon. Itt van az embereknek ideje megnézni az inka romokat és a Nap Isten szülőhelyét. Ezek után a hajó visszaindul a déli oldalra 1.30kor, ott is megáll, hogy az egyetlen romot megtekintsék az utazók és 4kor indul vissza Copacabanára. A vállalkozó kedvűek le is sétállhatnak délre az északi oldalról, ami olyan 2 órát jelent gyönyörű napsütésben.

Északi szálásunk

Mi ennél több időt szerettünk volna itt tölteni, így rögtön északra mentünk, ahol le is táboroztunk a Refugio-ban (Menedék tábor), ami igazából egy hegy oldalon lévő szállás, egyedülálló házikókkal 2-4 személyre s csodálatos kilátással a szigetre és a szemben magasodó Cordella Real-ra, 6000m-t meghaladó hófedte csúcsaival. A tulaj, Alfonso és csládja is ott él az egyik házban, s rendkívül szivélyes fogadtatásban részesít mindenkit.  Fejenként a szállás 20 Boliviánó, amit mi rendkívül olcsónak találtunk, így mikor fizettünk kicsit többet adtunk nekik. Alfonso felesége még főzött is nekünk ebédet egyik nap, s még pénzt se kértek érte. Alapelvük, s ezért is hívják a szállást Refugio-nak, nem az, hogy meggazdagodjanak hanem, hogy az idelátogatóknak segítsenek. A Helyről Noemi-től hallottunk még La Pazban, mert ő itt sokott konfernciát rendezni, s Alfonsóval együtt terveznek itt egy központot nyitni, ahol Noemi a különböző oktatással kapcsolatos tréningjeit tarthatja majd.

Inka maradványok

A sziget északi részén 3 napot töltöttünk, ami pihenéssel, napozással, írással és a romok meglátogatásával telt. A meglátogatandó dolgok errefelé a következőek:

Museo de Oro (Arany Múzeum), ahol különböző vízalatt talált tárgyakat lehet megtekinteni.

A hegyet megmászva lehet elérni a Puma Sziklához, ami csak akkor hasonlít pumára, mikor az idegenvezető megmutatja, hogy ez a fej, ezek a mancsok stb. S a legtöbben valami ilyen reakcióval kommentálják a dolgot: „Oh, tényleg.” vagy „Ennyi ez egész?” Ezzel szemben található az Inka Asztal, ami hatalmas kődarabokból áll, s amit az Inkák szertartásokra használtak. A Puma Szikla mellett lehet látni két méllyedést a kőfalon, amik a Nap fiainak születő helyeit mutatják.

Innen az ősi Inka lépcsőkön lehet a déli oldalra lesétállni.

Mitológia

Wiracocha (Ejtsd Virakocsa) az egyik legismertebb Isten az Andoki és az inka mitologiában. A Monda szerint Wiracocha, vagy Viracocha teremtett mindent a világon, az univerzumot, a holdat, a csillagokat, a napot, az időt (azzal, hogy a napot az égre rendelte) és a civilizációt is. Wiracocha a Nap és a Vihar Isteneként volt tisztelve és nappal a fején, mint korona és könnyekkel az arcán, mint eső volt ábrázolva.

A mítosz szerint Wiracocha a Titicaca tóból emelkedett ki a sötétség idején, hogy elhozza a világosságot. (Persze ilyenkor felmerül bennem a kérdés, hogy ha ő alkotta meg az univerzumot, akkor hogy hogy a Titikaka Tó már megvolt a földön, mikor ő kiemelkedett?? Na de mindegy, kicsire nem adunk, nagy meg nem számít J)

Miután megteremtette a holdat, csillagokat és a napot, megteremtette az embereket úgy, hogy belefújt nagy szikladarabokba. Ezen emberek óriás, agy nélküli teremtmények voltak, s nem elégítették ki Wircochát, így egy özönvízzel elpusztította őket (ismerősen hangzik a történet valahonnan?).

Ezek után megint csak ember teremtéssel próbálkozott, de immár kissebb kövekkel. Végül Wircocha eltült a Pacific Óceánon, miközben a vizen járt (ilyet is hallotam már valahol). Ezekután Wiracocha emberi formában, mint koldus járta a világot és tanította teremtényeit a civilizált életre és több csodát is végre hajtott (Mátyás Király – Jézus mix). Úgy tartják, hogy Wiracocha újra megjelenik majd a baj idején. (Lehet, hogy 2012ben??) Úgy gondolták, hogy a Nap Isten egy középmagas fehér férfi, szakállal, fehér tunikában/köpenyben és könyvvel a kezében (Hmmm).

Több legenda is szól a további cselekedeteiről, amikből most leírom azt, amit a legtöbbször hallottam vagy olvastam:

Wiracochának egy fia Inti (Quechua nyelven Napot jelent) és két lánya Mama Quilla (Quilla Quechuául holdat jelent) és Pachamama (Anyaföld).

Némely források szerint a nagy özönvíz után csak 2 embert hagyott életben Manco Copac-ot s Mama Ocllo-t, akik Inti, a Nap gyerekei voltak. (a bárkás stori beugrik valakinek? J) Ők Isla del Sol-on érkeztek a földre – itt lehet is látni két körepedést, amik állítólag az ő megérkezési helyüket mutatja. Kettejük feladata az volt, hogy  elvigyék a civilizációt a világ más tájára is és, hogy megtanítsák az embereket a növénytermesztésre, gazdálkodásra stb. Egy arany botot kaptak Wiracochától azzal a feladattal, hogy alapítsanak várost ott, ahol az arany bot könnyen behatol a földbe. Ekkoriban az emberek, aki megmaradtak az özönvvíz után egyszerű, gyüjtőgető életmodót folytattak, s mikor meglátták a 2 jövevényt Istenként kezdték el őket tisztelték és rögtön követni kezdték el őket. Addig vándorolta, míg el nem értek egy csodálatos helyre, ahol az arany bot könneyen behatolt a földbe, így itt letelepedtek és megalapították a mostani Cuzcót. Ezzel megalapítva az Inka civilizációt. (így egyben Cuzco megalapításának történetét és az Inkák történetét is megtudtuk.)

Az ősi Inka források nem említi Wiracochát a legenddákban, így némely történész úgy tartja, hogy eme történet a spanyolok megérkezése után keletkezett. Hiszen a történet úgy mondja, hogy amikor a Spanyolok megérkeztek, fehér bőrük miatt, ami Wiracochára emlékeztette az Inkákat, elkezdték őket is istenként tisztelték.

A Boliviaik viszont úgy tartják, hogy Wiracocha igen is ősi történet, azonban nem az inkáké. Az Inkák, mikor elkezdtek terjeszkedni és területet foglalni, mindig beiktatták a leigázott területek mitologiáját is az övékébe. Wiracocha Az Isla Del Sol mitológiája volt, így mikor az Inkák eme területet leigázták, átvették Wiracocha Isten tiszteletét is. Ez magyarázza miért nem szerepel a Nap Isten az ősi inka történelemben. (Nekem ez az opció szimpatikusabb.)

A déli oldal

3 nap után lenéztünk a déli oldalra is, s ott is eltöltöttünk egy éjszakát. Meglátogattuk az ottani inka romot is, ami egy régi ház maradványa (Pilcocaina Templom), ahova az inkák érkeztek megpihenni utjuk során.

A déli oldal nekünk nem tetszett annyira, mert ahova megérkezik a hajó az egy drága kis rész hotelekkel és éttermekkel teli. A városkához magához meg kell mászni a hegyet, amit nagy táskákkal nem annyira egyszerű, így mindenki lent vesz ki szobát. Viszont az igaz, hogy ha fölérünk a városkába, ott gyönyörű kis házikók várják az arra látogatót éttermekel, hostelle és szuvenírekkel.

Mivel időnk végéhez közeledett, itt volt az idő, hogy visszamenjünk Copacabanaba, majd onnan Peruba*, hisz Carlo már várt minket Ollantában.

*Copacabánából a busz este 6kor indult és hajnali 4kor ért Cuscóba. Mindezért 135 Boliviánót fizetünk Cama osztályon.

 

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Rurrenabaque – the Bolivian jungle and pampas (II)

And just like that Monday came, and we finally found ourselves (not without hitches – banks that are said to be open at 8 but actually open at 8.30, documents they need but don’t bother to tell us in advance, etc. etc. etc.) in front of the jeep that was ready to take us to our dream lands. We were a group of eight: three French ladies, three Israelis and the two of us. After half an hour spent together it was clear as day light: the dynamic of our group was going to be interesting to say the least!

The first day


After 3 hours in the jeep on a not only unpaved and riddled road, but full of puddles and mud thanks to the rain the day before, we arrived at the place where we were to change our means of transport to a boat. The moment we got off the jeep we were mercilessly attacked by a herd of mosquitoes that was expecting us and our fresh blood! We immediately took out all our defense weapons (in the form of sprays, creams and solutions that all had a lower or higher concentration of DEET) and we insecticized ourselves from head to toe. We then realized we had landed there in the middle of the day, under a killer sun, so we took out different creams and proceeded to applying all those as well.

By the time we got on the boat we were all fully embalmed, ready for the 3 hours journey down the river. They were some awesome three hours, during which we were amazed not only at the wonderful vegetation that was waving to us from the banks and the beautiful birds that gracefully appeared and disappeared, but especially at the turtles having their siesta unhindered, like grannies absorbing the sun, at the aligators which made their subte appearence from the water or from under a tree branch or bush, at the largest rodent in the world (boy was I glad when we were told it was vegetarian), at the small and large monkeys that went crazy at the appearance of a banana from our boatman’s pocket, and, of course, at the pink and slippery dolphins that appeared as the famous Flipper and delighted our eyes and hearts. Boca and I could not resist and jumped in for a short swim in their presence, 5 minutes after we had seen a crocodile enjoying his day in the sun. “Is it safe to swim here?”. “Sure, totally safe”. “What about the aligator?” “Oh, don’t worry, dolphins and aligators can’t be in the same place, so swim without fear.” We were told later that dolphins are found in deep water, while aligators spend their time in shallow water. The things you learn while living, huh? 

We reached the camp in time to take a much desired and needed cold shower before we all sat in the mirador to watch the sunset. As soon as darkness set, the surrounding noise became so intense that we felt we were in the middle of a green concert.


After dinner (which was totally delicious!) we went out on the river to see the eyes of the alligators glistening in the dark. They can only be seen with the help of a flashlight, and only from a certain angle – so you could see them very well if you had a lantern on your head, but the person next to you could not see anything using your light because it was a different angle. For me it was quite fascinating to see two red or white beads shining in the dark, and know those were the scary reptiles from TV that could eat your entire leg in one bite. They seemed pretty friendly to me that night… but were they really?:D

My favorite moments in that boat under the star filled sky were those in which we all swiched off our flashlights and closed our mouth… and remained in complete darkness and silence for several minutes. Well, actually the darkness was not complete as the moon and stars were shining brightly… Nor was it complete silence, as nature was in full concert. Amongst the most magnificent I had ever witnessed. And I could not get enough of listening to it.



After we got back to camp, we immediately jumped in our beds covered with mosquito nets and I fell asleep feeling like a princess in her royal bed. I slept so well that at 4am when I opened my eyes I felt rested, energized, ready to take on another day of adventure. It was still dark outside, so I returned to my peaceful sleep, but not before spending a few minutes listening to the fantastic performance outside. A superb combination of different sounds of insects, birds and animals announcing their awakening, and also announcing the sunrise. I fell asleep with a smile on my face and was startled awake an hour later by some noises that seemed to come from a war taking place just outside our window. A mixture of pigs at the slaughter house, pissed off dogs about to stick their teeth in someone’s face, gorillas with a whooping cough and lions choking on a fish bone. I had never heard such a cacophony of sounds before, and the moment I met the man living there I asked him what was all that hullabaloo in the morning. “Ah, that’s just the monkeys”, he said, “that’s the noise they make every morning when they wake up, and they sound the alarm from all corners of the forest “. Monkeys??? Judging by the intensity of the noise I had expected to hear about rhinos, dinosaurs, dragons that let out fire through their nostrils … never about monkeys. Another lesson on judgments, especially judgments about things completely unfamiliar.

The second day



After breakfast the plan was to have a walk in the pampas in search of anacondas. Those who panicked at the sound of that word were explained that the Jennifer Lopez movie was made in order to make money, not to depict reality. Apparently the anaconda is, as many other beings, a creature that attacks only when disturbed, and human deaths from encounters with anacondas are almost nonexistent. The huge snake does not have any desire to meet bipeds, and we were told the chances for us to see one that morning were not guaranteed. Therefore, after the 2-3 hours walk under the deadly sun through puddles and grass that came up to our waist, we did not meet the giant uncle. Those who went in search of it the next day found him right away though, all 3 meters of him. Well, next time:)

What I gained after that walk though was a farewell party in the honour of my socks, because my rubber boots had a hole somewhere and the result was this:

Beyond washable, I decided.

Another memorable and delicious moment took place in the “bathroom” area: a bunch of barracks with a toilet or shower inside. While brushing my teeth I heard a desperate cry from one of the barracks, and immediately saw Boca coming out of it with a grin halfway between amusement and despair. The reason: she realized she was sharing the toilet seat with a frog. Truly priceless moment!

After a well deserved rest in the hammock and sustaiend efforts not to be eaten alive by the mosquitoes, in the second part of the day we went to meet the pink dolphins again, and have another go at swimming with them. They were not exactly like Flipper, to come and take us by the hand or offer their wing as support, but they did come about a meter away to inspect us. Or who knows, maybe they passed 10cm from us, but unfortunately the water was far from “crystal clean”, so I guess we can never know. It was a great experience nevertheless!

We ended the day playing volleyball on our guide’s property, with his two adorable girls, and then watched a spectacular sunset while holding a lager in our hand, as any citizen would find suitable.

The third day


The next morning we were woken up by the same grotesque concert, and this time I went outside to inspect, take a look at those noisy monkeys. Unfortunately they were not close enough to be see with the naked eye, especially through the density of the trees. Instead I spent some time admiring the vultures and falcons that were spying on me from the top of the trees, and later had an attempt to befriend one of the small monkeys that inhabited the trees near the kitchen. My fascination with monkeys goes back to times immemorial, and as a child I could never understand why my parents would not buy me one as a pet. They finally managed to shut me up by buying me a stuffed monkey, Chocho, who became my pillow companion for many years. Later, when I grew up and started to travel to exotic lands, the monkeys were on the top of my “animals to see live” list. When I finally had the opportunity to observe them closely in Bali, I spent hours with them in the forest, analyzing with utter fascination their gestures that seemed so … human. “They’re like miniature people” I kept exclaiming with a grin, mainly to myself as there was noone else around to listen. For me … those few hours were really a dream come true.

That doesn’t mean I ever got over my fascination with our primate cousins, and every time I see them I have the same “weeeeeeeee” reaction. Boca, knowing all this, brought me some mangoes that morning to offer them. One of them really seemed to want to make friends … but that was only until she managed to steal all the fruit from my hand, and then disappear without a trace back into the thickness. Ungrateful little … biped.

After breakfast we went on our last little trip, this time fishing for piranha. Fishing was never on my list of hobbies, and it certainly become even less so after that experience. Pretty much everyone in the group managed to catch at least one fish, and I caught about 3 until I decided I had too much talent at this and I had to put an end to the torture. I almost cried when I got one and saw the hook piercing through its mouth … Argh, I don’t eat much fish anyway, but after that experience it’s very likely there will be an even futher decrease in the consumption of the scaled beings.



I did satisy my desire to inspect their teeth, though (like a tiny saw, fascinating), and I then looked one straight in the face and told it “Bite me!” In that very moment it moved, and only my well developed reflex saved me from having my finger perforated. “Careful!!” shouted our guide, “You were very lucky, I thought he got you! Be careful because they can very easily bite you.” A joke is a joke, but … the piranhas don’t seem to speak much English. Or maybe their sense of humour is just… different.

We took as a group 3 piranhas for lunch, just to taste. They don’t fish them recklessly as there’s a limited stocks. I tried a piece myself, and what can I say, it tasted like … fish. After lunch we started back towards civilization, another 3 hours on the boat and another 3 in the jeep that shook every little bit of our being. When we got back to Rurrenabaque, a final surprise was waiting for us there: a sloth! I asked if I could hold it, and when I put my hands around it I was invaded by this incredible feeling of love for the little animal, the laziest in the world. Lazy or not, he looked at me with the most adorable eyes and that permanent smile on his face, and out of the blue… he winked at me! My heart melted and I completely forgot about the claws he had stuck in my wrist… “He winked at me, did you see that, did you see???”

We checked into a place again, this time in Santa Ana, a hostel where we paid exactly half the price we paid in Orient, for almost identical conditions. After a well needed shower, the conclusion was as follows: 93mosquito bites, without including those on my back. And this was after using two mosquito sprays in 3 days. Nah! At the end of the day though, our conclusion was it was all worth it! The experience itself, and also the experience with the people we were with – as I had suspected at the beginning, there was no lack of conflict, and for Boca and me it was such a great lesson observing the group dynamics and especially our reactions to their reactions. We realized that 2-3 years before, our perception, behavior and reactions would have been quite different. Few things bring you more satisfaction than looking back and realising how much you’ve grown up.

In conclusion… jungle, baby, jungle!!

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Anakonda, rózsaszin delfin, krokodil, béka, óriás fehér madarak, piranha, sas és lajhár – mindezek testközelből

Ana, anakonda…

Másnap a reggeli isteni finomságos csodákat tartogatott számunkra, ami egy mamita helyben készített. Volt vagy 6 fogás a sima kernyér és lekváron kívül. Fele sós, fele édes.. yamm…

Reggeli után mindenki kapott egy gumicsizmát, amiknek fele itt-ott lyukas volt, s amit sokan csak a folyó átkelésnél észleltek (mint pl én is) J, s már indulhattunk is anakonda keresőbe. A folyón lecsobogtunk egy kicsit, majd a partra szállva kezdtünk el sétállni. Fél órába telt, mire a mocsaras tájhoz értünk, miközben sikerült krokodilt is látni olyan 3 m távolságból. Ekkor már olyan 11 óra volt, s a nap teljes erejével sütött, ami olyan 35 fokot eredményezett. Persze mi hosszú nadrágban, gumicsizmával, s hosszú ujjasban (a szúnyogok ellen) voltunk, így lassan már folyt rólunk a víz, s nemgyőztük magunkba önteni a vizet. Olyan 1 órát járkálhattunk a mocsárban, ami persze nem volt valami egyszerű csimmában, így volt aki bele is esett.  Nekem sikerült egy kézletétellel és teljes nadrág koszolással megúszni a dolgot J Sajnos anakondát nem láttunk aznap, ami vezetőnk szerint azért is volt, mert a vízszint nagyon alacsony, így szétszélednek a kígyócskák. Így egy anakonda élménnyel kevesebbel, de annál boldogabban tértünk vissza a szállásra, ahol végre kivakarhattuk magunkat a sárból.

Egy emléket azért sikerült megkaparintanom: a mocsárban megpillantottam egy hatalmas (fél méter), tökéletes csodaszép fehér tollat, amiért el is másztam és meg is mentemmel magamnak, s szemeim előtt láttam is, ahogy használni fogom a tűz szertartások alkalmával otthon…

Delfin uszi

Délutánra ismét a folyón való csónakázás következett, amibe beiktattunk egy kis uszikálást is. A folyó bizonyos, méllyebb szakaszában rózsaszin 1m-es delfinek élnek, amiket a csónakból láttunk is. Úszni is lehetett velük, vagyis csak velük egy vízben, mert közel nem jöttek a drágák. De sebaj, mi tudjuk, hogy ott voltak J Láttuk őket 2mre előttünk a vízben, mikor úszkáltunk, aztán hirtelen mögöttünk jelentek meg. Szóval időközben elúsztak alatunk vagy mellettünk, de mivel a víz nem volt valami kristály tiszta, így nem lehetettt őket látnia avízben, csak ha kidugták fejüket. Mindenesetre jó élmény volt.

Ültetek már együtt egy békával a WC-n?

Este a naplement megnézése után visszatértünk szállásunkra, ahol is sikerült egy békával megosztanom a WC-t. Hát az úgy volt, hogy az egész szállás egszerű faházakból állt külön mosdóval, ahol rengetek opció volt különböző állatoknak beköltözni, s este ráadásul elég sötét van már ahhoz, hogy jól láss. Én mit sem sejtve, szépen elmentem dolgomat végezni, ám mikor a lehúzóért nyúltam vettem csak észre, hogy a WC ülőkén már ült valaki J Kisebb felkiálltással vettem tudomását a jövevénynek, amiután nagy nevetésbe törtem ki a kint fogat mosó 4 másik emberrrel együtt. De hát ilyen ez egy dzsungelben, vagyis a pampa túrán, mert a dzsungel túrán ugyan ez Tarantulákkal fordulhat elő… akkor már inkábba a béka J

Piranha halászat

Utolsó nap reggeli után piranhákra mentünk el horgászni. Ugyanabban a folyóban, ahol a delfinek is élnek, vannak a piranhák is (csak a sekélyebb részén). Mindeki kapott egy horgot damilon, s egy-két hús cafatot, amit a horogra erősítve indulhatott is a horgászás. Mindenkinek sikerült legalább 1 halacskát fognia, nekem 3at is különböző szinekben. Volt amelyik sárgás volt, volt amelyik rózsaszines. Valaki szardíniát is fogott, amik fel lettek áldozva további piranha halászására. Időnk végére sikerült néhány ehető méretű halat fogni, mert ugye a kicsiket visszadobtuk, s ebédre el is fogasztottuk őket.

És igen, a piranháknak tényleg van foguk….

MADAR lesben

Ebéd után kicsit még pihentünk, én például filmezve a madarakat. Merthogy a tábor körüli fák tele voltak madarakkal. Két félével is, solyom és keselyu. Emellett még baglyot is lehetett látni. Én csak leültem a fák közelében és néztem, ahogy a sasok egyik fáról a másikra, majd elém a földre repülnek, s az oda nekik szórt ételt eszegetik. Csodálatos érzés volt ilyen közel lenni olyan állatokhoz, amiket csak messzi távolból láttam eddig. A nyugodtság, ami a környezeten uralkodott ráragadt mindannyiunkra. Percekig el se hittem, hogy ezek a lélegzet elállító madarak ott előttem csemegéznek rám se hederítve. Közel lenni a természethez csodálatos dolog. Megismerkedni az állatokkal még jobb. Remélem a mai gyerekek nem csak a playstation-ön meg a számítógépes játékok nőlnek fel, hanem megismerik környezetünk csodáit is.

Ezek után nem vol tmás hátra, minthogy összeszedtük sátorfánkat és visszacsobogtunk a kezdőponthoz, ahol már jeep-ünk várt ránk, hogy visszavigyen minket a városba.

Lajhár koma

Megérkezésünkkor egy másik nagy meglepetés várt minket, mert valaki talált a dzsungelben egy bébi lajhárt és annak keresett gazdát, így alkalmunk volt találkozni és fogni egy lajhár kölyköt a kezünkben. Lajhárkám, mintha be lett volna szívva folyamatsan csak mosolygott és lassan mozgatta a felyét jobbra, balra. Kezével, lábával, amin hatalmas karmok voltak, mindig kapaszkodott valamibe vagy valakibe. Szürkés szőre olyan puha volt, mint a selyem, így öröm volt simogatni.

A 3 napos túránk nagyon jól let el. A pampa túrát mindenkinek csak ajánlani tudom, s ha van időtök, akkor a dzsungel túrát is. Mind a kettőt La Pazban érdemes lefoglalni és fizetni, mert ott csak 590 Boliviánóba kerül fejenként plusz egy 150 Boliviánós Nemzeti Park belépő, de ha valaki helyben Rurrenabaquine-ban szeretné lefoglalni, akkor 900 boliviánóról indul az ár és csak nagy alkudozással lehet 750-re lebeszélni. Ez azért van, mert helyben a kormány törvényben kötelezi az utazási irodákat, hogy nem mehetnek 850 alá. Mi erről elfeledkeztünk, így helyben kellett alkudoznunk, s szerencsénkre sikerült egy helyet taláni, ahol 700 boliviánóért elvittek minket.

A Nap Sziget inka maradványai, s s Nap Isten szülőhelye, mindez a következőkben…

Rurrenabaque – the Bolivian jungle and pampas (I)


Every child’s jungle fantasy – having a long chat with the powerful Baloo, wise Kaa and magnificent Bagheera… who would ever refuse such a meeting?


We had been to the jungle before in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but those in Peru and Bolivia seemed to be different, special. In Peru we had been to the high jungle in Quillabamba, but what we really wanted was to go deep into the jungle and spend some time far away from civilization, with only the locals, animals (even if not really panthers and bears) and, if need be, the omnipresent mosquitoes. We haven’t had the chance to do that yet, but it’s still on the list, no problem.

We knew nothing about the jungles of Bolivia before we headed there, except for “It’s awesome, it really is”. We read a few lines in the Lonely Planet and chose one of the cities listed, thinking that once we arrived in Rurrenabaque (the chosen city) we’ll figure out how we can get to the depths of the jungle. Unfortunately we realized the only way (that we found at least, without knowing anybody around and not enough guts to go out into the jungle by ourselves) was again through a guided tour. So until other options were to make themselves known, we had to go for the only one available at the present moment.

The trip from La Paz to Rurrenabaque


We arrived in La Paz at 7am after a night spent of the bus from Potosi, and the plan was to get out of there as quickly as possible (just in case we would, God forbid, find ourselves with enough time on our hands for … shopping). Fortunately we found out the buses leave for the jungle between 10.30am to 12pm, so we chose one of the five existing companies (Vaca Diez, which we completely and insistently do NOT recommend) and we were ready to get on our bus at 12pm . So were nearly 50 other passengers… but unfortunately our readiness was totally futile in the absence of a vehicle that we could actually board. I walked slowly to the company’s “office” – which consisted of a table that was more on the street than inside a building – and I asked about the absence of the bus that would take us to the far away land. I was told with just as much softness: “Oh, it’s on the way, stuck in traffic a bit, but it’s coming soon, coming soon.”



I had no reason to doubt the man’s words. But half an hour later when I went back to him and got the exact same answer, this time I needed just a little more information “And when exactly is it coming? ‘” Quickly, coming quickly.” “Like in … 5 minutes? Half an hour?”. “Uhm … quickly. It’s on its way. ” “I understand, it’s been on its way for half an hour already, so what does ‘quickly’ mean? Another half an hour? More?”. “Uhm… Yes, about half an hour. ” It was obvious he had just given me an answer to get me off his back, but I was not going to argue with the man, so I returned to the status of “waiting indefinitely”.



An hour later I was breathing more quickly already and I did not walk over to the man as casually as before. “Ya viene, ya viene… no te preocupes” (It’s coming soon, it’s coming, don’t worry). “No te preocupes? No te preocupes? How can I not me preocupo when I’m here waiting for almost 2 hours for a bus that doesn’t seem to come? At least tell me one way or another, to know should we stay here and wait by the road side, or can we go somewhere to get some lunch?”. “Oh, yes, you can definitely go have lunch because after it arrives we need to load some things on it and it will take a while”. “A while?”. “Maybe half an hour. Or a bit more.” “A bit more?”. “Maybe an hour. Maximum one hour. ”

In the last hour we had watched with fascination as another bus was being loaded, and we knew it would take more than an hour for sure. By the time we left for lunch the bus finally appeared, with “only” two hours delay. Another hour later we returned from lunch to find the bus almost double in height than we had left it: when they said they were gonna load it, well they were gonna load it!


Of course we had to wait another hour for the bus to be fully loaded, so we managed to finally make a move at… 4pm. When we started we did not actually think that the coach would be able to start moving, overloaded as it was with stuff and passengers – the only thing missing was for us to sit on each others’ lap, as the aisle was full of luggages and blankets and small screaming children.



But ok, we started moving, so what’s worse is behind us, we thought in our extreme naivity. The trip was supposed to last for 16 hours, and just in case that wasn’t enough, of course our overloaded bus turned into a turtle-vehichle and we arrived in Rurrenabaque after 24 hours. The delay was a third of the original time! And in this journey that lasted for a full day and night, we prayed for Valium. The heat was suffocating, and in the of course complete lack of air conditioning, our only hope was to open the window. But opening the window meant suicide, as the dust from the unpaved road hit you in the face ruthlessly before you had time to even think that you’re suffocating. Crying babies and a horrifying music that was screaming out of the speakers until 11 pm, then a desperate woman who woke up screaming in the middle of the night that she wanted to get down because we were going to fall into off the road into the gap (the road we were on was carved in the mountain and it was the size of a single lane, with the mountain to our right and … nothing to our left. Gap. So when we met a car coming from the opposite direction and our driver had to show off his reversing skills, he got pretty close to the other side, and some people really got scared…) Anyway, to sum it up, that was not the calmest and quietest night of my life, and certainly not one full of dreams with fairies and badgers.

Finally at our destination


But, as it happens in happy ending movies, we finally reached our destination, safe and sane (barely, barely). We took a taxi (two motorcycles, to be exact) towards a hostel which I had read about in the Lonely Planet. When we were dropped in front, the sign at the entry said “Hotel”, and the prices seemed to indicate that was indeed the case. We later realized I had read the “Accommodation” section completely unaccurately. But after 28 hours of … well, I guess it’s understandable.



However, as our eyes met the inside of the above mentioned hotel (called Orient), we knew immediately we wouldn’t have the power to say no to staying there, even though it would cost us USD11 per night per person (which is really cheap for a hotel, but compared to the 4-5USD we were used to paying…). Considering the fatigue in our bones, the incredible mixture of sweat and dust on our body (in other words, filth) and the desperate noises coming from our stomach, we could say only yes to the big belly uncle who welcomed us: yes, we will stay here tonight, because we deserve a night here in your little Paradise, after sleeping for 8 months only in places with “s”…
 The uncle probably did not know all this, but he was touched by our appearance of freshly arrived from a pilgrimage, so he served us a fresh mango juice with an attached smile, then led us to our room.

On the way there, our eyes met this



and we knew we had chosen well, and we knew we really were in Paradise. And we behaved accordingly

Finding a tour


In the evening we went out to explore the town, and also to check out the jungle tour options. We had to choose between the jungle and the pampas, and we ended up choosing the pampas because there were many more animals involved (crocodiles, anacondas, piranhas, this kind of gentle creatures). The jungle was more about vegetation, insects, birds and the like, and because we had been in similar setting before (although these were surely different, but still), we chose to see what we’ve never seen before. And if the opportunity arises, to swim with the pink dolphins while at it (now between you and me, this was the main reason for choosing the pampas, as swimming with dolphins was a definite childhood dream).



All good then, till we got to the price. In La Paz we had entered an agency to ask about Uyuni, and the lady showed us their offer for the jungle tour as well, just for our information. But as we were not interested, we didn’t pay much attention. We remember only the price: 590 Bolivianos. So when we were told in Rurrenabaque 900 Bolivianos… we felt a bit dizzy. Later we found out that due to some regulation imposed by the government, the 900 was the minimum they were allowed to charge the tourists in order to stay legal. In La Paz, however, the tour agencies sell it cheaper. Because… why not? So if you plan a jungle tour in Bolivia, remember to book it in La Paz!

After negotiations worthy of veteran backpackers, we managed to get the tour for 700 Bolivianos – not 590, but not 900 either. All good again, until the moment we were to pay. Not enough Bolivianos! Can we pay by card? Obviously not. Is there any ATM around? Yes there is, but it’s only open on weekdays… and today is Saturday. Another way of saying “bad luck”. How about we give you some money in advance and we pay you the rest when we come back on Wednesday? Errrr, no, that won’t work because “this is actually not my place, and the owner is away, and I can’t reach him, and I can’t take responsibility … and … and … and you have to wait until Monday “.

And that’s how we ended up spending our Sunday moving from one hammock to another, biting from a mango or another, slapping a mosquito on a piece of leg where the insecticide hadn’t reached… Well, this kind of hard life occupations :).

(to be continued with the 3 days spent in the pampas)

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A dzsungel könyve – Rurrenabaquine

Egy másik érdekesség Bolíviában a dzsungel. Ezt több városból is meg lehet közelíteni, mi az egyik leghíresebbet, Rurenabaquine-t választottuk.

 

Indulás 4 óra késéssel

La Pazból egy 16 órás busz út vezet eme kisvárosba. Körülbelül 3-4 busztársaság megy minden nap 11 óra körül ugyanarról a helyről. Mi a Vaca Diez (Tíz tehén) társaságot választottuk szerencsétlenségünkre. A busz délben kellett volna hogy induljon de még12.30kor sem volt se híre se hamva. Iunia 15 percenként kérdezte, hogy jön e a busz vagy, hogy miért késik, de erre senki nem nagyon tudott válaszolni. Mindig csak azt mondták, hogy ne izguljunk jön majd valamikor. Mi igen is izgultunk, de ezzel mi voltunk az egyetlenek. Mondták, hogy nyugodtan menjünk el ebédelni ha akarunk, mert valószínű van rá időnk, így el is mentünk. S igazuk is volt, mert a busz nem jött meg 2ig. persze nagyon még nem örülhettünk, mert ekkor még fel kellet rakodni a buszra. Ez persze nem csak a szokásos, mindenki dobálja be a csomagját a csomagtartóba, s 10 perc mulva már megyünk is volt. A dolog ott kerződött, hogy vagy 20 hatalmas zsák növény várt fölpakolásra, amik kb akkorák voltak mint egy 200kgos ember. Ezeket egyessével a tetőre rögzítettek, miután mehetett a csomagtartóba pakolás. Ez sem volt semmi, mert megint csak az utasok hatalmas dobozokkal, amik legtöbbje ennivalót tartalmazott vagy egyéb dolgokat valószínű eladásra, álltak sorba a buszhoz. A csomagtartóba rakodás egy nagy teherhajó  megrakodásásra emlékeztetett (holott még sosem láttam), mikor  a különböző dobozokat próbálják egymáshoz illeszteni méretben, hogy minnél több beférjen. Délután 4kor be is fejeződött a megpakolás, s már fel is szállhattunk a buszra azokkal a csomagokkal együt, amiknek már nem jutott hely. Persze mi már meg sem probáltuk a mi csomagjainkat a csomagtartóba rakni, mert kb azok voltak a legkisebbek, így csak felvittük őket a buszra. A busz egy hatalmas 50 üléses öreg járgány volt, amire legalább 50 ember fel is szállt, ha nem több. Ezek között volt csecsemő és kisebb nagyobbb gyerek is. Tudtuk, hogy nem lesz valami kényelmes a busz, mert a rossz út miatt csak a régebbi járatok mennek errefelé.

 

Az eddigi legrosszabb busz élményünk

4 óra késéssel elidultunk, s csak reménykedtünk, hogy azért időben odaérünk. At út poros, zötykölődős és meleg volt. Megállni nem sokat álltunk meg, így vagy pisilni kellett, vagy éhesek voltunk, vagy nem kaptunk levegőt a portól, vagy csak simán izzadtunk mint a lovak. Szerencsésen megérkeztünk ugyan csak 4 óra késéssel, így a 16 órás út 24 órásra sikeredett.

Persze nagyon nem voltunk meglepődve ezen a latin amerika laza idő kezelés után, de kicsit idegesítő volt. Összességében ez volt a legrosszabb busz élményünk az elmúlt 8 hónap alatt, ami jelent valamit. Minden kényelmetlen volt és ragadós és zsúfolt és hosszú 🙂

 

Mangó paradicsom

Megérkezéskor nem sok hostelről tudtunk, így elvitettük magunkat 2 motoros taxival az egyik hostelbe amit a LP-ben találtunk, Oreon hotel. Sajnos az ára nem volt olcsó (150 boliviánó egy 2 személyes privát szobá), de mivel elég fáradtak voltunk a hosszú uttól, s a könyezet is nagyon szép volt: a kert tele volt függőágyakkal, avokádó és mangó fákkal, amik tömérdek mennyiségű ingyen mangót adtak egész nap. Sajnos másnap ki kellett chekkolni az ár miatt, de aki megtudja magának ezt engedni, annak mindenkép ajánljuk e helyet.

Következő hostelünk Santa Anna Hostel volt, szintén függőágyakkal, viszont csak 25 boliviánóért fejenként egy 3 személyes szobába.

 

Pampa túra

Aki errefelé jár, 2 különböző túra közül választhat a dzsungel túra, ami 3 napig viszi az arra kiváncsit az erdő rejtekébe, megmutatva annak minden növényzetét, s állatvilágják, ami leginkább rovarokban merül ki.

A másik túra, amit mi is választottunk a pampára vezetett, ahol szintán 3 nap alatt ismerkedhettünk meg a faunával és az állatviággal.

Első nap reggel indultunk, s 3 óra autókázás után el is érkeztünk a folyóhoz, ahol a következő 3 napot töltjük majd. Ezután 2 órán keresztül csónakáztunk a folyón, míg el nem értük a szállásunkat. Mikor már a folyhoz értünk vastagon be kellet magunkat fújni szúnyog riasztóval és naptejjel. Az ember azt se tudta melyiket kenje felülre, mert a nap is tűzőtt és a szúnyogok is ezreivel hemzsegtek. A  folyón csobogva lehetőségünk volt közelről látni egy-két krokodilt, több különböző fajta madarat, majmokat mik legtöbbje kis sárga majom volt. Utóbbit meg is álltunk megetetni. Vagyis túravezetőnk banándarabokat rakot a fákra, hogy a majmócák odajöjjenek és mi fényképet tudjunk csinálni róluk. Persze azt nem engedték, hogy mi etessük őket, mert a kezünk tele volt mindenféle kenceficével és méreganyaggal. Természetesen megfogni sem lehetett őket. Ennek mi nagyon örültünk, mert tudtuk, hogy jó csapattal túrázunk, akik tényleg figyelnek a körneyeztre és az állatokra. Emellet láttunk a világ legnagyobb rágcsálóját. Ügy néz ki, mint egy hód és tengeri maac keverék, csak 1 méteres kiadásban. A vízparton élnek, s itt keresnek maguknak rágcsálnivalót, ami természetesen növányből áll, s emellett nagyon gyorsan úsznak.

Mikor megérkeztünk a szállásra nem maradt más, mint szépen lepkolni, megfürdeni, megvcsorázni, s vacsi után elmenni egy éjszakai hajókázásra kaimánra leselkedve. Az ég gyönyörű fekete volt, tele csillagokkal az égen. Csodálatos volt csöndesen hajókázni és bámulni a csillagokat kaimánok helyett, akik valószínű ügyesen rejtőztek előlünk .-)

Éjszaka jól aludtunk, a szúnyoghálónap köszönhetően, ami az ágyat borította a szúnyogok távol maradtak, csak a már meglévő csípések viszkedtek de rendesen.

A következő posztban megtudhatjátok milyen is egy anakonda lesben, hogyan fogtunk piranhákat és milyen rózsaszin delfineket láttunk…

Our experience in the Potosi Mine

What brought us to Potosi were the recommendations we got from friends who had been to this city, and especially from those who had entered the mines. Those interested can take a tour of the mine* in the company and under the guidance of a former miner. So we embraced the opportunity of such a special experience, and probably strong perspective change as well.

We started towards the mine at 1, all six of us (of which were left only 5 at the entrance in the mine, as one of us was claustrophobic) and we soon met Daniel, the guy who was to be our companion and guide. Our first stop was at the equipment store, where we put on a uniform and some rubber boots that would have made even uncle Vuitton blush. Also there we got our helmets and the light that was to go on top of our head. Next stop was the miners’ market, where we bought water and coca leaves for us, and some soft drinks, coca and dynamite as gifts for the miners. Throughout that whole time Daniel was giving us all sorts of information about the mines and miners, and we continuously bombarded him with even more queries. He responded perfectly to everything we asked, and we definitely recommend him as a guide if you do the tour of the mine.

 

Coca – the miners’ magical plant. And alcohol potable – another magic

Coca leaves are one of the most important things you can give to a miner, and something they never enter the mine without. With a huge ball of coca leaves between their teeth and cheek, they often look at you with a distorted face and sometimes you can hardly understand what they’re trying to communicate. Miners spend about 10-12 hours in the mine every day, and all this time they don’t eat anything, they just keep the coca leaves between their teeth and continuously maneuver their pickaxes. Coca keeps their hunger under control and also gives them the energy they need for the intense physical work they do, especially at that altitude – 4000 meters. For us even a simple walk proved quite difficult at that altitude, not to mention hitting the walls with hammers and pulling wagons. Miners give so much credit to the coca leaves for their strength that they spends about 15% of their monthly salary on the magical plant.

Another very traditional element for the Potosi miners is the “alcohol potable”, so to speak drinkable alcohol. What I did not think possible when I found out its actual alcohol concentration: 96%. These guys surely did not seem to be joking. The preferred time for consuming this drink is Friday afternoon, because most miners work a “normal” Monday to Friday program (by their own choice). So Friday afternoon is “group drinking” program, and people don’t play around – they don’t drink to make room for lofty conversation; the objective is “dead drunk” and nothing less! At least that way they can forgive for a moment about the toughness of the their conditions, of their work, of their life.

 

The silver refinery plant

From the miners’ market we moved on to the silver refinery plant. Small and large containers full of substances and mixtures, connected by belts and pipes that seemed ready to break any moment. I was afraid the whole time I was in there that a belt was going to snap somewhere and start a domino effect that would send us all over to the other side like in Final Destination.

Fortunately that was not the case, and the first breath I took when I got out was full of hope and joy that life and I were still best buddies. I hadn’t seen anyone in the room at all, so I asked Daniel: “So how does this mechanism work, there’s no one there to supervise?”. “No need, it’s all automatic. Someone passes from time to time to check that everything is okay, but there is no need for someone there all the time.” “Automatic” was the last word I had in mind upon seeing that entire system, which seemed to have been put in place a few centuries before.

Outside the plant Daniel showed us a stretch of dark gray pasty mass which was resting under the scorching sun. “Silver,” he clarified. Then he stuck his finger in the pasty matter, grabbed my hand, drew a ring on my finger and proudly proclaimed, “There, you’re my wife now.” So that’s how it’s done in Bolivia, huh?

 

At the entrance in the mine

Next destination was the mine entrance. The moment we got there we met with a lovely view: about 15 beer bearing miners, passionately talking about something I could not identify using my lip reading skills (especially since they’re truly inexistent). But they did not seem to be celebrating the birth of a newly born son (which would have indeed been reason for joy, as apparently miners love a big family – of those we spoke to, the one with the fewest children had only.. seven!). We later learned that two groups of miners were angry with each other because one of them had discovered a vein with a lot of potential, and now the other group wanted to exploit it as well. So the first group was much upset, and they were discussing over alcohol how to solve the situation – maybe not the best idea, but that just seems to be the way things are sorted out around there.

When they saw us though they truly rejoiced, and invited us to have beer with them, wanted to take pictures with us and really enjoyed welcoming us. Daniel had told us before that the miners are always happy to receive visitors (especially girls, as he made sure he mentioned) and now we had proof the man was right.

 

Inside the mine

We didn’t linger too long outside, and soon came the moment we were all expecting: entering the womb of the mountain. Further and further into the tunnel, Daniel had a big step and went so quickly that he seemed to be racing, and we were staggering after him, fighting to keep up. The landscape kept changing: different colors on the walls, puddles that sometimes seemed to become rivers (thank God for those rubber boots), the narrower and narrower tunnels … and then there were the level crossings, where we had to crawl on all four or slide on our butt through narrow holes. Definitely not a trail I’d see my grandma completing with flying colors.

And then there was the heat that accentuated as we got deeper into the mine, and the dusty air that made it so hard for us to breathe. We had bought some scarves to wear as face masks and we used them almost the whole time, but a scarf over your mouth is the last thing you want in an unbearable heat. That’s one reason why so many miners contract silicosis – is it possible to wear face masks at 40 degrees while doing back breaking work? Every single moment?

At one point we came across an older man who was working independently and had three bags of ore to carry out of the mine. When we met, he put the bag down and we had a bit of a chat for a while, about his 10 children and other things. When we said goodbye we offered to help him carry his bag. I grabbed it, put all my strength in lifting it off the ground… and I managed to budge it 1 millimeter. And our man was carrying it on his back from the bottom of the mine to the entrance. Unbelievable. I mean, seriously, unbelievable.

We had another couple of attempts to help, especially when it came to the wagons – we all pushed with all our strength, pulled with all our strength, the things didn’t even budge. But when the men put their hands back on the wagon, it began to move again more or less elegantly on the rail. Strong guys they are, no doubt about that!

 

Tio, the underground deity

Our last stop in the mine was a visit to Tio’s shrine. Tio is the deity that rules the underground world, and in the context of the miners he’s the one who decides their fate. So miners make sure they pay him a visit or two every single day and bring him various offerings (mainly coca, tobacco, alcohol … pretty much whatever they consume, and assume that the “uncle” likes them all the same). Tio is the one who has the power to keep the miners alive or not, to help them find rich veins or not, to bless them with joy or curse them with misery. Daniel told us stories about individuals who are said to have “sold his soul” to Tio … and have found veins that have made them millionaires, but then when they stopped bringing the promised offerings, they lost more than they had.

Many young miners don’t believe in Tio anymore, but of the old ones you won’t meet anyone who’s not afraid of the deity of the mine, and does not pray for his safety every day. At each level in each mine there is a small quiet corner where a shrine has been built for him. I asked Daniel where the name comes from, and he gave me two explanations: practically Tio is the “invention” of the Spanish, who saw in it a way of controlling and scaring the indigenous they were forcing to work in the mine. They were instructed to treat him always with great respect, because then he will protect them. So the Indians have always treated him with the respect they would pay an uncle (“tio”means uncle in Spanish). The second explanation is that “Tio” is how the indigenous people managed to pronounce “Dios”, and “Dios” means God in Spanish.

 

Finally …

Before exiting the mine we found ourselves near an unattended wagon and took advantage of that to listen to Daniel explaining about the metals in the mine. We all searched for a little silver stone, but unfortunately those were the minority. Well, life.

Today around 8,000 miners enter the mine every day, out of which 1000 are children. The reality is painful … but up at the mountaintop nobody invited you to sit in an office behind a computer. Life really beats the movies! And speaking of the movies, “The Devil’s miner” is one you really want to add to your “to watch” list.

And if you visit Bolivia, you may want to add the Potosi mine to your itinerary. It’s a different kind of experience for sure.

______

* We chose Koala Den, and a tour costs 100 Bolivianos.

 

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Potosi and Cerro Rico (The Rich Mountain)

“We eat the mountain, and the mountain eats us”, say the people of Potosi, one of the highest cities in the world: 4090 meters high. The city has a great historical significance, as Mont Potosi was the main source of silver for Spain in the colonial times, and the main way in which it financed its empire for several centuries. It is said the mountain hosted so much wealth they could have built a silver bridge all the way from Potosi to Madrid, and still have enough to transport to Spain across the bridge. In Spanish they still use to this day the phrase “worth a Potosi” to mean “worth a fortune”.

 

A little history

Cerro de Potosi, also known as Cerro Rico (The Rich Mountain), sits with all its impessive 4824 meters above the city of Potosi and watches. Legend says the rich potential of the mountain was first discovered by the Incas around 1462, but they did not take a single piece from it because they were instructed by a voice from inside the mountain to “not take any silver from this mountain, because it is meant for other masters.” The Incas complied with the voice’s request, and the new masters (the Spanish) found it as soon as they arrived on those lands and started exploiting it around 1546. This led to the appearence of the city of Potosi, and soon the town was so rich and sought after that it became one of the largest cities in the world at the time, its population exceeding that of London and Paris.

The Spaniards did not play around with the mining, and exploited the mountain so intensely that it is said to have decreased several hundred meters in two centuries. The workers were primarily native Indians used as slaves in the mines, and the working conditions were so severe that they dropped like flies in very short time. The extremely hard work, virtually non-existent labor protection, as well as the poisoning from the mercury used in the processing of the silver, have made the Spanish require new workforce at the beginning of the 17th century. So they resorted to importing 1500-2000 Africans Slaves per year, who of course had the same fate as the Indians. The estimated figure of how many slaves died in the mine of Potosi in the colonial times is a few hundred thousand or 8 million, depending on the source. It is also said that, on average, a slave survived in the mine for no longer than 6 months.

The city continued its spectacular growth, however, and in the 17th century it housed nearly 100 churches, it was said that its streets were paved with silver, and the luxury and opulence overshadowed that of any other city in the world.

After 1800 the silver mines were pretty much depleted though, so the next metal to be exploited was tin. As the quantity of silver coming out of the mountain decreased, so did the city’s economic success. Zinc took over after tin, and that is the most profitable metal exploited in Potosi today. The mountain continues to be exploited for silver to this day, but the quality is clearly inferior to that in the good times, the “silver times”.

 

Working conditions and health issues

Life has changed a lot since the colonial era, but the working conditions of the Cerro Rico miners seem not to have advanced much. The average life span of the miners is 40 years, and after about 15 years in the mine most of them contract silicosis, a lung disease caused by continuous inhalation of dust. Of those with silicosis, 80% also have tuberculosis. Most work as part of small cooperatives, and some of them work independently. That means no insurance, no protection, no nothing. And they can’t stop working either because if they do, they have nothing to put on the table the next day. The government provides a miners pension for those with silicosis, but only if the disease has already taken over 80-90% of their lungs (in which case they have only a few months to live anyway). So if they have silicosis in a proportion less than 80%, they continue to work, and when they reach the “necessary” level and stop, they know they only have a few months left to “enjoy” life. So “The mountain that eats men”, as another one of its names goes, seems to be a cruel yet true illustration of the reality of Mount Potosi.

 

And what were we doing there?

You can find out all about our meeting with the deity of the underground and the upset miners in the next post. Also there about the magical plant and magical drink. Aaaand about the marriage proposal.

 

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