· by wendy
We awoke with no problem the second morning of our Southwestern Bolivia tour thanks to the rooster crowing every 3 minutes. We gathered our things and hopped in the SUV for whatever our guide had planned for us. He had explained many different places like a tree and a lagoon but we really didn’t get it. All day, as much as I wanted to ask what was next, I refrained realizing that even if he told me we were going to see the blah-blah-tree, it would mean nothing to me. We even saw this map at one stop. It wasn’t very helpful. Turns out an entire day of surprises is fun.
Everything we saw was the work of nature and man was it all weird. At times we felt like we were on another planet. The first stop wasn’t too out of this world, though. It looked like something you’d see in Arizona. These giant rock formations were probably the most normal thing we saw in the next two days.
After our climbing adventure, we were heading down the road when our driver stopped and backed up. He told us something along the lines of “Oops, that way to Chile!” I hadn’t realized there was a fork in the road that we missed but that’s probably because there wasn’t one. What we had missed was some dirt tracks that went off into the middle of the dessert. We began to follow them toward our first destination. In fact, the entire day was just following other people’s tracks, of which there were many. We wondered how in the world our guide could know where any of the tracks went. It turns they all go in the same general direction, although that’s not very apparent until you keep showing up at the same places as other SUVs we didn’t appear to be following.
So, while traveling along the dessert tracks we saw some animals and asked what they were. There are several llama types here in Bolivia and we had yet to get a get look at the undomesticated vicuñas. Unfortunately, the ones we were asking about were just llamas although our guide thought we might be interested in them. So, we stopped to capture some landscape and llama pics. Luckily we did. Llama skulls are good clean fun.
Next up was what we call the purple lagoon. It has a name but we couldn’t understand it. This place was surreal with it’s purple thing going on. We were especially excited to stop here because there were FLAMINGOS! I never knew where flamingos lived but had always figured it was somewhere tropical. Nope. Apparently they love the lagoons of Bolivia.
At this point we stopped for lunch, hunted for a random bush to use as our bathroom and tried unsuccessfully to sneak up on flamingos for some close up pictures. Usually, Dusty can get animals to stand and pose for him. It’s a freakish ability he has. Case and point, his grasshopper friend at the ATP in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get as close to the flamingos.
Off again into the desert we went, when it began hailing. What!? Hail in the desert?
That was over quickly and we continued on to another lagoon which was an icy blue. There were more flamingos but they were hard to see due to the blinding water.
After the lagoon we hopped into the SUVs and headed off into a different kind of desert. This one had giant sand dunes with finer sand and some big flat rocks. We tried to follow this SUV up the dune but half way up we heard ffffttttttttt. A flat tire. Being the dumb tourists, we jumped out and started taking pictures, not realizing that there was about to be a problem.
Our guide and cook began working on the tire looking like they had a million times. Only problem was that we were sitting in sand. The jack began sinking and so did that side of the car. Pretty soon we’d have no way to get the spare tire on, which was actually a real tire and bigger than the one that went flat. Luckily, our guide had the good idea to throw the spare underneath to hold the car up. Success! Dusty, the cook and I ran around finding flat rocks that we could use to support the jack. With the car now jacked up as far as we could get it and using a stick to dig a little hole to make room for the spare, we were able to get the tire on.
Off we went to what was finally to be this tree thing our guide was mentioning. There were many giant bolders sitting around which had been shaped by the wind. One of them looks like a tree. Of course! Why was I thinking we’d see an actual tree? There aren’t any out here.
Our last destination was Laguna Colorada. The water was brownish red, the ground around it was all rocks and there were a ton of flamingos. We were also graced by the presence of vicuñas which we were able to sneak up on enough to get some good photos.
After seeing all of these sites, we drove a short distance to some bunker looking buildings which was where we would sleep for the night. They were hostels run by families that lived there. During our first five minutes at the hostel, I walked out of our room in search for a bathroom. I stepped out and did a 180 turn on my heal like a cartoon character and immediately ran back in our room. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had a look of shock on my face and Dusty was immediately worried. I told him (screeched), “Whatever you do, don’t go out there. There is literally a boy squatting and pooping in the middle of the driveway. I saw it coming out!” We sat there for a minute and then opened the door to see if the coast was clear. Again, I performed the OMG turn around and ran back into the room. Not done yet. He was scraping dirt off the ground and shoveling it onto his dirty business like a cat. The third time I tried my escape, I saw a grown up shoveling it up and disposing of it. I could not get these visions out of my head for quite some time.
Later in the night, while waiting for dinner, we began our usual game of Rummy. One of the Bolivian teenage girls that lives there came over and sat by Dusty to watch the game. Eventually we had a crowd of 4 or 5 kids watching. After a few rounds and checking to make sure they knew how, we invited them to play. They loved it and we played several rounds. It turns out they don’t have any cards to play with because there’s nowhere to buy them in the middle of the Bolivian sticks. We had to stop our game to get our showers in so we got up from the table and let them have the cards. They were at first shocked and didn’t understand. We told them it was a gift. They were still shocked. The owner of the hostel (and maybe their father) came over to confirm “Un regalo?!” Yes. They were giddy and ran out of the room smiling with their new toy.
I guess the owner was appreciative because he then upgraded us to a more spacious and warm room near the fire. Our new room was near a stove that was situated in the middle of the dining room. It’s sole purpose was to heat water for showers. The water line ran through the stove’s stack and heated enough water for 25 showers that night. A great night for the owner at 10 Bolivianos (about $1.50) per shower.
Later, when the sun went down, the owner kicked on the generator and we enjoyed electricity for a few hours. This gave us just enough time to partially charge one of our camera batteries for the next day. A must with all the photos and videos we were taking.
After experiencing the kind of amenities, or lack there of, out here in east boofoo Bolivia, I had a new appreciation for what I had witnessed of the little boy earlier in the night. How else was he to take care of his dirty business, aside from moving to a more obscure location? It’s not like they have kids toilets or even toilet seats for that matter. How was he supposed to balance on a toilet with no toilet seat? How was he supposed to get up there without the potty training stools or whatever parents use. It all seems very normal to me now.