Archive for August, 2001

Camino de Oro

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2001

Note: this is taken from emails sent in 2001. Hemi

Hi and thanks for staying tuned…
in tonites episode i will tell you about th great trek in the goldiggers trail.
it all started last weekend, in sorata.
prologue:
i was looking for more gringos to come with me on the trek but as nobody was interested, i decided to go solo – with walter the guide and negrito the mule of course.
there were some problems at the guide association which i did not completely understand, they wanted me to take another guide or something to that effect. when i said walter or nada – they agreed.
later walter explained that there are 40 guides and they rotate days at the agencies – 2 days a month. the rest of the time they work in their farms. so if during the 2 day office stint gringos come in for a tour – the guide present wins the prize. since walter had already led us in a tour a few days earlier it was now not his turn since i insisted though, the other guides had no choice but to let me take walter.

the trek:
i woke up early on friday morning and took a last hot shower for the next
few days. i did some final shopping for foods and changed some more cash for
the days after the trek as it does not end back in sorata.
the first hour and a half leaving the village were hard because negrito the
mule was not with us but at walters dads house in a farm up the mountain. we
had wlaters kid brother (18) help us carry the stuff but still, there was a
lot of food.
once we got to negrito things looked better. it was a grewat suny day and we
did not have to walk too much as we planned to stay the night in walters
house in lakatiya – a 30 person pueblito up in the mountains.
after a lazy luch it started getting cloudy and by sheer luck we made it to
walters house the moment it started raining.
house is an exaggeration – it is an edifice consiting of sevral shacks round
a small courtyard. all muddy and dirty of course. looks like a strong enough
wind could tear it all down in an instant.
walter is a farmer- he cultiates potatoes, and also has a variety of
livestock – 4 mules, 13 llamas, 30 sheep, 1 pig , and a dog.
he also has a wife and 3 kids – 10,8,4. when we arrived ata his house only
the little boy was present. the older son is in another village at school,
returning only for the weekend (which in the villages here is 3 days long!).
the middle daughter was out with mom and the sheep and llamas grazing. when
they got back i helped walter herd the llamas into their fenced off area.
that night i slept in a shack all by myself, but the bed was too short so it
was quite uncomfortable. the bolivians in genral are very short, even when
compared to me…
it rained all night but by morning it was clear and sunny. 200 meters above
us it was already snowy.

we set out early for the Abra Illampu – the pass at 4700m from which we
would later descend. the going was easy at first and slowly patches of snow
started appearing on the ground. within minutes it bacame a thin layer which
became deeper and deeper. by the time we reached the pass 3 hours later we
were almost knee deep in snow!. the walking of course became harder, but
walter had only sandals on! he also folded his pants up so they would not
get wet!
the way up was beautiful an in some places i wish i had jad my snowboar with
me…
the Pass itself was very windy and cold. we stayed there for only a few
moments to enjoy the view and began our descent. by this time it was getting
cloudy and our lunch was in worse weather conditions than the day before.
we continued downwards, much easier than climbing, and the small stream that
had accompanied use from the pass joined a larger river which we would now
walk along for the next few days.
after a few hours we passed through a village called Ancoma, where the
children recognized the gringo from a far and came running to me with pleas
of “caramello, caramello” – basically begging for something sweet. as my
policy towards begging in NO!, i had to let them down.
leaving the village i was joined for a while with a 16 yr old boy and we
talked a bit about life in the village.
about an hour past ancoma, we set up our camp for the night.
walter and i set up his tent nad then cooked dinner – soup, and rice with
sauce and tea. all with two pots and one kerosene stove! it takes about 2
hours.
at night walter and i slept in his tent. me with my hitech sleeping bag, he
with the blankets he used to stuff negritos saddle. i am sure he had a
better nights sleep than me.

the third day was hard for the mule because we joined an ancient inca trail
that had many rock stairs. some were very slippery, especially in the
afternoon as it started raining. the wlak was sometimes near the river and
somtimes climbing up 200-300 meters and walking in narrow trails in the
mountains.
our good weather luck had run out. at noon we reach the spot we were
supposed to camp the night in, so we decide to continue walking a bit more.
there is no point to stop when its raining. at 4 we reached a puelo where
there is a school we can sleep in, but the teacher is on vacation and the
school is locked.
with 2.5 hrs of light left we decide to continue further down, to another
pueblo where wlater has a friend that could let us sleep in his house.
we reached the friend near dark, and it was still raining heavily.
If i thought walter was poor, then this guy was super poor. no animals, no
land, no gringos to guide on tours, basically, a hungry family.
the next morning we left them all our spare food – rice, sugar veggies etc.
to this guys kids i also gave some sweets that i had with me.

on the fourth day we set out early and by 8:30 passed the site for our night
camp. so it was obvious we would finish the trek in 4 days instead of five.
it was still raining hard. we had left the mule at the friends house and
walter was carrying my big muchila. our pace was quite fast. walter was
amazing gliding along the slippery rocks like an angel. trying to keep up
was quite hard for me. how oes he do it with those sandals ? i think his
trick is to barely place the foot on a rock and immediately switch weight to
the other foot, doing so rapidly for several steps till he reaches stable
ground. when i tried it – i usually slipped and almost fell…

in the early afternoon it stopped raining and we reached chusi, a 50 person
mining town built of wooden shacks with no electricity save car batteries
hooked to tvs. walter and i had a lunch and a beer on me in a “restaurant”
and then we parted.
thus ended the walking part of camino de oro.
i had hoped to learn lots of spanish on the trek but unfortunately the
language pf the mountains in Aymera, and walter had only 5 years of school
to learn spanish, so actually there were somethings i knew better than him.
but still it was a great trek – the views of the mountains , the change of
colors from snow white to yungas green – fanatastic.
now i had to get to rurrensabaque – and that would take another 2 whole
days…

—HEY WAKE UP – IF THIS EMAIL IS TOO LONG – TOUGH SHIT!!!!!

I waited for 4 hours for “the car” to arrive as it does once a day bringing
passengers, mail, and groceries. at 7pm we left with the car – a toyota
landcruiser with 100s of empty beer bottles in the back and on the roof. the
raod was only a bit wider than the inca trail i just did by foot, and the
driver had a tough job. but it seems he knew the job quite well, because he
drove relly very well. at one point we picked up a fella from another mining
town – he was drunk and especially enjoyed
saying “oh my god fuck you shit” to me every few minutes. but mostly he
conversed in spanish with the driver.
we reached an ugly mining town called chuquini at 10pm and i went to sleep
in the only motel there. unfortunately the hot water shower did not operate
and i had to scrape 4 days of grime off in cold water. brrr….
yesterday morning i took another car to guanay , and from there another one
to caranavi, and from there i took a night bus (12hrs) to here rurrenabaque.
if you are wondering if i missed the bus – dont worry, it arrived 4 hours
late at the station. luckily the time passed quickly for me all day
yesterday because the bolivians are truly very friendly people, so i had
good talks with them.
there was this 68 yr old retired carpenter, whom i talked with alot about
world politics and american imperialism, who even invited me to his house
when i finish with the jugles here.
when i asked what kind of vegetable yuca is, one of the drivers bought me a
lunch of yuca and salted meat. yuca is like a big potato and it tastes like
a regular potato only the texture is a bit more rubbery.

tommorow i set out on a 3 day pampas tour to see snakes, monkees,
crocodiles, pink dolphins, piranahs, and what have you.

take care for now,
hemi

stay tuned…

Tuesday, August 21st, 2001

Note: this is taken from emails sent in 2001. Hemi

hi!
I was planning to write a long email about my latest trek, but i have no
time left because my bus leaves shortly for jungle capital – Rurrenabaque.
So just the headlines for now –
– 5 day trek called camino de oro – golddiggers trail.
– me, walter the guide, and negrito the mule.
– snow, rain, jungle weather, all in the same trek.
– 5 days without seeing a single gringo.
– aymera is a much more useful language than spanish in the mountains…

hey uno momemntito, por favor, bus driver, wait for me…..

adios,
hemi

Potosi and its dynamite market

Friday, August 10th, 2001

Note: this is taken from emails sent in 2001. Hemi

Hi all!
This morning i went to an interesting place – a mine.
Potosi is a city of 140 thousand people which was founded 500 years ago
next to a mountain known as Cerro Ricoh (rich mountain). ever since, the
digging has not stopped – first silver then other metals and minerals. overall 8
million moners have died digging the mountain !!!!
when i entered the long tunnels i understood why. high altitude (4500m)
dusty air, no safety equipment at all, uncontrolled dynamite explosions
etc etc…
But it was a very interesting tour. the miners chew on coca leaves to relieve the dizziness caused by the bad conditions. it is customary for tourists to bring the miners gifts when arriving, so before we went to the mines we stooped at the dynamite market – little shops where the miner can get all he needs – shovels, dynamite sticks and other explosive
equipments, coca leaves and chewing accessories, pure alcohol 95% – like the kind we clean acne with… so each tourist spent a few bolivianos on gifts. by the way potosi comes from indian potosh – explosion.
Friday is a happy day for the miners because they finish a 24 hour shift that starts thursday morning and when it ends they are allowed to get drunk.
so the first thing we saw when we arrived this morning are some really jolly miners…
at $5 salary a day, i would be drinking too.

how did i get to potosi ?
lets go back a few days to Uyuni (city of lights). I found a really good group and the tour company was ok too. we set out for 4 days of mostly sitting in a 4by4 toyota landcruiser, traveling from one attraction to another. in the group were me, oded Рan israeli student who had already been to south america a few years ago, a swiss couple katherine and rafael whose problems kept chasing them ever since they were robbed in p̩ru due to their own stupidity, and nice married couple paul (irish) and mariannna (dutch) who took 6 monthes off from life to travel the world.
so lthough the rides from one attraction to another were quite long, we had good conversations. marianna also was fluent in spanish so we were able to get much more out of the crew. the crew were juvenal the driver who spent every moment he could under the hood of the car fixing improving and polishing the engine, and his sister inlaw elizabeth the cook for who this was the debut tour.
we also learned of their miserable lives, how they barely get paid (only $10 for 4 days!!), how elis husband died of alcoholism last year leaving her with 3 kids to take care off, and she is only 34 yrs old!
so they were very pleased at the end of the trip when we gave them a tip that doubled their salary !

as for the views – we covered 1000km and saw various geological themes – a salt desert that has “islands” of land in it with ancient cactii – some over a thousand years old. we saw a lagoon called the smelly lagoon which houses hundreds of pink flamingoes! we saw a lagoon that was blood red (magnesium) and another lagoon that is as green as grass due to copper in the water.
we saw weird rock formations that some bolivian decided are similar to salvador dalis figures near barcelona.
we went to a palce full of geysers and boiling hot bubbling mud baths.
we also had a treat. the nights were very cold. minus 10 degrees with no heating in the huts we stayed at. on the third morning we reached a place called agua termales – a lake with a corner that has 40 degrees C water that were great to take a bath in.

food on the sojourn was not a major hit – basic and simple and usually not enough. good thing we brought cookies and stuff with us. yesterday afternoon we returned “home” to Uyuni. After a great shower i said goodbye to my new friends and took a night bus
to Potosi. The way over was interesting because i sat next to a spanosh teacher from barcelona…

We reached Potosi at 3 am. In my broken spanish I had previously reserved a room in a local hostel, but when knocking on the door for 5 minutes without a reply i was beginning to think maybe my spanish is worse than i think. Just then an old man opened the door and let me in.

So far so good. I am enjoying myself, practicing spanish, and every once in a while i try out a new food – today it was saltena – its a dough the size of a lemon filled with cubes of meat and veggies in a very tasty sauce. In a few hours i take another night bus , this time back to la paz (10 hrs) from which i will promptly depart to Sorata in the north (5 hrs) – the hiking capital of bolivia.

hope all is well – though in israel i heard its not. When i see the poverty in bolivia i say that with all our problems – we
are still very fortunate.

bye for now,
Hemi

BACK FROM TUICHI

Wednesday, August 8th, 2001

Note: this is taken from emails sent in 2001. Hemi

hola amigos!
i have always known that “back from tuichi” would be the title of one of my emails from SA. its the title of a book i read about 15 years ago, by yosi ginsberg an israeli gringo that got lost in the jungle and barely survived.
most of the book is filled with exaggerations, if not out and out lies, but still it was good reading and it instilled in me the urge to travel in SA during my tender teenage years…

after that brief literary commentary, i shall update you on the last week or so.

Rurrenabaque
i arrived in “rurre” as it is called by locals at mid morning on aug 22, and got settled in.
this tourist town is the starting point for 2 types of excursions
1 – the jungle – not like africa though.
2 – the pampas – a swamplike savvanah abundant in wildlife the pampas tour is considered easier so i signed for a 3 day excursion set to leave the next day.
in the afternoon i met an old acquaintance from sorata (last week) who is a drummer in seatle ad came to bolivia for 3 weeks with his 15 yr old son.
really interesting guy and we talked for hours. BTW all those looking for a job, there is a shortage of progammers at microsoft in seattle….

PAMPAS
the next morning  i left with a 4by4 to santa maria , a 4 hr dirt road drive to the yacuma river where the pampas tour begins. with me were emma an australian girl that like me signed up for 3 days, and 3 fellas from scotland ireland and germany that came for only 2 days.
our first stroke of luck was midway through the cartrip when our guide adelid screamed at the driver to stop. he ran to the dirt raod, grabbed a 2 meter anaconda snake by its tail and after swinging it in circles for a minute or so told us to come take pictures.
so now i have a picture of an anaconda on my shoulders, shitting on me.
boy o they stink. after everyone took his turn, he put the anaconda in a plastic bag to take to the yacuma river nature reserve.
sitting next to him i was not too happy, more for the stench han anything else…
after arriving at santa maria and having lunch we set off on what would be our vehicle for the next few days – a 12 man motorized canoe.
virtually minutes after setting off we started spotting various wildlife – alligators, river turtles, kapivara (huge rodents the size of sheep!), all sorts of water birds, monkeys that could be bribed to eat bananas from our hands, and more.
we reached a place in the rivr that was a bit wider and in these places there are pink dolphins swimming about. of course we jumped in to swim with them but unfortunately they were shy so it di not quite work out.
by the way there are alligator just 20 metres away but they dont go to the deep water. in the deep water there are pirannahs though…
all this time we were enjoying the sights mostly through the shutter of our cameras – how japanese can you get!
we reached our campsite on the bank of the river and it was quite nice, a big netted hut with each bed having a personal mosquito net as well.
the river is lined with trees but behind this thin line lay vat swamps and grazing fields for cattle. at dusk we took some corny sunset shots.
the evening was quite lovely as there was also another group from the day before there so. when we all retired to our beds jokes were flying around the room for almost 2 hours. no nationality was spared…
the next morning we were woken early by the guides for a quick upriver flight to a great spot for….
sunrise photos !!!!
afer breakfast we set out to the swamp area for anaconda hunting – big ones.
after 3 hours of failed attempts which included getting bogged down in knee deep mud and loss of several sneakers (the mud sucks them off your legs – not to worry , all were retrieved) we were about to give up when one of the guides found a 3 meter anaconda. experienced from the day before, i did not touch the filthy bastard.
after lunch we part from the 2-dayers, and emma and i go pirranah fishing along the river. the fihing device is a piece of wood with several meters of nylon cord attached to it and a hook. the metod is quite simple, attach a piece of raw beef to a hook and the moment you feel a tug – pull hard and virtually yank the fish into the boat. the poor thing does not even bite the hook o its really easy to repeat the process many times. we caught some pirannahs, sardines and a catfish too. none longer than 15 cm. at night we had fried fish but to tell the truth pirannahs have almost no meat on them so its a good thing there was lots of rice.
the next morning we took the boat upriver to look for more animals and it was pretty much the same as the first day. this time when i swam with the dolphins i coul feel litle bites at my birthmarks and nipples – pirannahs!!!! the water in the pamaps rivers is quite muddy so i could not see the little buggers. no worries it hurts less than mosquito bites. as for the insect bites, i really did not get bitten much so i was ready to take on the jungle…..
the way back to rurre was dull except for the driver who was really tired so the intervals between breaks got shorter and shorter.

JUNGLE
the following morning i quickly signed up for a 3 day jungle tour figuring that since anything under 10 days is usually very touristy because you dont get far enough away, and less is not really seeing much and it takes a few hours just to get there and back.
with me were 2 young doctors from england, emma – a family doctor, reserved and very ladylike, and dapu – an anestheasist (puts you to sleep before the
operation) a wild character who is in fact a nigerian who came to england at the age of 8. he had some interesting stories about his country. its the world leader in corruption (bolivia is number 2). his parents live in nigeria where his dad is a businessman. his 70 year old dad has 7 wives, the last wedding this year to a 23 yearold. dapu has brothers and sisters he has never seen.
also with us were the guide and a cook.
we sailed up the Beni river in a motorized canoe for about an hour and a half and then up into the tuichi (!) for an hour more. the Beni has muddy waters but tuichi has a moe green seethru 30 cm water. as this is the dry season, the water level is quite low so we scraped some rocks every once in a while. we even had to get out and push at one point.
the tuich has a very strong flow. it is really difficult to stand even in knee deep water.
we reached the campsite at noon. its about 10 minutes walk into the jugle from the shore. inside there is thick jungle forestry though not as thick as i had imagined. the sun get through only a little so its a bit dark, and for many pictures i took the camera automatically added flash. after lunch and a siesta, we went for an afternoon stroll with the guide. every few minutes he would stop to show us a plant or tree that had some medicinal or culinary talent.
animal are hard to spot in the jugle due to the thicket, but the guide promised us that at night we would see some.
so after dinner at around 9pm we went to beach area with flashlights and some moonlight too and hoped to see something. NADA ! not one animal.
The only animals were the mosquitos and god know what other insects and the dudes were hungry…
the next morning we packed our stuff and food for a day as we were going to hike to another campsite near the shore of the Hondo river were the guide promised more luck.
“weather report – its hot, damn hot, hot and wet, which is good if you are in bed with a lady, but not if you are in the jungle” (good morning vietnam). and so it was – 10 minutes into the 3 hr hike we were dripping wet. never in my life have i sweated so profusely, icluding all the army crap i did.
and the biting insects dont take any lunch breaks at all, they just keep coming at you. (well maybe the people travelling in the jungle are the luch break).
the first thing we did when we reached the rio hondo is go for a swim. the water was great and the flow was ok too. while we chilled the cook, who came with us prepared lunch. we then spread our matresses and sleeping sheets under a makeshift junglew tent, set up the mosquito nets and took a nap. the heat really made me tired.
in the afternoon we went fishing. emma had all the luck. she caught a huge 5 kilo fish 3 minutes after we began. later she caught 2 turtles and a manta ray which we promptly released.
in the evening we had a delicious fish dinner, and at night went looking for the promised animals. guess what – correct – nothing.
in the morning we hiked back to the first camp itching and scratching and sweating. after 2 days with the guide explaining about all the medicinal fauna, the doctors could have set up an operating room for heart transplants in the middle of the jungle.
there were some interesting things like a tree whos sap is so poisonous that when an arrow tipped in the sap hits a person it can paralyze him within minutes. or branches of a certain tree that when cut off contain pure fresh drinking water.
another nice thing was the vines hanging from the huge trees, we used them as swings just like in the tarzan movies.
but no animals.
by the time we returned to the camp i was truly ready to leave the jungle.
after lunch we swam a bit and returned to rurre.
the hilights of the jungle trip were no doubt the good food and the view along the river.
I spent the evening itching and scratching, and had dinner with some new friends i met at the end of the junge trip.
the tourist agency had bought me a flight ticket back to la paz for the next day, but as i unfortunately found out it was for the noon flight not the morning flight.

Getting to La Paz
the flights are with TAM – trans aero militar , the military transport planes. they use fokker (netherlands) planes from the sixties. the company does not exis anymore. i wonder where they get spare parts…
the next morning my friends left on the early flight and we arranged to meet at Catedral San Fransisco at 5pm later that day.
Boy was i optimistic. the morning flight left at 1pm. i wassupposed to leave at 12pm and left at 3pm but to Trinidad – the opposite direction to La Paz!
In trinidad we switched to another plane to La Paz, and finally reached the capital at 7pm.
The good part about the flights was that i asked to sit in the cockpit with the pilots and after showing them my aircrew card, they were actually happy to talk with me. we discussed differences in bolivian pilot life as compared to israel, a bit about the airforces and the wars in israel and in bolivia.
they have lot of missions dealing with stopping drug trafficking. one of the plots had a german name and told me his grandfather emigrated from germany.
i was thinking to myself could this be one of the nazis that escaped to SA after WW2 ?
At the airport i helped a young israeli gringa whose muchila got sent to santa cruz to sort things out and we shared a taxi into town.
She of course went to EL LOBO – the place where all the israelis sleep eat and herd in lapaz. The funny thing is i had met Zeev, the owner in the airport in rurre a few before. he is 60 yrs old, a polish jew formerly living in israel but 25 yrs in bolivia, apparantly had some problems with the israeli authorities and never came back. his daughter and husband run the very uccessful ellobo operation and he looks for new business opportunities. he had just bought some land near rurre and plans to set up EL LOBO 2, i guess.
Back to La paz, of course i had missed my rendezvous with my friends, but i went to the hotel they were staying at and they left me a note inviting me to stay with them in the room.
i then went out to the food stalls on the prado (main street) and for one and a half dollars had 2 skewers (shippudim) of cow hearts and potatoes, an egg filled saltena, a churriso sandwich, and for dessert some cherries.
at 10pm i retured to the hotel and met the friends. its about time to introduce them dont you think ?
christian , german 24, finished a masters in electronics at univ of illinois and will now work in berlin sebastian, german 24, height 204 cm! really stands out in this country. also studied EE in illi, will return to bavaria for work there.
phillipe, 23, french, normal height, also studied with the above two, will also work in germany after the trip.
really nice guys with interesting stories.
yesterday we went on a one day excursion that included valle de luna , right at the edge of la paz, which has a supposedly moonlike landscape, and a climb of mount chacalataya. this is the bolivian ski resort, the highest in the world at 5400meteres. the slopes though are only 700m. some japanese dudes were skiing and at the end of the run there was a local guy waiting for each of them with an oxygen mask. i tried to rent out equipment for an hour but it was impossible. also this is not exactly the ski season. anyway the driver who brought us refused to take us up the road so we walked up for
2 hrs from 4700m to the top at 5400. having arrived from 0m in rurre the day before, i thought i might get a headache or something, but to my plesant surprise, i felt quite good.
in the afternoon my friends, who were not as fortunate as me, all went to sleep in the hotel and i wandered around the city a bit.
I must say that sometimes first impressions can be wrong. I am beginning to like La Paz, it is much more than the filthy tourist area.
in the evening we went to the posh Sopocachi district, which has good restarauts, pubs and clubs (like the rotschild street aree in tel-aviv), with rich locals that look very european in contrast to the indian looking poor folk that account for 80% of bolivias populace.

we interrupt this letter to bring you the following message – there is a radio here and now they are playing the original spanish version of David Brozas famous song “sigaliot”. I asked the lady working here about the lyrics , they are basically the same as in hebrew. neat huh?

so we sat in a french pub with St germain (a french electronic cool funk-jazz band) in the background and very upscale bolivianas at the bar.
this was the first time my friends and i saw a good looking local girl, by western standards.
today my buddies are buying some souvenirs, because tommorow they leave for home. i am contemplating the issue as i dont want to carry anything unneccessary with me in the 6 week left.

tommorow i might go on a 2 day mountain trek not far from la paz and after that i will head out to Peru, to cuzcu the inca capital turned biggest tourist attraction in SA.

forgive me for the typos, the keyboards here are of poor quality.
forgive me for the longevity, i just had to share the stories with you.
forgive me father for i have sinned 🙂

any comments, questions or jokes?
i am always happy to read.
seeya later
hemi

The city of lights – Uyuni

Sunday, August 5th, 2001

Note: this is taken from emails sent in 2001. Hemi

hi amigos!
anyone who has ever arrived at las vegas after a long drive in the desert
must know what i mean by city of lights.
well uyuni is also a “city” at the end of a “road” in the desert.
but forget the lights.
located in the south of Bolivia with 13000 population, it looks like an
abandoned set of an old western movie. there are no trees or plants – just
dusty streets, unpaved, and unattractive.
unlike american deserts – at 4000 meters this is a cold city – at night well
below 0 celcius.
there is nothing really intereseting in town but everyone comes here to
depart to the SALAR – a four day jeep excursion to various salt deserts,
geysers, volcanoes and other geological anomalies in a small area bordering
with chile on the west.
i arrived early this morning and planned to go on tour today by noon.
unfortunately the agencies here are quite poor at organization so i am
waiting for the tour starting tommorow.
On the bus from la paz i met some new friends and we will be doing the trip
together – 6 gringos in a toyota landcruiser driven by a local guide who
doubles as a cook, nanny and what have you…
temperatures in the Salar at night are minus 20 degrees celcius – a great
opportunity to see if my sleeping bag really retains heat at that temp, or
the guys at the store cheated me. (for those faint at heart dont worry – we
will be sleeping in tents that are supposed to have some source of heat).
Before coming to uyuni i walked around la paz for a day and a half and it
was enough.
although situated in a beautiful place – the downtown area is pretty filthy
and reminds me of gaza. I was all too happy to leave…
The way to uyuni is twofold –
first leg – a good bus on a good road for a short 4 hour ride to a place
called orruru.
the next leg is an all nighter starting at 8pm and ending at 5am in uyuni.
the transfer at orruru was quite a mess, we put our stuff on the bus and
then were told its the wrong one, nobody can really help you out there even
if you speak spanish they mumble things to you like “over there…” , “just
one minute…”, etc…
the fun part of the night ride was not the old dilapitaded bus, nor was it
the dirt road (unpaved – just like for jeeps in the desert in israel)
nor the freezing cold temperature in the bus.
the real action started at 3am when the driver somehow managed to get the
bus stuck in the way. we all had to exit the bus so he and friends could dig
up under the bus and try to get it out.
we spent the next 3 hours freezing our butts off in the 4000m desert,
waiting for the messiah.
someone lit up a bush and we added shrubs from nearby to keep the fire
going while we wait.
finally, with the aid of a passing truck and some rope we managed to get
back on the road and on to uyuni.

tommorow is bolivias independence day so there is a lot of partying going on
outside now, people are dressed fine and there are firecrackers and
fireworks. i guess this is the liveliest evening of the year here in uyuni,
i think i will go join the fun…
good thing i bought a llama sweater today because it is freezing cold
outside.
will write after the return from the salar
hold on in israel
bye
hemi

A slight delay

Friday, August 3rd, 2001

Note: this is taken from emails sent in 2001. Hemi

hola amigos (hi friends)
i am now in la paz after a slight delay –

my journey started on wednesday morning .
i had to take 4 flights to get to la paz and prayed for only one thing – no
delays.
of course my first flight to brussekls with el-al was delayed for one hour.
lucky for me the flight from brussels to new york was also delyed due to a
strike fo the catering workers. (2 hours).
i did not worry because in new york i had to wait 4 hrs anyway for the
connection to miami.
when i got new york i waited and waited and 30 minute before borading to
miami – guess what ?
a mechanical failure – new plane – 2 hour delay.
this was bad because the connection to la paz from miami was tight.
i was lied to by the airline representatives – we will fly faster they said.
anyway the 2 hr delay became a 4 delay so i got to miami after my flight had
left to bolivia – in spanish we say mierda (shit).
so they gave me a hotel in the airport and vouchers for meals and told me
that next noon there is a flight with LAB (bolivian airlines – what a
scare).
i proceeded to obtain my muchila (suitcase) which of course had got lost.
after talking to the manager and 2 hours waiting – they found it!!!
but then i saw another problem – the new flight ticket was for noon but not
tommorow – only the day after.
this was a breaking point – i had not slept in 36 hours and now this.
there was no representative at the airport – so i called the 1-800 # of
American Airlines and though we had a nice 30 minute talk nothing could be
done.
I went to my crappy room in the hotel (i cant believe it cost 140 dollars a
night toi put me there) and took a shower ( i had some bad BO after running
around all day).
at 5am i went to the AA counter which opened up and after wasting another 2
hours finally got a seat on the same flight that i originally planned but
plus 24 hours.
i had the whole day ahead of me so i planned to visit the miami downtown
area. unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs – “tropical storm barry”
hit the area.
so i stayed in the hotel eating shitting and sleeping.
inbetween i watched the spanish channels on tv and practiced my accent and
vocabulary.
miami is amazing – at leat the airport – the first language spoken is
spanish not english!
miami is a hub to latin america and it is well felt.
back to the flight – finally i got on the flight to lapaz and to my pleasure
i got upgraded to business class!
just before takeoff at midnight i was reviewing the wine list and menu for
the dinner but the complementary champagne as we boarded the plane kind of
knocked me dead. i slept thru most of the flight – with lots of leg room. we
landed in la paz at dawn and the view was spectacular.
la paz is cold in the mirning 0 degrees centigrade. i had a warm hat and
fleece jacket so i did well.
i am staying todaY IN HOTEL MILTON. 13 bucks a night. looks ok. great view
of the city from the roof.
i almost joined a trek 30 minutes after i arrived but deciced to take it
easy for a day or 2 to get accustomed to the high altitude (la paz is at
4000meters very high.
ive been walking around town for the past 2 hours and am getting hungry.
so bye for now,
Hemi