Friday 29th November 1985
Woken by the pig. It has just acquired a piece of corrugated iron to roof its adobe hovel, and wants to let everyone know. A campesino has been hired (for the price of his dinner) to dig the potato patch. I have an old hard bread roll which he bums off me, it disappears very quickly.
Tried to arrange a quick visit to a private mine, but don't make the right contacts and spend the morning on light domestic duties and enjoying the sights at the market.
The Ferrobus is like a bus on iron wheels on railway tracks. Two bow-tied and grubby waiters clatter about in a galley kitchen next to the toilet at the rear of the coach. Two coaches, the front one is the engine. Very scenic 11 hour journey to La Paz. For the first 2 hours we climb constantly, endless bends, the only straight bits of track are the lengths of rail standing on end holding the telegraph wires. We loop around the steep valleys, along one side and then back up the other, Lots of barren rock with dead grasses and cacti. Little adobe hovels and a few llamas where ever a stream gives a bit of green. The llamas have fluorescent pink ear tassels. In between the crests broad flat plains of puna, tussocky grassland. At intervals along the track, roughly where the old steam engines would need watering, are groups of railway bungalows. people peak round corners alarmed at this sudden intrusion in the emptiness. The railway reaches 15,000 feet. I experience no discomfort other than embarrassing flatulence. Well acclimatised by now.
We chug along side Poopoo lake, about 90 km long, salt lake with 3 species of flamingoes. They look stunning, all flapping at once but seemingly tethered to the surface by two black cords with a knot in. The lake perfectly reflects the snowy peaks behind.
The legacy of galloping inflation is more bank notes than you can handle. The restaurant change comes in uncountable wads of millions. The street kids can thumb through these wads with practiced dexterity toting up the different denominations as they flash before their eyes.