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travellers plans for Christmas

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Tuesday 26th November 1985

Beautiful high mountain scenery at dawn, wondrous, all sorts of colours in the landscape, blues, reds, purples, greys and browns. Occasional cluster of adobe brick huts, with a cluster of adobe coloured people waiting for a passing truck and a lift. We must have been very high because it is a long descent down to Potosi which is at 4000m. Arrive 9am after all night drive. The roads were part surfaced part gravelled. More comfortable than the bus trip out of Cusco, which was like sitting on a pneumatic drill all night. Muddy suburbs.

Check into Alojamato Ferrocarril, single 2.5 mill. Also book return journey to La Paz for friday morning, 10 mill. There is a daily afternoon flight for 32 mill. Breathless walk up to the plaza major. Plenty of voluminous skirted indian women in bowler hats, men wear knitted woollen hats with ear flaps and faded ponchos. Feet bare and grubby in car tyre sandals. Some of the women also wear pilgrim father type stove top hats, and some are dressed mostly in black. It is cold. Bump into Stephen and Jessica in the street. Cook up some tasty veggies on Steve's benzene stove. Pass on the bottle of local hooch which tastes like benzene and runs the risk of blindness. They plan to go to Sucre tomorrow. Might see Jessica again in Lima. I have to get back to Lima by 6th December for flight home. She wants to borrow my hammock and go down the amazon and get to Columbia for flight home at christmas. Steve is aiming for Salvador then Brazil for christmas.

Posted by 1985 trip 05:00 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

poor Potosi, once so rich

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Wednesday 27th November 1985

Fail to make the 7.30 start for the tour of the state tin mine, so take a stroll round the old mint instead. beautiful mediaeval building with stone staircases, flying buttress, and arched brick ceilings. Some fine furniture and interesting massive wooden cog wheels used for machining the silver. The silver mines of Potosi made Spain fabulously rich, and fuelled the wars in europe for 100 years.

Persuaded to take the train back to La Paz, Pullman class with snooty waiters!!

Steph and Jess' tren to Sucre leaves 6 hours late. See them off in the evening, a long process. There is an ordinary class on the train and freight class. The cargo in freight is all human though.

Book a hot shower with the caretaker, once the little boiler has got the water hot you have to shout ready, and terminale to turn it off.

have a tasty soup followed by large juicy steak chips and trimmings with a pint of beer fro 4 million. Feels like a real indulgence. Chat with a Bolivian civil engineer who builds access roads for the petroleum fields. He remarks at the disparity between his countries natural wealth and the poverty of its peoples. Three things to blame if I understand him correctly, inept government, corruption and uneducated population.

Victor Paz is the current incumbent in government. In the 60s he was the leader of the new socialist miners party. He got elected and started a few rearms, nationalised the mines, gave the campesinoes some tenure of their land. But the powerful few felt the pinch and a military coup intervened. He has recently got back in power, but things are different now. The miners have been on strike against Victor Paz's government for months, ironically. They are starving but exist on coca leaves to control the hunger and handouts of bread. They live in tied houses, and their children go to government schools. But the international tin cartel has stopped functioning, unable to maintain prices in the face of global over supply. Tin was Bolivia's main source of revenue. Its grim.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:50 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

visit the mine, miners on strike

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Thursday 28th November 1985

To the tin mine. Catch a bus from the plaza major up the hill. Grumpy reception from the official guide. He waits along time, but still there are only two of us. He is a middle aged miner. His mood changes once we are down the mine, and he gives good tour, concerned that we understand. Actually I understand little, but the mines are an extraordinary experience. This whole mountain has been mined for 500 years, first for the silver and now the tin. This is the state mine, the private mines are too dangerous to visit. They use compressed air titanium headed drills and electric trains. The tine bearing seams run vertically, so 30m vertical columns are dug out with a series of dantesque little wooden platforms and ladders. Wooden staves now blocked with rocks pop out of the tunnels at head height. It is warm and sulfurous. Brilliant blue stalactites drip sulphuric acid that burns our rubber jackets. Six fatalities a year in this mine, and many more injuries, private mines are worse. No pay at present just coca leaves to chew and some bread. Hyponatraemic cramps. Seven levels in this mine, we explore only the top worked out one. The rocky tunnels, with shored up rock falls, the drips and blackness combine to form for me a great mood of human labour and cooperation. They say miners walk to work in the morning in silence, they star to whisper once underground. Get a positive sense of camaraderie amidst all this toil and suffering.

Have a glass of hot thick api in the market to warm me up. Then buy tomorrows ticket for the tren to La Paz, Pullman 10 million pesos in bundles.

Hang around Plaza de Armas getting wet and loosing hope that someone would want to sell me an old poncho for a youthful price. They don't but Jessica bought one that way. The old man fires up his boiler and I have a hot shower and retire under a greta pile of blankets.

Posted by 1985 trip 02:10 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

by train over the andes to lake Poopoo

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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.

Posted by 1985 trip 02:29 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

business in la Paz

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Saturday 30th November 1985

Back in La Pa. Hang around in restaurant Marilyn for hours hoping to by dollars from the old man but he must have taken the day off. Try to buy an old poncho but cant make a deal. Shop around for ticket to Puno. 16 mill for collectivo tomorrow morning. Disappointed lake Titicaca steamer is no longer running. Write postcards.

Feel the journey home has started, and cant wait to get home now after a year away with my little 10kg backpack.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:35 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

barge on Lake Titicaca

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Sunday 1st December 1985

Meet english David on the minibus to Puno. A government sponsored cocoa farmer in southern Belize. He has been to Santa Cruz on business, and is taking a week to look around Bolivia while he is here. Previously travelled in India. Comes form Norfolk like me. Weird how people earn their living.

Crazy wooden barge ferries the minibus across the lake to Copacabana. The lake is a deep azure in the brilliant sunshine. marvellous. Uneventful border crossings and arrive in Puno 5.30pm. Know my way about and catch the 6pm bus to Juliaca, stroke of luck as can now do Christmas shopping in Juliaca's Monday market.

Rainstorm on arrival. Hotel Yazun 30,000S

Posted by 1985 trip 03:40 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

evil man runs off with my suitcase

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Monday 2nd December 1985

Buy jumpers ponchos and wooly hats in market, good fun light hearted bargaining. Jumpers about 80,000 soles, hats 10,000 and ponchos 160,000. A huge train carves right through the market sending vendors and punters running.

Buy a suitcase for my booty 135,000 soles. Not very strong so length of cord to bind it with. Now have back pack and suitcase. A delinquent child gropes my leg to distract me and someone runs off with my suitcase of jumpers. I give chase shouting enthusiastically and suitcase is abandoned after 100 yards.

Consider flying down to Lima, but next flight is wednesday and it seems expensive. So get the 5pm coach to Lima.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:06 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

on a bus all day in Peru

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Tuesday 3rd December 1985

In transit from Juliaca to Lima. Coach stops for 6 hours in lovely Arequipa.

Many parts of the road cling perilously to the coastal cliffs where the andes meet the pacific. 200 foot drop down crumbling rocky cliffs to the surf and we could become anchovy food. No barriers and just enough room for 2 lorries to pass IF they slow down. An occasional cross marks the edge, in memoriam. We stopped outside a bright green chapel, half the passengers ran out, bought a candle, lit it, and ran back in. Whoever built that chapel was canny.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:17 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

the bird poo thieves

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Wednesday 4th December 1985

Arrive in Lima 6am after overnight bus ride down from Juliaca. Hair raising journey along the Pan American Highway. Sat next to a mother and small child a lot of the way. His constant wingeing irritated me intensely. After a while I realised he had ear ache and I was able to summon ups some sympathy and humanity. But it was a struggle.

Arrive in a bus station in a strange back street, not sure where I am but stride out past the touts confidently clutching my bags firmly. Spot the tall Sheraton tower and orientate like a homing pigeon and make for the cheap hotel district. Whilst walking down pedestrianised Jiron Union a pleasant well dressed middle aged lady points out some bird shit on my shoulder. Sure enough there is some yellowy goo. I wipe it on her cheek without letting go of bags. Bizarrely this does not disturb her and she offers me some tissues and continues to point out the mess. I leave the embarrassment there and keep hold of my suitcase. Soon her accomplices come to point out the muck too. A well dressed middle aged couple. Thieves.

Check in to Hospidaje 2 piso. No Alexo and no Jessica.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:23 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

a night of excess

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Thursday 5th December 1985

Woken up by Alexo at 8am. He has brought some good woodcut prints of adobe and pottery designs from the Chimu. Shopping change money reconfirm flight. Shocked by 7% departure tax, 80$ ! Decide to pay at airport.

Alexo does some 'business' in the bookstore.

Spend a wild paranoid night on the town. Kicked out of hotel for talking too loud. The discos all seem to be poorly disguised knocking shops and were all short of custom. We couldn't get into genuine disco because of lack of female companions. Still had a good laugh, stayed up all night, packed and off to airport at 5am still wired. Alexo hints he would like an english pronunciation book for his teaching.

Leave my South magazine behind accidentally. Had been saving it for the plane.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:33 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

flight home to UK after 1 year away.

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Friday 6th December 1985

Make it on to the plane with all my luggage intact. The return flight ticket had been strapped to my belly in a money belt for a year and was in a disgusting state, and my passport had moulded itself into a permanent curve.

Meet Ben & Rosie on the plane, last seen in Pisac. We land at Quito. An English computer operator I last saw on a boat in Tortuguerro, Costa Rica, gets on. He spent an excellent month in Bolivia.

Also land in Caracas.

Sleep badly on the plane.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:42 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

taken apart at heathrow

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Saturday 7th December 1985

Land at Schipol airport at dawn and change planes for Heathrow. I picked up a letter from Mum in Lima, poste restante, Parents have gone away for the weeks holiday in Majorca. Key is in donkey's shed. They return tomorrow via Gatwick.

Taken apart by customs in Heathrow. Been away long sir? A year. Really sir? step this way please.

Rosie offers hospitality for the night at her home which is 10 minutes form Gatwick. England looks all green and english and I feel emotional culture shock at my return. Cry with laughter in pub. bed collapses in the night and gives me a fright.

Next day welcome Mum & Dad home at Gatwick. Several hours later we are back in Norwich. I have 1040$ and a suitcase full of alpaca jumpers.


Posted by 1985 trip 04:49 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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