I write this entry, still in Sucre, from the kitchen of our hostel in Sucre. I’m eating this fruit called tumbo, which I just tried for the first time a few days ago. Here’s a picture:
About a week ago, I packed my bag and set off into the Bolivian countryside. There’s tons of these tinytown villages, some dinosaur tracks, some Inca Trails, some craters, some scenery, and stuff, and you can do guided treks out there. However, guided treks are a painfully transparent attempt at exploiting backpacker laziness and contrived apprehension – and who wants to hold hands with 20 other Westerners anyway and walk down a path? So yea, I set off by myself.
I got to the truck stop in Sucre, where this farm truck packed with maybe 40 people and sheep and vegetables and stench would be thumping us down the road through the villages. Upon arrival, like literally 2 minutes after arrival, I met a Czech couple, Vojte and Anishka, and they were my hiking buddies for the next few days. Too easy.
The truck got going, and the sheep got anxious. Some lady decided to designate herself the self-designated sheep herder, and she kept them all in line. There was a wooden beam suspended across the top of the back of the haul, where all of the kids were sitting, which collapsed mid-trip. THUD.
The truck was supposed to leave around 9. We get moving at 10:30, and arrive in Chataquila around 12:15. We start hiking. We see a guided group, all of whom paid like $100 to be there, and we started walking down the exact same path. Yawn. The path was stunning. I decided not to bring my SLR, for maximal backpack aerodynamism, so all shots were taken with my iPod touch.
It was really pretty out there, and how about that hat! Ricky is going to like that one.
Just after that last picture was taken, we met a group of like 10 Bolivian girls, and hiked the remaining 2.5 hours with them. We set up our tents under the Milky Way, took some tea with the girls, cooked our pasta and headed off to sleep. We were wiped!
The next morning, we woke up and decided we wanted to find some dinosaur tracks. So, I set off for the town center, which was effectively a 20×20 square of dirt, with a small tienda selling beer and soda and cigarettes, and inquired about a guide. A guide is required because these things are tucked away in the middle of nature, so you can’t just go there unless you know what you are doing. The guide quickly identified herself.
Name: Maria-Something. Age: 12. Price: 75 Bolivianos split 3 ways – roughly $3.50 a person.
So yes, we set off. More stunningness, more farmers and villagers herding sheep and cattle and cows up and down the playground of rocks and antiquity. Pictures:
2.5 hours more of hiking, and there were dinosaur tracks!
Yea – DINOSAURS. Some villager then came outside and tried to make us pay for looking at the tracks while we were eating our avocados and tuna and stuff. We said no and left.
The hike continued for about 3 more hours, through and about gorgeous ravines and sprawling, Machu Piccu-esque scenery. The sun began to set, and we approached a small farmer and his farm. We asked if we could camp in his backyard, and he said yes. HELL of a backyard.
They brought us out breakfast the next morning too. Corn-potato soup-something. It was really average.
The hike continued, and we descended into a small village called Talula. It was Day 3, and I was actually set to head back to Sucre, but the truck had already left for the day, so I had to stay. No worries.
We pressed forward, took a wrong turn, and ended up at this mountaintop school. We said hello, and I quickly enquired if we could go inside and check out the classroom. The teacher gladly obliged. He asked us to introduce ourselves, and when I mentioned that I studied Industrial Engineering and Math, he quickly noted that the class was doing a math lesson, and that I should teach something! I accepted – pumped.
For my lesson, I decided to play a game. I put an arithmetic problem up on the board (the kids were like 9 years old), made 2 teams, and if you know the answer, levanta tu mano! The whole thing was awesome, although my problems were too hard. I also forgot that just about every country besides the USA uses commas where we use decimal points! Funny. The whole thing was in Spanish too, of course! A couple photos:
Super cool. They filled me up with 3 litres of water, too! This was utterly huge. I’m not sure what I would have done without that water. Other than dehydrate and wither in the sun. Like that raisin.
After four more hours of hiking, countless more farmers and villagers and crazy old ladies offering me corn and yapping in coca-leaf-stained-to-hell smiles, and we arrived at, well, a riverbank. We set up camp, made a fire, cooked dinner, and basked under the impossibly painty shiny night. It’s pretty logical, but stars viewed when out in the middle of nowhere are just magic. Really pretty magic.
The last morning, we packed up, and hiked about another hour to a small town called Quila Quila. There was a school, and I took a poop in their bathroom. I also bought some fresh bread, read some of my book about Che Guevara (The Heroic Guerrilla – figure it out Schleicher’s!), and then after about 3 hours more of waiting, hopped back on the truck. No sheep this time. I sat on a big bag of sugar. The trucked peeled up and around and through and down the mountains, over the hills and balled in dust, yanking and bouncing about, as jolly ranchers and musty farmers grinned along with coca-stained teeth. I put my headphones in, Florence probably, and rode it out.
Finally, the truck arrived back in Sucre. I hopped off, walked for maybe 20 minutes to the market, got some fresh squeezed fruit juices and chorizo sandwiches while genuinely confused as to whether or not I was actually hungry, and then finally arrived back in the hostel. Where I sit now.
Great trip, new friends, new experiences and dust in every crevice of my soul! Keep studying math, kids. And English. English is very important.
12 hour bus to La Paz tonight, and currently eating the breakfast dish with potatoes onions and garlic whose name is escaping me,