Chapter 27::Table of Contents::Chapter 29

Chapter 28
Lake Uru Uru, Chalya Day, Oruro Mine
To Cochabamba

MON FEB 26,

Got up late and lazy (again?)

I sat down after breakfast to try and catch up on my writing. Before I finished, the family loaded up and we tried again to get to lake Uru Uru. We stopped first for Ramiro to do some business. As we waited in the car, a lady was walking down the street and had obviously been hit by a water gun. Some more fellows came up to her and cornered her with water balloons and a whole pail of water. She pleaded with them not to douse her, but to no avail. They did their worst and as she left up the street, she had not a dry spot on her body. Barbarians.

We drove out to the lake and strolled along the pike, watching the men fishing with nets for ishpi, little sardine-like fish. There were many beautiful flamingos off in the distance, too far away to photograph, but a few did fly over head. I took photos of the fishermen , the little kids skipped rocks on the water, and all in all it was a nice diversion. We came back to the house and had lunch.

I finished writing and resumed reading Grav. Rain. ítil tea time. This 4 meal a day business is getting ridiculous: breakfast of rolls, cheese, avocado, and coffee at 10, a full lunch of soup, meat, potatoes, desert and coffee at 1:30, ďteaĒ of rolls, cheese, maybe cold cuts, dulce, and coffee at 5, and dinner of varying complexity but never less than 2 courses at 8. At first it was nice to fill up after months of meager living, but now itís a matter of forcing yourself to be polite and eat at least a little. After tea I came back again to read.

Iíve been thinking more about going back to the U.S. after Peru. I havenít brought myself to talk to N about this yet, itís still 6 mos. away, but unless something or someone comes along to change my mind, Iím becoming more and more resolved to the Idea. After dinner I came back up to read some more. I read ítil late.

TUES FEB 27,

Another late and lazy one. Iím getting spoiled.

I read ítil lunch (trying to finish the sucker off) and after lunch ítil about 5. I finished it. Now Iíll have to find something else to read.

N. had decided to make spaghetti for dinner tonite. When I came downstairs he was busy pressure cooking the chicken and field testing the wine. Earlier the servants had washed our clothes and there was some concern that my duck pants had shrunk. No, they hadnít, but at first glance they looked real small. Iíd been meaning to, and finally did take the hem out of the cuffs to add an extra inch to the length.

After finishing the book I came downstairs to a chalya(sp?) party. Today is Chalya Day, a sort of pagan ritual in which every house, human, and piece of equip is blessed for the next year. Everybody is covered with colored paper streamers, confetti, and much alcohol is consumed. Fire crackers are lit on the floor, drinks are spilled into every corner of the house, and more streamers and confetti are thrown and hung from everywhere, light fixtures, car bumpers, railings, doorknobs, etc.

Once the crowd was done Chalya-ing this house we all moved down the street to the next house. More confetti tossed in hair, fire crackers lit on the floor, and much alcohol consumed. Then to yet another house under construction, the same ritual here with one addition, the man of the house was hauled down to the floor, then the lady of the house dragged down on top of him, confetti was thrown on them both (along with a little alcohol) and many jokes were made about how now their "new sons" would be properly blessed. A drink was thrown onto Ramiroís crotch along with more jokes about how now his "instrument" wonít fail him.

N & I bowed out for a while to check back on the spaghetti sauce. Then we went back to Ramiroís office across the street where yet more confetti, streamers, and alcohol were let fly. We drank much. By the time it came to leave both N & I were 2 1/2 sheets to the wind. We had all we could do to finish making the fixinís for the spaghetti. The whole family finally gathered around the table about 9:30 for a good dinner that only sobered me up a little. N had had more to drink than me and was experiencing the "whirlies" as we came up to bed.

I wrote a drunken letter to Dudley that I may or may not mail and then fell asleep to many bizarre dreams. I woke up in the middle of the night, my mouth feeling like the inside of somebodyís old tennis shoe. I downed the last of the water in the canteen and fell back to more dreams.

WED FEB 28,

Today finds N with aching guts.

After breakfast we sat around writing and reading.

After lunch we read our horoscopes from the Buen Hogar magazine. This was the highlight of todayís activity. N. fell asleep on the couch. I wrote for a while and then perused the backpacking trail guides we have for Bolivia and Peru. After that I resumed reading Magic Mountain.

We skipped tea, Nís guts not being able to handle the pressure and mine not needing more bread.

About 9 dinner was served. We sat around talking ítil around 10 when Ramiro retired. We followed shortly thereafter.

Today was a real fireball day of thrills and excitement. My boredom is reaching critical mass. Itís time to head for the hills again.

People have a strange way of driving around here (and in LaPaz). Because of limited visibility at corners and the lack of stop signs or traffic lites, the 1st person to honk the horn at the intersection has the right of way, unless youíre a bus in which case, look out below. This applies in the daylight. At night itís the 1st one to flash their lights that has the right of way. Horns are also used, but people drive around with lights off, flashing them at wayward pedestrians and at intersections. Surprisingly few accidents considering the gung-ho macho nature of the drivers.

Thurs MAR 1.

After breakfast R, N & I took a taxi over to return some books to a house up town.

From there we jumped on a Micro and rode out to the edge of town to go see a mine. Tin, I think. We walked up to the mine buildings and inquired about walking thru the tunnel to the other side of the mountain. All around lay old rusting mining equip,, the miners were all standing around in their tattered clothes, it was near lunch time. I took some photos of the old burnt out mine equip, little ore hauling cars along the rail track, a miniature front end loader, many unidentifiable rusted parts, winches, wood timbers, and crumbling buildings .

Then it was time to go into the tunnel. R. had stopped and bought batteries for her flashlite but the accepted mode of illumination was paper or rags, soaked with gas, lit, and carried in a tin can by means of a long wire. These little torches gave off much more light than the poor electrical variety. Into the tunnel we went, guided by a young fellow. The tunnel was about 8í tall and not much wider. It had a rail track down the center and an electric cable strung from the ceiling to power the train.

About 1/3 of the way in, we ran into a group of men coming the other way who told us there was a loaded train coming thru. The tunnel was not wide enough for us to be able to stand to one side while the train passed, so we had to seek out a wide spot before the train got to us. We reached the mouth of a small side tunnel and watched the train go by. One miner sat on the front, using his head light as a headlight. Another sat in back driving the engine. When the train passed, we continued our walk to the other side.

I was fascinated by all the old equipment and wanted to take more pictures. Nís guts were giving him pains and he wanted to go back down. He and R. headed down the hill while I took photos. I caught up to them only to delay again to take a pic of an old church in front of a slag pile, and of 3 kids sitting in an old steam shovel bucket. They caught the bus back to the house and I walked.

After lunch I retired to read for a while. Later in the afternoon N went out and bought bus tickets to Coch. They were all sold out for tomorrow, so he settled for the 10AM flight on Sat. By then it was tea time. Today we were joined by Rís friend ?, another lady, and her 2 little kids. They sat around talking (gossiping, gabbing) and after Iíd had my fill of 7-UP and banana bread I came upstairs to consider my future.

These thoughts of going back in Aug or Sept are still knocking around. I considered teaching photo privately, opening a photo studio, traveling out West to visit Fred & Spazz, living with Dudley & Jeff for a while, etc. The main thrust is I want to get back and resume photographic work. Iíd forgotten how hard it is taking photos in limbo, not seeing the results ítil months later.

I came back downstairs just as the ďtea partyĒ was breaking up. When the folks left, mom and the kids arrived. All the kids (Ramirito, Alfredo, & Marcello) had gotten new sandals to be worn for some festivity tomorrow in which they all had to dress up like Greeks. N was given the task of spray painting the sandals gold. A little later and it was time for dinner.

After dinner I read while N filled R in on the particulars of traveling to Macchu Picchu. She wants to go during winter vacation. This completed, we crashed about midnite.

FRI MAR 2,

Between meals, I spent most of today reading. [1]

After lunch N got into a game of Loteria Bolivia with Ramirito. Itís a take-off on Monopoly. This continued well into the afternoon. Then it became time for the little kids to dress up in their Greek costumes. Ramiro was dressed as Hercules, with a long tunic type costume, complete with war club made out of paper machť. Alfredo was dressed up as Jupiter and had the most elaborate costume. He had a cardboard helmet, complete with red feather fringe on the top, a gold painted cardboard breast plate, a gold cardboard shield and a gold covered sword. He had pseudo-leather straps going up his calves from the sandals, but they kept falling down. They were finally sewn to pieces of elastic and this seemed to hold them up well enough. Marcello was dressed as Zeus, complete with tin-foil covered lightening bolts.

The folks and the kids went off to the program, a coronation of the Jr. Queen of the Carnival, or something. Ruth went off to Gnosticize and N. & I were left home to watch T.V.

The Indian servants here, 2 sisters about 18 yrs old, are very strange. The phone rang and the servants wouldnít answer it. They donít answer the door, either. Ruth winds up doing more of the kitchen work than the servants. We asked Ruth about this when she got home. It seems as tho the servants are afraid to answer the phone or the door. What good are servants if they donít serve? we asked. Evidently all theyíre good for is washing clothes and dishes.

The folks and kids got back from the coronation, all had gone well enough. We had dinner and retired upstairs to watch more T.V. Itís rather hard watching only the picture. My command of Spanish is not good enough to catch more than about 2% of T.V. talk. N. retired and I finished watching an episode of The Challengers, a British show. Then I too crashed.

SAT MAR, 3;

Awoke early for the 1st time in days.

I had packed up most of my stuff yesterday and N packed his up before breakfast this morn. After breakfast we got ready to catch the bus. At 1st we thought that Ramiro was going to give us a ride to the station, so we dallied about, saying goodby to one and all. Then Ramiro left.

We walked out to the street expecting to take a cab. I wanted to walk but Nís guts were still paining him so he wanted to ride. But we could find no cab, so we wound up walking anyway. He steamed off in front of me and I followed at an ever increasing distance. I had the bus tickets but I didnít have more than a slight Idea where the station was as heíd purchased the tickets. Luckily I kept him in sight long enough to make it to the station.

We sat around waiting for the bus to arrive. Once it pulled in it was a mad rush to get on and in our seats. We had #13 & 14 and when we got into the bus there was a lady and a bag of cargo sitting in our seats. She said she had #13 & 14. I asked to see her tickets, but before she could produce them, she figured out that her tickets were for the 10:30 bus. This is the 10:AM bus, lady. So we finally got our seats.

Another lady got on the bus with a big suitcase. She looked all over for a place to put it inside the bus. She asked if she could put it under our seats. ďWhy donít you put it on the top with all the other luggage?Ē I asked. So she went back out and got her suitcase strapped in on top along with everything else. She resumed her seat just as the bus pulled out. At this same time, another fellow said that she was in his seat. She pulled out her ticket. #11 it said. His also said #11 but her ticket was for the 10:30 bus. By this time the bus was already rolling down the street. Quick up to the attendant went the fellow and the lady, arguing about who would be able to occupy the seat. The attendant showed no mercy, got the bus driver to stop, and put the lady out in the middle of the block, some ways down the road from the station. Her luggage stayed on top, no time to undo the whole thing for her, sheíd just have to take her chances and pick it up in Cochabamba. Thus we were underway.

After about an hour the plain turned into mountains. After about 3 hours we stopped for a 1/2 hr lunch break. N & I climbed up a nearby hill to take a look at the surroundings. Beautiful mountain scenery, a llama herd off on the next hill, brite sunshine, and fresh air. I came back down after about 20 min and N after 30. But there was something wrong. A mechanic and a helper were doing some kind of fix - it work under the back axle. We sat by the road side and waited.

Dogs and pigs were wandering about picking up bits of food, wrappers, and puke bags left by all the passengers taking lunch breaks from the many busses that stop here. One little girl was getting sick on our bus before we stopped, and her mother couldnít get the window open to let her puke outside. So she grabbed a plastic bag and she used that. At the stop, everybody got out and pissed and shat right there by the roadside. Parents brought their little kids over, pulled down pants, and the kids did their thing in full sight of everybody. The native ladies were only slightly more discreet, as their skirts covered them as they squatted by the road. The men went where ever they pleased.

We waited 1 1/2 hours for whatever it was to be fixed finally by a 20í length of rope. From this stop we went up over the mountains. At the top, the vistas were truly outstanding. We could see nothing but mountain ridges for miles. There were many llama herds along the road, tended by little native kids who held out their hats to the bus as it went by, looking for handouts of food, apparently. Once over the top of the ridge, we began the long, long decent into the valley. N & I talked about the possibility of walking along this road (or at least the mountain top part) on our way back to LaPaz. It was very picturesque.

We arrived in Coch. about 6:45 and were met at the station by Carlos, Maria-Inez, and Tia Puente. We loaded up our packs into the trunk of the car, and after a little bit of a stall-out at one intersection, made it to their house. There we sat around talking for a while. We had received some mail there, but not the package we mailed way back last Sept. from Colombia. I got a letter from my parents saying they had mailed my jeans already, but that package hadnít arrived yet, either. N got many letters from his various girl friends in the U.S.

After a little bit of talk, cousin Marcelo, the pilot came by and greeted us. On our way out to eat dinner, cousin Gonzalo, wife, and 2 kids pulled up and also said hello.

N, Maria, Carlos, & Tia & I went out to a broasted chicken place for dinner. Carlos is filled with jokes, clean & dirty and has no compunction about telling them in mixed company. We had a good and enjoyable dinner. Back at the house we played a couple games of Banco Russo, and then crashed.


[1] We helped Ramiro re-hook up his distributor wires. He had removed them to dry the d-cap and forgot the order. Trial & Error fixed it.

Chapter 27::Table of Contents::Chapter 29