Chapter 32::Table of Contents::Chapter 34

Chapter 33
Camargo
To Tarija

MON MAR 26.

Got up early and decided to pack it out to Camargo.

Got all our stuff ready and went over to the bus station. They did have some tickets left, for 50p each. We bought 2 and went up to the cafeteria for coffee. The sun was just coming up over the hills. There was a big painting in the cafeteria window that looked like some miner’s nightmare. Some Indian women were carrying off a church with a miner in the lead. In the “foreground” was a big red face, another church, and another miner working his air hammer. They should take it down and let people look at the landscape. It’s much better.

We got ourselves and our packs loaded on the bus and headed out. [1] A couple hours down the line we stopped for our 1st rest stop. Before we left Potosi N had tried to cash the 2 pop bottles in at the store on the corner. They were closed. So he talked to the guy behind the desk at the hotel, told him the bottles were worth 10p each, and tried to sell them to him. Of course he wouldn’t touch them, so N loaded them up in his green bag and took them along, stifling the urge to smash them against the desk at the hotel. At our rest stop he found a store that sold that same brand. He got the guy there to cash them in for 7p each. That must be the wholesale price. After a good piss and 2 jelly sandwiches we were back on the bus.

The bus had been continually descending and soon we found ourselves going down a very strange valley. The geology was sedimentary, as before, but now everything was tilted at about 30o. There were steep cliff faces on one side, and long flat, sloping hills on the other. Like being between 2 waves of earth. [2]

We followed the same river all the way to Cam. Cactus became more prevalent. So did trees. It’s nice to see vegetation after the short grass only of Pot-o-si. On one side were the long sloping hills, covered with green, on the other side were steep red rock cliffs with huge boulders obviously having fallen or perched precariously waiting for water and gravity to do their thing. The valley itself was lush green, except for the river which was fast and muddy.

We got to Camargo, a red-dust colored town, about 1. While we got off, the rest of the bus riders going on to Tarija had a 1/2 hr for lunch. We checked on one hotel that wanted 35 per and decided that was too much. So we walked up around the corner to another that also wanted 35 per. We figured this must be the going rate so checked into the 2nd. The old lady proprietor asked for our passports to fill in her little guest book. She was so slow that we had to leave the passports with her while we went off to lunch. We went back to the 1st hotel and had lunch, lusting all the while after the posters on the walls and the lady sitting at the table across the way.

By the time we got back to our room it had clouded over and was getting ready to rain. By the time we got out the chess board it had started to rain. By the time I’d won 2 games it was pouring cats and dogs. Shortly thereafter it started leaking in under the door. We moved all our goods off the floor or out of the way of the tide. Soon it had crept over to our feet and we were forced to pull one of the bed spreads off the bed and use it to sop up some of the water. Pretty soon we had the other one in service. We mopped what we could and set the spreads against the doorway to try and stop the inundation. The rain went on until dark.

The electricity here is controlled by a master switch somewhere under the old lady’s thumb. We played chess in the growing darkness and wetness until about 6:30 when she finally turned on the lights. Now it was time for dinner. We decided to boil up the sausages and try that approach. It worked very well. N was still hungry after 2 sandwiches so finished up the bread with jelly.

We went out and wrung out the spreads and mopped up the rest of the water on the floor and wrung them out again. Then it started to rain again. I slogged my way across the mud flats and reclaimed our passports from the old lady. Shortly after I returned somebody from the establishment put a mat outside our door to keep the water from coming in. This worked well enough.

About 8PM the music started. It was staggeringly loud, and seemed to be coming from inside the restaurant part of the hotel. N went in to buy pop for dinner and discovered the source. It was coming from 2 lamp-pole-mounted loud speakers across the street. They played the same 2 songs over & over, the monotony broken by an add for the local movie theater. At 8:30 (when the movie started) the music mercifully stopped. At 8:45 the electricity stopped. The lights were on around town but not at our hotel. A penny saved. We had nothing left to do but go to sleep.

TUES MAR 27.

Awoke brite and early to the fuckin’ rooster.

My back was stiff from the bus ride yesterday and then sitting on the bed playing chess, I was tired and still felt like sleeping, so I pulled out the earplugs and decided to set a new world’s land sleeping record. I only made it ’til lunch.

We went to the rest. here at our hotel for lunch. [3] The clouds had begun to break up so we decided to venture out into the mud and take some pix. We walked up the road we’d come in on yesterday photoing the mud streets, colorful buildings and little kids who stopped us wanting their pictures taken. Then the sun came out in force. We walked back into town and over to the plaza. There was a statue in the square dedicated to Vincentecamargo. It was not much more than a square pillar with a flag pole sticking out from the top. In front of the pole was a small bust that looked more like a hood ornament than a town square statue.

From the square we walked over the bridge to view the now really raging river. Big, brown, and burbling. Back across the bridge we walked to the other edge of town and up to the cemetery. From there we had a nice vantage point to view the town. We took some more pix of the town, cemetery, broken glass piles, and weird hills. There was one ridge that had its layers bent at 90o [4] clearly visible. It began to cloud up again and we came back down into town to the market to buy onions, bread, and soup mix for dinner.

We got some more cash and decided to test out the local liquor. We went to the San Pedro (cactus?) liquor distributor and got 1 bottle of Singani and 1 bottle of vino rosado. Then back at the hotel we got 2 bottles of mix (1 strawberry, 1 piña) and started drinking and playing chess. Our chess abilities rapidly deteriorated as we got drunker and drunker. We decided to mix up the soup while we still could. We threw in the rest of our veggies, the soup mix, water, and proceeded to pass out until we were awakened by the loud speakers about an hour later.

The soup was done and we had sobered up a little. N went in to get the bottle of wine. We had made it thru about 2/3 of the Singani and could not drink any more of it. We ate the soup, drank the wine and passed back out about the same time as the lights went out.

WED MAR 28,

Awoke early (that fuckin’ rooster) and packed our stuff.

Our lack of available cash forces us to leave town today. We walked out to the edge of town and parked our butts on some wooden stumps across the street from the gas station. No busses ran south today that we knew of, so we waited for a truck. We sat around for an hour or so before a truck to Tarija came along. We asked all the truck drivers if they were going South. All of them were just here to get gas. Finally a truck came in and the driver said he was going to Tar. and to jump in. N had 2 sandwiches on order at the little stand next to the station. We passed our packs up and into the truck and he went to get the sandwiches and some mix for the rest of our bottle of Singani.

The truck had to wait in line for almost 1/2 hour to get gas. Already in the truck was a fellow (quite drunk) his wife, mother in law, and little daughter. He talked to us in half Spanish, half sign language. As the ride wore on he used signs more and more, his ability to speak deteriorating in inverse proportion to his liquor intake. N got back in the truck along with about 5 other folks. We ate our tough roast beef sandwiches and were off.

For the 1st several hours we continued down the valley that Camargo lays in. Along the way we picked up several more passengers. A fellow, his wife and 7 (count ’em 7) kids. A fellow with a big bandage over his jaw (bad tooth or something) and his wife, and several assorted other fellows. At the beginning the truck was fairly empty. We balanced ourselves against a big rubber strap that held the sides of the stake body together. Later this became impossible because of the people and the goods piled in the back.

At our lunch stop, about 1 PM (already 31/2 hours on the road) N went in and had lunch. I declined. We noticed a familiar looking lady, the redhead from the museo in Sucre, but she was with 2 fellows in a land rover heading North, so we didn’t talk.

The next 2 hours took us up over a pass at about 3400M. We had taken out our jackets at the beginning of the ride and needed them. I wound up sitting on a pillow like thing that belonged to the drunk guy. He was now quite wasted after the few beers he had for lunch, a couple hits off of N’s bottle, and one giant hit off a 2 gal plastic bottle of real rot-gut singani that one of the campesinos had. This put him out for most of the rest of the trip. N sat on top in front, facing back, taking pix. At lunch he complained that he thought the film was not advancing in his camera. Indeed it wasn’t. He’s got to learn to do that right. Loading the camera is Lesson #1.

Once over the pass it got foggy and started to drizzle. I sat in the front corner trying to keep out of the wind. At a place called El Cruce we unloaded the 7 kid family (they almost left one behind) and loaded on about 5 200 lb bags of potatoes, several gas bottles and assorted more passengers. We had only 54 k left to Tarija. From here the road got bad. All mud and ruts. It was foggy and rainy and cold and crowded. All the natives were chewing coca and trying not to notice the cold. It took us 2 hours of lurching back and forth to go 34k.

Finally we began to descend out of the fog and the valley became visible below. We drove past some really amazing erosion formed gullies and small canyons. We stopped at the police control station, were given a cursory look-over by an official, and before we knew it, it was time to unload everything and every body at the market at the north end of town. The ride cost us 30 p each, 10 p less than the bus, and took almost 9 hours. We paid up, put on our packs and, on some meager directions, headed toward the hotel zone.

We walked about 1k into town, and after asking a couple more times, finally found the Residencial Familiar for 40 p each. Too much but it was dark and neither of us wanted to look farther. We dropped off our packs, registered, and went down the street for a much needed hot meal. The fellow who runs the rest. also dupes tapes. He played some good Bolivian music (too loud).

We paid up and walked around town in the drizzle looking for a cheaper place to move into tomorrow. We found one place for 30 but with communal rooms, one place for 32, and another for 30 with rooms for 2. We’ll go there tomorrow. We came back to the room and finished up the singani/mix. Then before retiring we played a couple games of chess.


[1] We met a Frog who’d gotten all money & passport ripped off in Lima & was now going to Brazil to reclaim them.

[3] They had a little plastic salt duster - you squeezed it and the salt came out.

Chapter 32::Table of Contents::Chapter 34