The title is supposed to be "Are you taking the piss?" in case that was not clear. Puns are so difficult to do in South America but we shall try....
If you recall from previous blogs, we were heading from Salta (Argentina) to La Paz (Bolivia). Of course you remember this. On our final day in Salta, we took a train through the Andes. By the time we got home from the train journey, some grub and some packing it was about midnight. We had a bus to catch at 5am. We heard some horror stories about Bolivian buses but we thought it would be relatively plain sailing as we booked our bus direct from Salta to La Paz so we we would stay on our sexy Argentinian bus all the way to La Paz. The perfect plan but alas Bolivia was to have the last laugh. Our beautiful and angelic Argentinian bus got to the Argentina-Bolivian border to the city of Villazon. Turns out, Bolivian roads are too bad for a Argentinian buses to go on. Argentinian bus companies refuse to go any further than Villazon. We had an hour or two before our bus from Villazon to La Paz so we figured we would kill some time by getting some food. We found a modest place opposite the bus shelter and got some chicken and rice. The classic South American dish. I wolfed mine down before looking at Omar reluctantly picking at his food. His chicken was cut open to reveal a bright pink inside. I looked down at the remains of my chicken and feared the worst. Welcome to Bolivia. Thankfully, I was OK. Well, I do not know if I was OK as I was constantly on the toilet in Bolivia but that is a common theme for most who travel through Bolivia. After a short two hour delay, it was time to get on our bus. The minute that I sat down on the bus, I instantly missed Argentinian buses and apologies for every moment I took for granted while on them. We were down the back of the bus, sandwiched between a Bolivian family. We appeared to be the only non - Bolivians on the bus. I am almost certain that we went for the cheapest option so perhaps something slightly more expensive might have been better but at the same time, everyone seems distraught getting off any bus in Bolivia. There was five seats along the back of the bus. The bus company must have miscounted seats and made Omar, myself and the five person Bolivian family along the back. I am sure it was perfectly innocent mathematical error.....
The guy beside Omar was wearing a plastic jacket. Omar ended up having marks on his arm from the friction rubbing up against him for 18 hours...the journey was supposed to be 9 hours. This particular journey shall stick with me for a long time. 18 hours traveling through mental (albeit beautiful) terrain. Huge drops on one side and at times the bus feels like it is dangling over the edge. It most likely is but that sort of thought was banned while on this journey. When we finally arrived in La Paz, it was freezing. I felt like I had been beaten up. I was fairly traumatized from the journey. 18 hours of being squashed against a window, bumping up and down, too terrified to look out the window. I have never been in a fight in my life but I can imagine feeling considerably better after a fight. Maybe I would have made some damage on my opponent in a fight but this bus journey was very one sided. Anyway, enough about the bus. All I shall say is it was horrific and I want...and deserve your sympathy. We decided to walk from the bus station to the hostel we were going to work in, The Wild Rover.
The conversation was dominated by the awfulness of the bus journey and trying to hold back the tears. The altitude hit us immediately. After Cordoba, running every day and not smoking, I would like to think that I was in fairly good shape but fitness shall not help you in the worlds highest capital. We would stop every 2 or 3 blocks to catch our breath. It does not help that La Paz is so up and down with rolling hills. Wherever I wanted to go no matter where in La Paz, I seemed to always needed to go uphill.
The staff who we contacted in The Wild Rover said that we should just call in and they can see if their is any work available (Loki was around the corner but from the Rovers reputation, we were dying to work there). We were confirmed to work in the Rover for a month. Great stuff. We were shown to our room at 9.30am where we found an Australian lines of cocaine off a dressing table. So began, the absolute insanity of The Wild Rover. Do not be fooled, The Rover has a strict no drugs policy and will kick your ass out if caught in possession!
My time in the Rover was a truly surreal experience but one that I cherish. I sometimes struggled to appreciate the fun I was having there because I was constantly dying of a hangover. I often wonder will my body ever forgive me for the things I did to it. Every night was the greatest party that I have ever been to. Dress up parties, hour of power (shot of beer every minute for an hour), killer pool, Karaoke and plenty more themed nights. I remember taking the night off partying because the hostel was dead only to return after dinner to witness several girls dancing topless on the bar.
That escalated rather quickly. As a member of the bar staff, you pretty much lose touch with reality. I most certainly did anyway. Dressing up like a woman, smurf or a cow became normal and crucial for my ability to socialize! I developed an alter ego while there, Super Cow.
The legend of Super Cow began when being ordered to dress up on a quiet night. There is no real theme on a Saturday night. Its sort of a club night. A DJ comes in, people dress nice and we all pretend to be normal human beings (normality is so rare in the Rover). Anyway, I fancied sprucing things up this night and managed to find a cow outfit. Amazing. It was in poor condition and missing the back zip. I threw on a cape to cover my hairy back thus turning your average cow into a "super" cow. I wore sunglasses because I was cool and a leopardskin bandana for some reason.....perhaps that is further evidence of me being cool. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love a good pun. Super Cow became a walking pun.
- Super Cow got everyone moo-ving
- Super Cow hates being treated with udder disrespect
- Super Cow believes that life is not black and white
- Super Cow is ledge and DAIRY
Oh, speaking of puns. I was once boo-ed out of the bar. There was a club we went to called, Traffic. The Rover would empty out on certain nights and everyone would go to Traffic. At the end of each night, a staff will get a mic and tell everyone their taxis outside and to get out of the bar. The usual MC was busy so now was my chance. I told everyone that they should hurry to Traffic because it was JAMMED......like, a traffic jam. Traffic is good but the dance floor only has three lights. Red, Green and Orange. Actually, I used to say two lights before someone asked about orange....then I paused and was then booed out of the bar.
200% stay in the Rover if in La Paz. Amazing parties, amazing fun and the beds are actually insanely comfortable. Apart from ruining my body and those around us, there is plenty of other fun to get up to while in La Paz. Every Sunday, there is Cholita wrestling. I was not sure what to expect but at actually turned out to be one of the highlights of South America. The Rover organizes tours there. It was Bolivian WWE but so so bad. Hilariously so. I reckon watching poorly synchronized wrestling moves is a million times more enjoyable than the pro's. Cholita wrestling heavily consists of old women fighting. You are allowed/encouraged to throw peanuts at the fighters. Seeing one of my friends hit an old lady in the face with a fist full of peanuts was a surreal moment. I would recommend the wrestling even if you hate wrestling. Go, even to just throw peanuts at the elderly.
They have some very funny/sketchy/inappropriate characters. There was a guy dressed in all pink who seemed to be very unpopular with the fans (everyone booing). It seemed that the only reason the crowd disliked him was because he was gay which was a bit odd. We began to cheer for our pink friend but quickly stopped, as it seemed to be irritating those around us. There was also a tag team duo who dressed as skeletons who after defeating their opponents began dancing. Then the opponents got up and began dancing with them. So odd.
The evening then ended with some sort of wolf character running through the crowd throwing chairs. Wonderfully weird Bolivia. I think the most infamous tourist attraction in La Paz is cycling the Worlds Most Dangerous Road. When I first heard about the road, I needed to do it. You get a free t-shirt also. While traveling, I realized that I will pretty much do anything for a free t-shirt (which we shall touch on later). The cycle itself is not that bad. I was expecting a lot worse but it was still very enjoyable. It is all downhill so you barely need to cycle. It is absolutely brilliant. You begin in snowy mountains and finish in a boiling jungle. The road is obviously quite dangerous but once you do not act like an idiot, you will have nothing to worry about. A Japanese girl died on the road a few weeks before we cycled because she was taking a photo and kept backing off to get a picture but just backed off the edge. Pretty lame way to die on the worlds most dangerous road. Ideally, you would want to go out in a blaze of glory, attempting a dangerous stunt before flipping over the edge. Lesson learned though. Taking the perfect picture may kill you. Someone should have told her that the tours often take pictures anyway.
My cycle of the Worlds Most Dangerous Road was somewhat tainted. As I mentioned earlier, I often spent a lot of time on the toilet and I had the worst case of diarrhea that I have ever had during my cycle. I constantly needed to pull over and run to the bushes. I was given something to stop it but the Bolivian food was too strong for any medicine. I was considering ramming my bicycle seat up there or use my helmet as a nappy. At least I made my mark on Death road.....well, several marks. I ended up missing a good post death road night out as I had absolutely no energy after a day of adrenaline and then shitting out said adrenaline.
While in La Paz, you can also sample the continents spiciest curry at "The Star Of India". I remember thinking that South America's spiciest curry could not be that spicy considering how everything else taste so bloody bland. If you succeed in the challenge to eat an entire curry, you get a free t-shirt stating that you survived. How could I not? Side effects are violent diarrhea but a free shirt is worth that.
I always fancied myself as someone who could handle their spices but this was unbelievably intense. My face felt like it was on fire. I could not deal with it. I failed pretty miserably. I lined up my excuses why I failed.
- I ate too much of the spicy sample (they give you a sample to try to double check if you want to do it)
- Bus booked to Sucre the next day so violent diarrhea would be fairly traumatic
These are my excuses but in reality -
- I am just not man enough
Everyday that I saw that "I survived South America's spiciest curry" shirt, I died a little inside then look at my crotch and think of what might have been.
I also attended a football game while in La Paz. A World Cup qualifier between Bolivia and Colombia. I wish I went to more games while in South America as the two that I went to were amazing. We sat in the Bolivian end, singing along "Bo- bo- bo- liv- liv- liv- AAAAAAAH". Our singing failed to inspire the Bolivian boys as we watched their first home defeat in over 50 years. Bolivia are a fairly awful football team but have such a good home record because of the altitude. It is so difficult to run around in that altitude while many of the Bolivians will be adjusted to the altitude. The football was played at a far slower pace. It was nice to see they found it tough as I did.
For those of you who are planning to travel to La Paz, there is a lovely area called "Cuatro esquinas" or "Four Corners" which is full of really nice restaurants. I would recommend paying that extra bit of cash (it is still so cheap) for nicer restaurants in Bolivia as the locals ability to cook meat is a bit sketchy. I truly loved La Paz but it was time to leave as our livers and self respect were suffering. We began to indulge ourselves in some fun tourist activities. We headed off from La Paz and onto Sucre...