24 October 2007

Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid territory

I really have so little time to write. I just rearrived in La Paz after 9 hours in Matthias' Land Cruiser bouncing along some of the worst roads on Earth and another 14 hours on a bus. I basically crossed the entirety of Bolivia in a day.

After Potosi, we headed south to Tupiza, which is notable for looking like the American Southwest. Funny that I would go all the way to Bolivia to see landscapes reminiscent of the American Southwest, but it's probably cheaper this way. The following day, I organized a horseback riding trip for myself while Matthias, Marlene, and Katie decided to head further south to Villazon on the border with Argentina. As I emerged from a shop, I saw them pulling away, with Katie waving frantically from the rear window. It was like a scene from a movie. I didn't even get a chance to say a proper goodbye. Good luck, Katie!

The horseback riding was fine aside from the usual ass-burning (to prepare me for the bumpy jeep ride the next day). At one point, I did regret not having a camera. Red canyon walls rose to meet a clear, blue sky. Ghostly, green trees grew out of the very rock, and the canyon floor was stark white from calcium deposits. I drew an X on the ground, hoping that I would run into someone coming the opposite way that could take a photo for me. I did pass two Dutch girls, but they were galloping too fast for me to hail them. Later, I learned that one of them fell off her horse, almost died, and required 25 stitches. So I probably wouldn't have gotten the photo anyway.

The next morning, Matthias and Marlene picked me up, and we were off to the small town of San Vincente, where Paul Newman and Robert Redford were famously gunned down by, like, the entire Bolivian army. Somehow, I doubt such an operation could be organized today. We drove for hours on a tortuous road through stunning, stunning (STUNNING) scenery that I can't even describe. It changed every hour from those Southwest-esque red rocks to barren altiplano, to white sandy desert... until finally we arrived at San Vincente, expecting something of the shootout-era town to have survived. Unfortunately, San Vincente today is just an SLT connected to a mining operation, so we passed right on through toward Uyuni. The dirt road from San Vincente back to the main highway (also dirt) was probably the worst road I've ever been on. It started off bad and then got worse before deteriorating significantly. At sundown, we arrived at Uyuni, just in time for the car to (briefly) break down. Uyuni is famous for having the largest salt flats in the world. Most travelers to Bolivia take a three day tour there visiting spectacularly strange scenery. I, however, have a wedding to get to, so I skipped it and jumped right on an overnight bus to La Paz.

And here I am, still rushing, with two more night buses ahead of me, to Lima (the things I do for my friends!). I may try to visit the Nazca lines en route, and that will be the last of my South American adventures. Things will pick up again on November 5, when I arrive in Beijing. In the meantime, New York area-ites, please join me next Friday night, November 2nd, at a bar (TBA) in Manhattan. Actually, I am open to suggestions for this. I've been gone a long time and won't be back until next summer, so please consider penciling me in for some face time. Cheers!

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