When I got back to El Refugio this evening, after my afternoon bike ride, I met an Israeli guy called Erez, who's staying in my dorm at the hostel. Erez convinced me (without much difficulty) to come with him on a tour of the nearby hot springs this evening. So, after a bite of dinner, and after grabbing some swimmers and a towl, off we went. Perfect way to end the day, and perfect way to relax after a good 'ol bike ride. No better combination in all the world like steaming hot water, rich red wine, and drunk Brazilian girls.
Iquique is a town at sea level, right on the coast of an extremely earthquake-prone area, full of beaches; so I guess it makes sense that it would be prone to tsunamis. But do they really have to be this blunt about the danger of a wave hitting the town? Makes me feel so safe and reassured, as a tourist walking through the central square, smiling in the sunshine. Anyway, at least if a tsunami does hit, I'll know which way to run. I wonder if that will make the slightest bit of difference, or if I'd still be 90% likely to die anyway?
This morning, we finished our tour of the Salar de Uyuni and of south-west Bolivia. We stepped out of our dusty Land Cruiser 4WD, we transferred into a minibus, and we made our way to the Chilean frontier (having already technically left Bolivia two days ago). Our first of many introductions to the differences between these two countries, upon crossing the border: the first sealed, properly signposted road that we'd seen in a month! Chile really is a very, very different place to Bolivia. It's like stepping into another dimension.
Bought one of these beautiful little packages of cup-and-five-dice, just on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, as part of my three-day tour of the area. Made entirely out of salt, which is then fired in an oven, and glazed and painted. The dice were used for many a game of Yahtzee over the course of the salt flats tour.
It's always nice to find a tour agency in a non-English-speaking country, that advertises having services available in English. But when the advertisement for this service is written in dubiously-grammatised English, it does make you just a little apprehensive of the quality of said service. Here's a photo of the sign for a tour agency here in Potosí — the sign reads: "the guide speak English". Is that so? Well, if he does, then I hope it's better than yours! :P
Since there's absolutely nothing to do in Sucre, we decided to get out of here today, after only one day here. On the bus to Potosí today, there was a guy selling little stapled-together books to his fellow passengers. Chris and I weren't interested in any of his offerings; but I was in a position, smack-bang in the middle of the bus, where I ended up passing all the sold books down the bus, and passing all the money and change up and down, between salesman and buyers. As a reward for my services, the guy gave me a free little comic book of crude, raunchy Bolivian jokes. Bit more Spanish bedtime reading.
Today, Chris and I flew back from Rurrenabaque to La Paz, with the affordable and reasonably-safe Transporte Aéreo Militar (TAM), the "military airline" of Bolivia. Slightly cheaper than Amaszonas, and just as efficient. After going through the experience of catching a plane in Bolivia twice now, I feel I should write up some instructions on how it's done, for anyone else who's interested in using Bolivia's fine commercial aviation services.
Our trip to the Madidi jungle may have been full of activities during the day-time, but there wasn't an awful lot to do at night. For the several hours that we had before and after dinner each evening, we had to somehow keep ourselves occupied at our campsite. Unfortunately, since nobody in our group had any playing cards, things were starting to get a bit desperate. Which is why we took desperate measures. We were forced to manufacture our own emergency playing cards.
After completing our three-hour boat ride down the river, our group arrived at the retreat in the pampas this afternoon: in time to have some fun on the rope-swing river kamikaze! The campsite has a tree right on the edge of the river, and there's a big rope with a wooden foothold tied to one of the tree's biggest branches. You grab the rope from the muddy shore, and you swing out over the river. Then — splash! — you bomb into the river's peaceful waters. We all had a turn on it; we all survived; and we all created some massive shockwaves in the water.
The people of Peru are famous for many things, but a strong command of the English language is not one of them. While visiting the ruins of Ollantaytambo this afternoon, I discovered that Japan is not the only country where you can find Engrish: the badly-spelled-badly-meant movement is alive and strong here in Peru as well. Check out these hilarious little additions to the world's ever-growing Engrish collection.