Whiz stop tour through the Pantanal
We were now finally at the border with Quajirro, Bolivia but I was even more concerned about this border as I had no money on me to pay for the visa which South African's have to pay for to get into Bolivia, and I really didn't want to have to cycle all the way back to Corumbá to withdraw it. The people at immigration were incredibly friendly and were quite amazed when they looked at their list and saw that we were required to have a visa but nonetheless we had to have one. It cost $50 but this pales in comparison to the $150 the USA tourists have to pay so we just got on with worrying about how we were going to pay for it but this too was quickly put to rest when the lady said we could just go on 4 blocks into town where we would find an ATM. I was like hmm why am I bothering to get this stupid pricey visa if I can just wonder in and draw money and no one even bats an eyelid! I really was tempted to just get on my bike and cycle on without the visa but I didn't really want to get arrested and have to go crawling back to the very same South African embassy that had been so kind to us earlier on in our trip.
Tren de la muerta
www.boliviabella.com, which I highly recommend a browse through.
South American wildlife
I woke up only a couple of hours later to the sound of Linda the dog yelping at something, while I tried to turn over and ignore her it was just making my head pound so I had to go see what it was. A little fluffy white kitten had come into our yard and was being yelped at by Linda but as I walked up to it Linda began to maul it! I was horrified I was like I can't watch this dog eat a kitten so I tried shouting and smacking it but that seemed to have no effect. Linda has short hair so I could pull her off by her skin of her neck only for her to pull loose seconds later again attacking the kitten. Eventually I managed to hang onto her long enough to kick the mauled kitten into my room and close the door. With my heart now racing from the effects of adrenalin combined with alcohol I was feeling exhausted so I just collapsed back down on the bed with the poor kitten cowering underneath it.
Before I could recover and think what to do with the half eaten kitten Nena came to see what the fuss was about and took the kitten put it outside the gate only for it to return 15 minutes later. The stupid kitten had a death wish, now I was fuming because all I wanted to do was sleep and the stupid dog wouldn't shut up so I got up again and fortunately this time found a piece of hosepipe that I could use to get Linda's attention, wham on her bum yes the sting seemed to have worked and she very quickly returned to her kennel. On closer look the poor kitten was in shock but only had a few scratches and seemed to be ok. This time, in my underwear, I walked it far down the road putting it under tree to recover from where it would hopefully not come strolling back into the yard. I doubt the poor little kitten lasted very long in that neighbourhood but at least I didn't have to watch it get eaten alive.
Tamara comes to town
Andy had been feeling a bit ill when he got to Lap Paz, partially due to the altitude and partially due to the cold we both managed to pick up either at the hostel or on the train down (another reason to stay on the bikes and live in a tent). However, Andy was feeling much better now and was loving the jaw dropping uniqueness of La Paz while getting to grips with life on the gringo trail, which is to just pitch up at a hostel all on your own only to discover you're not the only one in that boat so before you know it you've got a new best friend and your touring the town together. Andy's next stop was Salar de Uyuni where he would be meeting Nick and Tamara to do a 3 day tour together while in the meanwhile Tamara had flown into Santa Cruz to spend a little time with me before heading off to meet meet them in Uyuni. It was great seeing Tamra and so crazy to hear about the horror stories and going on in Santiago during the recent Chilean earthquake, I'm mean really I think it only hits home when you speak to someone effected by it.
Getting from Santa Cruz to Uyuni by bus turned out to be a bit more of a mission than originally thought for Tamara. Although there were direct buses to Uyuni they took more than 24hrs to get there and Tamara was not keen to do that alone so instead she decided to break it up and head to Sucre first which was Nick s living and Andy had headed to few days prior so from there they could all travel to Uyuni together. As is common place in Bolivia the bus companies lied and Tamara's bus took way longer than promised forcing them all to miss their scheduled bus from Sucre to Uyuni, but then again what can you expect when you're only paying $6 for an all night bus ride down a really bumpy dirt road! This was just the begging of the delays so it was clear Andy was never going to make it back to Santa Cruz in time for us to make our way down to Tarija where we had planed to start our next cycle leg heading for Argentina so it was time to come up with plan B.
Plan B and Tarija
It was about time to meet Tamara, Nick and Andy in Villazón so off I headed to the bus station to catch my over night bus which turned out to be one of the scariest things I have done, coming a close tie to the bus trip down from the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. I had managed to select a front row seat on the top deck so I had the privilege of seeing every bit of 'scenery' along the way. As we headed out of town it was growing dark and the road almost immediately turned to dirt signaling things to come as we headed along the road which would take us up and along the mountains to Villazón. Although the bus ride was only 6hrs long it felt like a lifetime, the road was only a single track with traffic going in both directions so every time we came face to face with another truck or bus one of us had to precariously backup to a point wide enough for both of us to pass. However, the catch is that we were on a crumbling dirt road on a cliff edge with sharp hairpin bends every 500m. Just driving along the dirt road was hair raising enough as the back of the bus felt like it was going to slip off down the cliff every time we took a sharp corner. Eventually I convinced myself it was not worth worrying about unless I planned to get off and walk so I pulled my headband over my eyes and tried to go to sleep. This didn't work for long though because every now and again the bus would come to a screeching halt signaling that either we were too close to an edge or we were the ones that had lost a stare off and that we would then be reversing back up the death defying road. In either case I couldn't resist peaking out from under my head band to the sight of either a cliff face right in font of my eyes as we scraped around a corner or just an abyss of nothingness as the bus tried to edge ever closer to the edge causing my heart to start racing again readying me to grab the emergency hammer just in case I needed to make a hasty escape.
Now with just 2 weeks before we flew home I was pretty excited about heading off on our final cycle leg from the border with Bolivia to beautiful Salta, Argentina!