Devin’s Poetic Perspective

Devin being inspired to tell the story of the trip in poem form in Samaipata

Cheap eating here has proven not to be fable
Another round of beer and a steak for the table

Our lunch before getting on our bus to Sucre

We loaded the bus without knowing our tarot
If you need the washroom it’s left at the parrot

As my knees and his back began to fight
I knew it would be a long and bumpy night

Not yet in Sucre and longing to rest
We weave through trucks in angry protest

As the sun sets, speech becomes easier
Yet topics slowly become a bit sleezier

We might be stuck here so lets get some sleep
Making it to Potosi tomorrow looks a little bleak

The bus travelss at a 40 pace
The air thins and can’t feel my face

The highest city has betrayed me
Yet my savior remains coca tea

Warm swim with more than one goose
I’m sorry we don’t have that juice

The goose-filled hot springs that we bathed in outside Tupiza

After a swim and before departing 10 bs a hot shower
We pull out, the moon rises and we count down each hour

Don’t even think about using your Visa
The sign reads, Welcome to Tupiza

There are no shortage of clean tourist yuppies
Wandering kids, small cats, and cute puppies

Some of the little kids we met along the way

As we ascend in altitude on mountain peaks
More in season becomes her tomato cheeks

At this altitude you need skin lotion
Especially through an ancient ocean

Devin keeping his "snowflake skin" covered in 'screen

Not bathing takes us to another day
Yet grace comes the Swedish way

Our band continues travel across the salt court
Early rise but stop for coffee and sweet tort

When bored, Will’s jokes are Godsent
Too bad I can’t understand his accent

Gill and Devin probably not understanding what Will is saying because of his Maritime accent

Devin contemplating his next words on the salt flats tour

To Pachamama we send our prayers
For the ancient coral to volcanic layers

Sitting waiting to leave this town
A nervous moment before it goes down

Its OK we don’t have the luxury of cama
When we are distracted by a wild llama

In transit, where you stop doesn’t matter
Especially with an impossibly small bladder

The last night and we talk about movie listings
Leah takes offense and won’t stop armpit fistings

Last night together and we drink Sangria
Feeling a bit sad but then comes the Tequlia

Bolivia, I’m taken by your natural way
Of presenting a different side each day

From driest plains to jungle foray
To welcoming people with bed to lay

It’s still amazing how little we pay
…and there’s nothing like a playful stray

Each of Devin’s poetic lines tell of a special moment from the trip. The following outlines his genius prose:

1. In Samaipata we ate very well. Considering it was relentlessly inexpensive compared to Canada, Will and I ate like Americans at a buffet. We slayed our hunger with large orders of the most expensive beers, meats, and appetizers on the menu. Our second night in Samaipata we went to a restaurant were we dined on our respective meals, but Leah and I noticed Will got a much tastier steak. We were a bit jealous so we ordered another for the table.

2. After spending a few days in the Samaipata we took an overnight bus to Sucre. Along with Will, it was my first experience on a Bolivian overnight bus. This line shows that our experience was to be very challenging and probably the worst of the entire trip. We waited at a restaurant bus stop with our new friend Kia and drank the rest of the Pemberton potato vodka I brought. As the bus arrived the passengers piled out to eat and use the facilities. The bathroom, as mentioned in the second line in this stanza, was down the hall and Gill mentioned “…it’s left at the parrot”. Which was true but considering there was literally a bus load of people waiting, I used outside.

3. The first experience of a overnight bus sets the attitude towards the future overnight bus rides. This one was the worst due mainly to the lack of leg room and the forward sitting occupant’s head in my lap. He squirmed with my knees in his back, but there were no other options for legs. This was made more uncomfortable with the lack of road maintenance.

The painful bus to Sucre that was stopped outside the city by the blockade

4. The bus stopped a few kilometers from the centre of Sucre and watched as almost everyone exited the bus. We stayed for a couple of minutes before realizing that there were hundreds of trucks and buses blocking the main highway into Sucre. Through overhearing angry Spanish we realized that it was a transport protest. We knew this would eventually hinder our plans and realized how lucky we were to make it this far. With no sleep we threw on our heavy backpacks and started winding around a maze of stopped vehicles. (see post Bolivian Blockade)

5. Our first night in Sucre we hiked to a look-out over the city where the girls recommended a Italian restaurant. Of course it was an excellent recommendation and as we watched the sunset, our order of drinks arrived. Then the food came and our friend Kia from Samipata joined us just after dusk. As we sat there for another few hours opening bottles of wine our conversation became more liberal and open.

Enjoying a special meal together at the Mirador in Sucre

The moon rise we enjoyed on the bus

6. Still feeling the effects of the transportation strike we became a bit worried that we would be stuck in Sucre for a while. We looked at flying out, trains and taxis, but more were grounded in solidarity for the cause. The strike lifted a day later and made it to Potosi.

7. Heading on a day bus to Potosi we gained altitude quickly, even as the bus only went the speed limit of 40 km/h, to reach the highest city in the world. You began to feel it, but the real effects would show the next day.

8. That night I couldn’t sleep, I tried crewing on coca toffee but with no immediate relief. The morning came and felt a pounding headache and stomach pains, it felt like a bad hangover. I kept drinking water and chewing coca, but found later that night by drinking multiple cups of very strong coca tea the symptoms wore off.

9. After Vancouver was defeated in game 7, we needed to soak our wounds so we headed up to a hot spring which turned out to be a large natural pond with many geese.

Watching the Stanley Cup final on painfully slow Internet in Potosi

10. After being in a goose soup, I needed to shower. We picked up our bags at the Koala Den hostel where I paid 10 Bs for pouring warm water which felt like it could have been worth $10K. We then reluctantly boarded another overnight bus to Tupiza where we would start our salt flats tour. The full moon rose a few hours into the ride, just enough light to keep me awake. I then started counting down the hours to arrival.

11. The first day in Tupiza we got down to business looking for the best tour of the salt flats for the best price. We settled on a female entrepreneur who ran a tight operation. Impressed by her presentation we agreed to pay a bit more than the other outfits. This created a small problem and would soon grow into a crisis. We realized that the town wasn’t home to God’s invention of Visa, Mastercard or an ATM. Luckily I had some USD, which I changed to Bolivianos. This paid for my tour, I budgeted for food, and with help from Leah I could afford the 150B entrance fee to the national park. Will on the other hand wasn’t so lucky, it wasn’t that he didn’t have the money in his account, it was that he couldn’t access it. This frustrating situation made us realize and appreciate the convenience of money transfer in Canada. I found my self thinking that I wouldn’t complain about a bank fee again. (I would later complain about bank fees but not for a few months).
Moving forward about two days, we find ourselves at the border of the national park asking our guide to lend us the rest the money we need to enter. He reluctantly did and we realized after it was probably about what he was paid for the trip.

Stopping for a dinner break on the painful bus ride to Tupiza

12. This line is a more suited to Peru, which I found had more North American tourists with clean hiking shoes, native Peruvian hand bags and miner hats. We noticed when we saw another white tourist in a small traditional village it almost spoiled the experience of exploring an untainted, truly Bolivian culture.
The second line was added mostly because it describes what we saw in the Bolivian streets; kids, dogs and a few small cats.

13. From Tupiza we head out on an awesome adventure through what could be mistaken as Alaska, but was the Andes of Bolivia. (See GoneForWords post Salar Expedition Photos). While we were ascending into higher altitude we pointed out that Leah’s face looked like a tomato. Due to the reaction of higher altitude Leah’s cheeks became a bit more red, and even more so after the comment.

14. Due to the high altitude and lack of wind shelter the moisture in the air is extremely low. We constantly had to drink fluids and apply hand, face and lip moisturizer. Near the end of our trip we stopped just outside of Uyuni in a field of petrified coral which was once a ocean a couple thousand years ago.

15. The shower situation on this trip left much to be desired. Two days of not showering is compounded by being crammed into a small car. There wouldn’t be a hot shower until the last day but while stopping for lunch I noticed a steaming hot pool fed by a hot spring. Asking permission from our guide and receiving a shrug back I hopped into the 90 degree water. Because of the altitude there was a bit of snow on the ground and decided to make this opportunity into a Scandinavian spa day.

16. On our last morning we had now reached the edge of the salt flats and were about to drive our final leg across. That morning we rose at about 4, loaded the car and headed for a sunrise over a sea of salt. We reached the waters edge and to everyones surprise we continued driving through. The water was shallow and made an amazing reflection with the rising sun. Since we had no money our driver took us to an island where tourists don’t normally go to and don’t have to pay for. We ate yogurt, fruit and a Dulce de Leche cake our cook made for us the night before.

"Gill, I thought we were going to South America, not Alaska"

17. Will and I made probably too many jokes, many about Leah. To make it fair Will’s New Brunswick accent on words with ‘ar’ were a focal of some jokes aimed at him.

18. In Boiliva, you’re never quite sure if the bus will leave on time, if you’re at the right gate or understand the correct day on the ticket.

19. The coveted, almost mythical idea of Cama was first introduced to me by the girls. They would go off on a wild conversation about the beauty and sophistication of taking an Argentinian bus with CAMA. As they said the word they shivered a bit and then would always go back to that place in their mind. I never experienced Cama on my trip and our Land Crusier definitely didn’t have this described form of luxury and comfort. However, we did see enough wildlife to keep our mind off the lack of leg room or massaging head rests.

20. For some reason I always had to go to the bathroom. The worst is an overnight bus with no toilet, you are at the mercy of the driver. It’s an interesting and very uncomfortable paradox where you have to drink plenty of fluids because of the altitude and dry air, yet you are forced to take buses that stop once during a 12 hour overnight trip with some of the bumpiest and more violently jarring roads. One extra long and uncomfortable bus trip I had an empty bottle in my hand ready, I just sat there contemplating, thinking and hesitating. The moral and ethical dilemma taunted me, “everyone is sleeping…” and before making an unholy choice, the Hand of Grace came from a 2 minute wait at unmarked bus stop where I burst out and found a bush – I don’t know how girls do it.

21. It’s our last night together and we decide to eat at a Mexican restaurant. We joke, tell stories and talk about movies, which turned out to be focal topic on the trip. Like a usual night we take it a bit far, especially with a few drinks and Leah begins to get physical. Her new favorite game is called I’ll show you have fast I can shove my fist into your armpit, which is my least favorite game.

22. Over the course of the night at the Mexican restaurant we order a few pitchers of Sangria then ask for the bill, but before heading out we all do a commemorative shot of Tequila.

23. These last lines are a summary of our adventure in Bolivia. I’ll miss the embracing warmth of this South American oasis of natural beauty and history. I had an excellent time and would like to thank Gill and Leah for allowing me to drop in on their cultural safari.

Our quadfecta on the salt flats tour