So, as predicted lat time, we spent a whole lotta time taking advantage of the hammocks at our hotel in Rurrenabaque, watching smugly as group after group came and went after just one night. The general pattern went a bit like this:
Arrive around 5 pm and step tentatively into the lobby
Ask about vacancies in halting Spanish
Follow someone from the hotel back to see a room
Exhausted and covered in more dried sweat than a daytime hooker heading home in rush hour they would spot us sprawled in hammock-ville, blissfully half-awake, and their eyes would remain glued in our direction even as their bodies hastened toward the room. At this point you knew they were going to accept faster than you when offered a handful of wet wipes after a weekend with Paris Hilton.
Then you could set your clock to one minute and thirty seconds, just enough time to peel off muddy hikers and pry out damp, creeping underwear, or “junglewear”, before hearing the shower kick into action. And the next day they would disappear into the heat like a mirage, or my willpower when faced with beer number 7.
Speaking of drinking, on one or our rare Rurrenabaque days when something actually happened worth talking about (based on my definition only, of course) a seemingly harmless lunch at a cute little cafe with Tricky (as in Dick) and Mel(anie) – resident New Zealanders transplanted from Wales and Toronto respectively – somehow degenerated into a 7 hour drunken fiasco for at least two of the aforementioned group. The friendly lady who runs the café, and whose name not surprisingly eludes me at the moment, had her siesta irreversibly altered in ways she could have never imagined when she got up that morning. Then, as lunch sneakily morphed into dusk, our fair ladies finally returned to whisk us off to find some more food and, optimistically I thought, to slow us down a little. By meal´s end, however, Tricky was regaling the busy restaurant with his own unique take on some classic rock songs while Mel did her best to distract him and Laynni worried that people were going to think we were Americans. I, of course, simply giggled away inanely and uncontrollably, considering it to be the funniest thing I had ever heard, at least since the time my fork fell on my lap several hours earlier.
On a possibly related note, I seemed to come down with something about a day later, which if it had held off another 12 hours until we were back in La Paz I probably would have simply blamed on returning to altitude after a two week hiatus (something which had clearly messed with our tolerance in much the same way the toilet in Coroico “would not tolerate toilet paper”). But it was obviously something different in this case, and it caught Laynni a bit as well, leading to us spending the next few days doing nothing but laying around, moaning and occasionally taking a noncommittal dump.
As our health gradually returned we slowly rejoined our usual city routine of movies and fast food, albeit a Bolivian version, Dumbo´s, where they seem to specialize in making balloon animals for the kids. We eventually figured out that they were trying to make swords but, believe me, when the hand guard doesn´t work out properly the long, tubular blade and bulbous little handle tend to end up looking like something much different. Especially when an audacious little girl is poking it at your face. It´s the incongruity I like.
On Sunday we finally worked up the gumption to take in a very Bolivian experience – Las Cholitas Wrestling. I think it´s actually called Titanes de la Ring, since most of the wrestlers are actually men, but clearly the stars of the show were the traditionally dressed Cholitas who put on a great show while kicking the guys´ asses and appealing to the underdog in us all. What a crazy show – like North American professional wrestling except even more ludicrous and over the top, kind of like an According to Jim holiday episode. For starters, the combatants, while all loudly outfitted to resemble a bafflingly diverse set of characters, were far from Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, or even while running for re-election. I would probably qualify as a light heavy weight in the Bolivian wrestling league. Needless to say, steroids are not nearly as much of a problem as illegal shoe lifts and pastry. Nonetheless, the show was addictive. We groaned as the referee displayed dubious objectivity by repeatedly attacking the combatants from behind, often both wrestlers during the same match, which was confusing to say the least. We cheered as the short stocky woman with the imposing cleavage frequently rushed to the ring to come to a friend´s aid against one nefarious cheater or another. We whistled and jeered as “El Cobarde” (The Coward) begged for mercy before jumping the valiant Yolanda from behind with an empty 2 litre Coke bottle. We rushed from our seats in panic as “El Hombre de Lobo” (The Wolfman) charged the crowd in a blood frenzy (we assumed, it was difficult to read his plasticky features).
All in all, a cool experience, which was alternately exciting, amusing and passionate but, in the end, we both agreed that, much like being donkey punched by Paul Giamatti, once was probably enough.
Finally, what would a blog entry be without a frank discussion about transportation? In La Paz we boarded a Todo Turismo bus, reputedly the best Bolivia has to offer, for the apparently nasty 10 hour overnight trip to the salt flats of Uyuni in the Southern Altiplano. Definitely not a bad bus, although everything seemed just a touch off: the seats reclined, but mine was broken so wouldn´t stay that way, and there was a real bathroom, but the door wouldn´t stay closed (which Mel found out the hard way as we rounded a corner, flying into the aisle with her pants around her knees) and an included breakfast, although it turned out to be only chocolate Oreos and peach juice. The last 3 or 4 hours of the trip were on some of the roughest “road” we´ve ever experienced, at least at that kind of speed. It was maybe just a hint smoother than some of the roads in southern Utah, and admittedly with less than half as many Mormons to boot. Hammering across the wash-boarded desert path we alternated between feeling like we were sitting in a slightly evil version of a La-Z-Boy massage chair or as had a thousand enthusiastic smurfs beating us with bags of batteries and toenail clippings. Throw in a semi-hourly wave of curiously warm air that smelled of stale beets and inconsistent digestion and you´ve got yourself one wild and woolly Bolivian bus ride.
Regardless, we now find ourselves in Uyuni, a dusty little town with a frontier feel where we´ll be spending just one night before embarking on a 4 day 3 night 4×4 tour of the Southwestern Bolivian Salt Flats – which are, apparently, chock full of salt. We´ll keep you posted.
In the news:
Hammock Alleges Sexual Harrassment
Rurrenabaque, Bolivia – Union officials confirmed today that Hammock #1 at Hotel Oriental has officially filed a Sexual Harrassment suit. The plaintiff is rumoured to be Canadian traveler “Laynni” Locke, although common sense would suggest this is an alias. The report describes several days of excessive hammock use, sporadic and suggestive moans, The breaking point, apparently, was the result of her many suggestive and unconventional positions.
“Most people understand that there is a right way to lay in a hammock, and all kinds of wrong ways. She didn´t care. She would twist sideways, sit straight up, or even roll over, and she never took no for an answer. Then, every once in a while, she would let out this contented moan that just made me feel so small, and so…so…dirty.”
Asked for her reaction to these allegations “Laynni” replied simply:
“Yeeeaaah, I enjoyed the hammock”