November 21, 2005
The road from Unyuni to Oruru was almost all unpaved. The first few hours of the bus ride went well, but suddenly we had to stop. A semi was stopped ahead of us. Our driver went to talk to the semi's driver, returned to the bus, and we pulled ahead. I thought we were out of it, but we quickly stopped again behind another bus. I thought we had hit a roadblock, which Bolivians who are unhappy with their government frequently set up. Several people started getting out of the bus, but they seemed calm. I wanted to know what was going on, so I got out too and looked around.
It turned out that a semi heading toward Uyuni had gotten stuck in the mud at the bottom of the hill, blocking the road. Several kids with shovels suddenly ran past us to dig out the semi. After waiting about thirty minutes, the semi was finally freed and we were able to continue. The entire route was littered with huge potholes and standing water. I was surprised we didn't get stuck too.
As we entered the city of Oruro, I saw pavement for the first time in five days. It was a great experience. The bus I was on was continuing to La Paz, so it dropped me off in the middle of the street at about 3:30 AM. Several other tourists also got of at Oruro, so I wasn't too worried until I learned that all of them were continuing on to Cochabamba right away. I rang the buzzers of a few hotels, but nobody answered. They were all closed for the night. I would have to wait until morning to find somewhere to stay, so I went into to the bus station, figuring that it would be safer than waiting outside because I had to pay a tax of about thirty cents to get in. A few people were walking around selling tickets, so I didn't think I was in any danger, but I did have to listen to people shouting "La Paz," "Cochabamba," every ten seconds. I waited until about 6:00, when the sun had risen and I couldn't take the constant screaming anymore, to leave the bus station.
I found a hotel nearby that looked clean, cheap, and best of all, had cable TV in the room. After doing so much moving around, I needed to take a few days off to relax and catch up on my website, and this seemed like a good place to do just that. After Oruro, I will go to Sajama National Park for a few days, but I don't expect there to be much there as far as Internet access is concerned. After that, I will cross over into Chile, which everyone I've talked to so far has loved, but it's also the richest and most expensive country in South America. Bolivia is the cheapest and poorest country on the continent, so it makes much more sense economically to relax here.
Tonight, I got to watch the Green Bay Packers for the first time on my trip because the TV in my room had ESPN. I see that I haven't missed out on much because they suck. Still, it was fun to watch because the graphics and stats were in English, but the announcers spoke Spanish. Every time a stat appeared on the screen, the announcers quickly had to translate it to Spanish. Then, they'd cut to the announcer on the field, but they'd turn her microphone down and speak over the top of her because she spoke English. At one point, they showed a bunch of people in the crowd with signs that made puns for the Packers' new running back, Gado, that said things like, "We Gado Win!" The signs didn't translate very well, so the announcers had a really hard time explaining them to the Spanish-speaking crowd. The Packers lost, but considering that it will probably be the last football game I'll watch all year other than maybe the Super Bowl, it was still worthwhile watching.