Left Sucre early in the afternoon, in the hopes of arriving into Potosí (three hours away) with enough time to get a tour to the silver mines booked for the next day. Arrived into Potosí early in the afternoon, and found that I was far too early for the agencies... As I got there on a Saturday, the better agencies didn't run a tour for Sunday, as that was the miners' day of rest. Whoops!! Oh well!! So Monday it is then!!
Anyway saw something funny on the road from Sucre to Potosí... Where there was a bank built of concrete slabs on the side of the road, someone had mysteriously painted in a steries of stenciled roosters. However was far too slow with taking out my camera in order to upload a photo of it, with the annotation of "Why did the chicken cross the road??" What I did manage to take a picture of, was the disturbingly dry valley where there clearly should be a river running through it. It's still hard to believe how extreme the climate of South America can get... dry season so dry that entire rivers dry up, and wet seasons with so much rain that dirt roads become impassable.
Potosí seemed to be a nice city, with some wonderful colonial architecture from back in the days when the silver mines made the city the richest in Latin America, and the most populous in the world (18th century, even bigger than London!!). There were also cute little narrow streets, though pretty hard to navigate with a map, since none of the streets seemed to be labelled.
I checked into the "Koala Den Hostel", and as I was about to be led to my room... Who should walk across the lounge, but my good old friend Yasmin!! Of course, Flor was also nearby!! We spent a wonderful evening together catching up, and ate a very nice dinner at a funky cafe designed by an architect. But we were too slow and missed the reception of a Bolivian wedding (we were only 35 minutes late!!). Oh well!! We didn't know the bride and groom anyway, so that didn't matter too much!!
After a late night of chatting, we headed off to Tarapaya the next day, where there were lots of hot springs. It did take us a while after breakfast, before we finally left the hostel. We walked all the way to the bus terminal, and got pleasantly distracted by the markets just before it. Flor, who's a great shopper managed to bag a t-shirt top with "Floriciencia" written on it. It's a character from a popular Argentinan show. Very fitting, since Flor was born in Argentina, although went to live in Israel when she was only three years old. We also passed by a man with a needle, tattoing people on the side of a busy dusty street. For only 30 Bolivianos (US$7.50), but as Yasmin put it, you have to pay for it with the medicines required afterwards for the rest of your life!
We found the combi to Miraflores, which pass by the hot springs. But from the beginning of the trip, we weren't totally convinced that our driver knew where he was going. Oh dear. We started to feel tired, as we were couped up in the hot minivan, as the driver drove us into seemingly dead end streets, and blocked roads.
Finally saw a sign for Tarapaya, and looked forward to the springs. Near the town entrance, there was a big sign saying "Laguna", and I wanted to get off. Yas said that from the pictures she'd seen, the lauguna wasn't nice, and wasn't the one we wanted. And our driver told us there were lots of hot springs in Miraflores (just further down the road). Which was more beautiful? I asked him. They're all the same, he replied.
As the minivan pulled into Miraflores, Yasmin and I exchanged horrified looks. Please, it's not here! we both thought. On our left, we had just passed a "resort", where lots of clothes were placed on the rocks of the mountains to dry, a little (sewage like) river running down the mountain, and the shouts of many happy children. Twenty metres down, the driver stopped the car, everyone got out, but we stayed on, in the hope that it would take us to somewhere more beautiful. No such luck. We had arrived.
Wasn't quite what we had expected. A guy overheard our conversation and offered to take us to a hot spring. Always weary of Latino guys striking up conversations with us, we didn't really want to go. Anyway, he took us to a hot spring, where from looking through the gate, revealed simply two swimming pools. Anywhere more natural??? It would seem a shame to have gone all that way, just to sit in a steaming pool, whilst kids (being Sunday afterall) jumped into the pool and splashed around. Apparently there was one, but about half an hour walk away. Flor's face fell, as she's not been feeling well, and not really looking forward to some walking.
But we walked anyway, and guess where we arrived into?? The place with the sign saying "Laguna". Are you sure the water is hot there? I asked our de facto Bolivian guide. Yes, yes. As a shortcut, regardless of Flor's low energy and shouldering a big backpack, our "guide" climbed up a small trail of a steep hill. But when we got to the to, we saw a lake of about 60m diameter, a natural looking pond. Was the water warm though? Quick test of dipping foot into the water found that it was warmish. Hmm, not quite 30º, but we much preferred it to some artifical feeling pool!
We ended up lounging the afternoon away, swimming for a little bit. It was pretty deep, and Yas and I (being midgets) had to either tread water or grab onto one of the plants growing on the side of the pond. Tried to approximate how far was the other side, and Yas, the Guy (don't remember his name) and I tried to swim across. Unfortunately those two didn't get very far, and I remembered the time when Sami and I swum to a little island in Lake Managua (Nicarauga) - the largest lake in Central America! Was slightly worried that if I got tired halfway, therw would be no one to rescue me... but managed to get across and back (afterall, used to be able to swim more than back in uni!!). Hehe, gonna try to swim across Lake Titicaca next! :P
The walk down to catch the bus was dreadfully windy, and dusty. From our vantage point, we saw strong gusts of wind blowing a carpet of sand across the large flat plain. We learnt to time when to turn out back against the approaching wind, carrying with it a veil of sand. When we were safe from eating sand, we managed to go through lots of Disney songs (Yas said I looked just like Mulan bathing, when I was in the pond), leading onto other songs we all knew. The Guy was quite quite amused as we "neigh-ho" away in "The Lonely Goatherd". To be honest, would have rather the Guy wasn't there, and I wondered whether he had a good time - as we mainly conversed in English, which he didn't really understand. I would have left pretty left out. But Flor said that she was sure he did, and that he would probably boast that very evening to his friends, about how he had spent the afternoon swimming half naked with three hot girls.
When we got back to Potosí, we looked in vain for the vegetable market (now closed), and then a restuarant which was actually opened. We were starving, not having eaten since breakfast!! That's the bad thing about Potosí, can be hard finding somewhere to eat. We had great plans for the evening, but in the end, we just sprawled across the sofas in the hostel, simply too exhausted from a day of lying by the pond. Fitting in two Patrick Swayee movies (from the free DVDs available) wasn't tooooo demanding however... :p