Salt Flat, Bolivia...Cramps in the Jeep
Sep 15, 2005
|After what happened the previous night, could not risk eating anything for breakfast. If truth be known, I was much happier eating the Swiss chocolate I had bought as snack. Delicious! As Louise was feeling much better that day, we had a slight change of seating arrangement - this time with me in the front. It was more spacious, and with a wider view! We didn't get very far from the hotel when we saw all the other jeeps stopped on the plain. I asked Fidel what the attraction was, and he replied that they were helping to rescue a jeep which had got stuck yesterday. We left our jeep on the road, and all got out to give a hand. We were instructed to find some rocks and bring them over to them. Feeling much better, and glad of the timing of my recoverery, found that I wasn't quite as strong as I had hoped when I finally reached the stuck jeep, and I looked achingly around to see where I could drop off my little load.
All the other tourists were busying themselves with pushing their weights on a lever (to hoist up the jeep), standing around documenting the events with their camera, or like a certain English chap, simply using his voice to co-ordinate the procedures. "Ah, this will be a total doodle", he grinned, as five people leaned heavily onto the lever. And guess which category I fell into?? Hehe! With about four, five jeep load of people helping, one of the jeep was soon freed from the soft soil, and everybody cheered. This was the jeep which got stuck itself, when it tried to tow the other one out. Shortly after this, the guides called their passengers to board again, and many left relucantly. But there was still another one which needed to be rescued!! This one was stuck deeper as well!
With less people available, there was more room for me to lend a hand. Knowing how weak my arms were, thought it would be better for me to simply sit on the plank of wood used as a leverage. With me sitting, Louise balancing delicately standing on it, and Sarah pushing with all her might, the three of us exercised some pure girl power and lifted the jeep high enough for the guys to slide another piece of wood beneath the wheel, as an extendable harder road for the jeep to drive onto. The driver of the stuck jeep was really touched that we stayed on to help, even though Fidel tried to get us to continue our tour. We simply told him, that there was only a little bit more to go! And sure that he would appreciate someone else helping him, if the same happened to him! There were a few times that we thought the jeep was on its way to freedom, as we pushed and pushed - but one wheel or other would simply spin and spin. We checked and re-calcuated the positioning of all the planks, and finally, with a mighty show of united strength, we felt the jeep moving forward, forward, forward... and then it no longer needed us to push it on its way!! Man, what a good feeling that was!! Louise suggested we should all leave our day jobs and turn professional four by four rescuers. "SalarWatch", we would be called... hehehehe
Even Fidel was in a good mood, no doubt feeling safe in good hands, should our jeep get stuck somewhere along the way. Saw him smiling more or less the whole morning, as he drove us to the various points of interests. The day consisted mainly of blue sky, mountains, lakes, rocks, llamas and flamingos. The other jeeps contained appreciative tourists who wanted pictures of everything, and we were also forced to stop for photo breaks. Though we wanted more toilet breaks, if the truth be known. Luckily being the last jeep in line (for staying on for the rescue), we could nip off discreetly to the back (unless it was Louise, who announced her intentions, and shouted that no-one was to look at the back of the jeeps).
We had a much earlier lunch than the previous day (plus a much earlier start too). Though again, the food was simple (not touching any type of "vegetable soup" today!), maybe the combination of sitting in the middle made me ill again. So when we arrived into "Valle de Rocke" with various rocky formations, I was feeling poorly, and didn't feel like doing very much. Thanks to Sarah's adventurism, she got us all to scale a medium sized one for a group hug. It was quite windy though, and I was glad there were people behind me, in case the wind blew me over. Climbing down again was slightly more tricky, and I cunningly put my hand into a prickly bush at the bottom, and had to pick all the spines out. Didn't do an excellent job though, and a week on, I can still feel some sore bits. Anyways!!
As the afternoon wore on, I felt worse and worse, and much preferred simply sitting in the car. It wasn't really that cold outside, but the wind made donning on all the jackets and hats neccessary. If the others hadn't wanted to get out, I would have unblinkingly passed on the village with an airplane stuck on the rocks, and not questioned why it was there. Our relationship with Fidel had also deteriorated to minimum conversation - he only spoke when stopped for a photo break, for a short explaination of where we were, and sometimes a little more information of what it was. He also only owned one cassette, of pychotic Andean beated music - which Maarten and I tried to master over the next couple days. Unfortunately we couldn't get much further than, "...mi corazon!", "ami no me gusto...something something something". The girls were also not happy that Fidel would turn up the music, when we were embarking on some verbal play games. It was at that point, that Fidel's tipless fate was decided.
Anyway, as I was saying how bad I was feeling...! Apart from feeling naseous, I now also have the worst cramp in my life, and ended up curling up on the seat and staying like that - so no-one could use my side of the door to get out. They were all very understanding - cheers guys! At around four, we all had to register and pay to enter the National Park for the Laguna Colorada, and I reluctantly got out, with the promise of a toilet available. But I felt much better after that, and even managed to walk like the others along the edge of the lake to take some photos. It's pretty bad luck that I was ill two days out of three on the tour. Also realised I had lost my nice woolly hat and new gloves... Since the morning was quite warm, they got lost somewhere along the way in the pile of discarded clothing I was carrying. To make things worse, my lovely roll of expensive Scott toilet paper was blown away by the wind. I gave up chasing after the crumpled white fluff after only about twenty metres, and felt bad the whole evening with my contribution of littering the National Park.
Our next stop was arriving into our accommodation for the night. It was a lovely location on the edge of the lake, and we begun to see the lovely redness of the sunset spreading over the water. The flamingos residing on the lake were white with a reddist tint, and all was very lovely. Problem was the cold setting in, and the fierce wind blowing. It was much more comfortable inside - though our room was much more basic than the previous one. And it was still cold inside. Curtis walked in to announce that he would wimp out of taking a shower that night. "Shower" was literally a cubicle, with a drain in the ground. Water was readily available in two rusty containers (used to flush the toilets). No matter which container you drew the water from, it would be ice cold. Well, we would all be smelly together then!!
We soon found that the room next door was somewhat warmer than ours, and took this opportunity to get to know the people there a little better. At dinner time, we snuggled up to each other closely for more warmth, despite being in our full outdoor gear (apart from the gloves). Afterwards, we got to know what type of Shitheads we all were, and when the lights went out at nine, we continued playing by candlelight. New to the game were Craig and Dan (New York), and I showed Craig the way in the first game - which we won. Craig's beginner luck continued. Though I never used the red three to its full advantage (you nominate someone to take the pile), I became the scapegoat and everyone wanted me to lose. Oh! What karma for being nice!!
That night we got into bed with even more clothes on than we had in the daytime, and threatened to jump into each other's sleeping bag - it was that cold! Spent the first ten, fifteen minutes shivering in my bed, but once I fell asleep, it was ok - and even woke up not too cold. That night was about twenty degrees below zero.