Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What's in Lima? Not a bean...

I have been assigned the task of writing about Nasca and Lima because my significant other found Nasca boring and Lima is fairly boring without the food pictures. I will do my best to entertain, however. Let's go straight to the photos.

Nasca, sometimes spelled Nazca, is a city where about 800 years ago the Nascas, a pre-Incan people, carved these huge pictures in the soil. From the pictures and documentaries I have seen, I always thought they were carved in stone. Afterall, how else could they last so long? It turns out that the lines are basically just dug into the rocky soil with a hoe. Less impressive in terms of labor, but still impressive. For those who aren't familiar, there are about a dozen pictures and a bunch more random shapes that are thousands of feet long. The photo below is of the one called the tree. They still don't know what these were used for. Some theories include a calendar, to praise the gods, for decoration, or that aliens made them.
We only stayed a few hours at the lines and then on to Lima, the capital of Peru and a city of almost 8 million people. Lima is mostly a gray and dirty town. However, parts of it are really nice. We stayed at Hostal Espana, which we recommend. Here is a picture of the atrium.
As soon as we were settled in, we went in search of street food. The street food in Lima is excellent and will be covered in the food post. So, you get the dregs. Boring things like buildings. Here is the main cathedral at night. Pizarro is "buried" here in a glass case, we hear. We were unwilling to pay the $7 to see it in person.
We went to visit the free Inquisition museum. They went on a lot about how terrible it was, but based on my knowledge of the European Inquisition, Peru had it easy. Really only a couple of standard torture techniques. Here they show you the rack. The Peruvian inquisitors couldn't even spring for a real rack. They had to make one on the cheap.

Tara was never seen again after she entered the torture cellar. Okay, so I rescued her. Mostly they just threw people in dark holes for a few days until they confessed something. Again, no imagination.

We traveled to the posh Lima neighborhood or Miraflores partly because Tara wanted to see Lover's Park, where we thought there would be statues of lovers everywhere. Only one lame statue existed. Despite Tara trying, I refused to recreate this same pose for a picture in front of the statue. Call me lame, I know.

We took a tour of San Francisco Monastary, which was really great. Unfortunately, they didn't let us take pictures. This is the ceiling of the church. Most of the place is in Moorish style. The 25,000 skeletons buried in the basement are arranged in a more modern style, though. Apparently, in the 1940s, they thought it was a really great idea to arrange all the skeletons into fun geometrical patterns. I just wish we had the pictures to show it...

It took me about 5 seconds to snap this picture of the house where the president lives. For four of those seconds, guards were blowing whistles at me and about to raise their guns. Apparently, you can't stop in front of it. How was I to know? Surprisingly, they let me keep the picture. Please don't use this photo to plot any attacks or I will probably get into trouble.

This is another picture of the church with the archbishop's residence. Note the very fancy wooden porches. Don't archbishops take some kind of vow of poverty?
At the mall, between the gym and a shoe store, was the plastic surgery store. Walk in, get your plastic surgery, walk out. Terrific!

That's it for Lima. It was a mixed city. Would never want to live there, but interesting to visit. And great street food.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Time for some updated obsessions! I believe we left off with Argentina. For those who are new readers, for each country we decide, in our sole discretion, what that country is most obsessed with. If you are from that country and disagree, we don't really care.

Argentina- Uruguay. We thought long and hard about this. From what we can tell, Argentina wants to be like Uruguay in almost every respect. They also like cow products. They also like Italian things. We ran this idea by some Argentineans and they seemed offended, but we're sticking to it.

Chile- Receipts. A typical exchange to get an ice cream cone in Chile goes like this: 1.) I tell the person behind the counter that I would like an ice cream cone (or more likely a gallon). 2.) That person prints out a receipt saying what I want. 3.) I take this receipt to a cashier who fills out a form in triplicate stating what I want and the price. 4.) After I pay, the cashier keeps one copy and gives me two. 5.) I walk back to the original guy and give him both copies. He writes that I have given him this receipt on both of them, returning one to me and keeping the other. 6.) He scoops my ice cream. Anyone who wonders why carbon paper is still produced need only visit Chile.

Bolivia- Stealing from tourists. We actually believed this long before our bag was stolen. It is part of the culture to take as much as you can from tourists. I don't think people gave me correct change when changing anything greater than a ten ($1.50) ever. At first you think they are honest mistakes, but they always have the extra money ready if you ask so that it looks like they just hadn't finished counting. We also met more people with stolen stuff in Bolivia than anywhere else. We understand that it is a poor country, but theft is not a good development plan.

Okay, that's all. Now it's time for us to go eat some dinner.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How would you like your llama? Food in Bolivia.

Despite having had some of our food pictures from Bolivia stolen with our camera, we still seem to have an awful lot. We give the food high marks in Bolivia. Lots of street food and lots of cheap food along with a better mix of ethnic food than most of the countries in South America.

Our first night in Bolivia was in a city called Copacabana. They were having some kind of festival, and had lots of street food. We found this little old lady selling various fried items, complete with salad and a few fried potato pieces on the side, for 28 cents. She wasn't the only one, but hers seemed the best to us. Here I am eating what we are going to call a Bolivian latke, which is a fried potato pancake stuffed with meat. Very tasty.

If you are like me, you just thought, "Wow, stuffed with meat? That sounds great. Why don't they stuff everything with meat?" Indeed, they do. Here is a fried banana. Stuffed with meat.

We also tried some meat on a stick served with a couple potatoes. The somewhat spicy saucy on the potatoes was sort of like a curry sauce. Not bad.

We went to a restaurant in Copacabana that was just decent, but Tara wanted a picture of the vegetarian dish. I think it was some type of pumpkin dish. What I do remember is that we both had salad, soup, and dinner and the total bill was about $5.
On our first (and what was suppose to be our only) night in La Paz, we rushed to the Indian restaurant in town. We have been craving Indian for about a month now and it is really hard to find in South America. We tried to go to a place in Cusco, but it was closed. This place was owned by a Brit, so it was British style Indian, but still very tasty. I had llama tikka massala and Tara had something less interesting.
Bolivia has a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables than most anyplace else in South America. People sell little cups of fresh fruit salad all over the place for 20 or 25 cents. We ate a lot of it and will actually miss this about Bolivia.
This was probably the first time I had eaten after we had our bags stolen. I was still really upset, but they were selling fried dough things for 15 cents on the street, so I got one without filling and one with. The filling wasn't that great, but the other one was good.

Had we not been stuck in La Paz for three days getting new passports, we might never have discovered the amazing 50 cent street hamburger and fries. That's right, 50 cents for a really nice hamburger with fries. We give this street food five stars.

The woman that sold us this banana-peach-pineapple shake might have been the most honest woman in Bolivia. She gave us the shake and we were drinking it. We gave her back the cup and she refilled it because she had extra still in the blender. Hooray for someone doing something nice for us in Bolivia!
This is quinoa, the grain that is most often consummed in Bolivia. We ate it in New York, but it isn't very common in America. It cooks a lot like cous cous. Light and fluffy. They also make drinks out of it and oatmeal type foods.
This is the Bolivian version of lomo saltado, the national dish of Peru. It is a mix of french fries, sausage, beef, tomato, onion, and egg. The egg is easy to pick off and the rest is pretty good. Especially with mayonaise and some hot sauce, which Bolivians put on just about everything.
Tara managed to take a bag of "granola" with us after the Uyuni tour. Granola here seems to be Sugar Smacks cereal with a few raisins added. For those who don't know, Tara really loves cereal, so this suited her just fine.
We can't go to the salt flats and not try the salt. It is nearly pure. They dry it, package it, and sell it. Tara got a bit dehydrated after having this piece for lunch.
We found this candy called cat tongues, so we had to try some. Little chocolate tongue depressors filled with caramel. Our cat's tongue is definitely bigger than these were, but they tasted good.
In Rurrenabaque they had these things for breakfast that looked like little fried donuts. This excited me a lot until I bit into one and discovered that they were cheesy. When I rule the world, there will be a law that no item that looks like a donut shall contain cheese.
One of the most exciting parts of our trip to the rainforest/pampas in Bolivia is the return to sno-cone climate. We hadn't seen any since Brazil and I was happy to have them back. Here is me eating a mint one. Note that I ate most of it before Tara could snap a picture.
These sno-cones cost a whopping 15 cents each. That makes me so happy that I'm going to show you Tara eating one, too. What made me unhappy is when we went back 10 minutes later for me to buy a couple more and the guy was gone.
Desperate for a snack, Tara bought this chocolate bar in the Pampas. It turned out to be from Chile, which isn't surprising given how much Chileans love chocolate. Also, that is probably why it tasted good.
Lastly, after a long and hard trip in Bolivia, Tara had this drink, called "Welcome to the Jungle". She could still walk after, so it must not have been that strong.

That concludes our foods of Bolivia. Hope that you enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bolivia: Free of Bolivians at Last!

For those of you who are regular readers, you realize by now that Bolivia was tough for us at times. It was a confounding mix of beautiful and difficult. However, as with most places, life became much easier when you took people out of the equation. So, we set out to Rurrenabaque, right on the edge of the rainforest, where wildlife is plentiful and people are few.

It is worth noting that it was this same bus for which we were waiting when our bag was stolen. I left Tara at the station holding on to our bags with another American couple while I went to see if I could buyback any of my stuff in the local market (didn't find any), and three older men tried to steal their bags. Fortunately, Tara was quick to grab them before they could get them. Unfortunately, she wasn't quick enough to kick any of them in the head before they ran away...

Okay, now to the pictures. The bus ride to Rurrenabaque is 18 hours despite only being about 180 miles away. It doesn't take much math to figure out that it should be about the same speed to take a donkey. However, we don't know much about caring for donkeys, so we took the bus. It travels down the "world's most dangerous road", which may or may not actually be the most dangerous. (This motto is mostly used by mountain bike companies taking trips there, but the road seems to be much less dangerous on a bike than in a vehicle.) The road is mostly along cliffs with almost no shoulder and no guard rails. Additionally, some brilliant lawmaker in Bolivia decided that the vehicle going down the cliff should always be on the edge. Here's the view:
The mountains were lovely, and as we got to lower altitudes, they started to be very green as well with waterfalls and all the stuff that you would expect when driving to a rainforest.
Once we got to Rurrenabaque, we managed to book a last minute tour with a decent seeming company for a really good price. Additionally, they read us really well and offered up free use of showers for the two hours until the tour left. We had been on back to back overnight buses, so we were sold. Two hours later, we set out for the Bolivian Pampas, which is the grasslands bordering the rainforest. It is easier to see animals here than in the forest because they have no trees in which to hide. On the way, we saw dinner.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that seemed to have some quasi-pet animals from the area. This guy is a peccary, which is very much like a pig in looks and actions, but isn't actually related to one. Hard to tell his size, but he is the size of a pig and he walked right under our table and laid down until someone shooed him off.
Tara loves peccaries. Had there been baby peccaries, we would no doubt have one in our backpack. This one was too big to keep, though.
This jabiru also stopped by for a visit. These birds are about five feet tall and don't take kindly to strangers getting very close. One had a huge nest right above our camp site, but none of our pictures of that one were nearly as good.
This spider monkey took a liking to one of the other guys in our group and then to me. They have a prehensile tail that they use like a fifth arm and they are very strong. This monkey seemed really friendly, but then started chewing on one of the girls. It decided it didn't like me anymore after I pulled him off the girl (she was fine--the monkey was just biting her lightly).
After it bored of playing with the tourist, it was ready for a ride.
To get to camp, we took a three hour boat ride down the river. Because it is the very end of dry season, the river is at nearly its lowest point of the year. This means all the animals come to the river for water because the local watering holes are dry.
We saw a troop of squirrel monkeys (they live in groups of about 30-50) and one brave one even came to board the boat. He left in anger when no one would feed him.
All the caimans and crocodiles (they apparently have black caimans and then some species of croc here) come to the river at this time of year. They are everywhere. They eat anything, including other crocs. We saw them from about a foot long to about 15 feet long. It was great when they stopped the boat and told us it was time to take a swim.
The real reason that we went to this area is to see capybaras, the biggest of the rodents. These rats can grow to 180 pounds and are huge. We were worried we might not see any, which turned out to be silly. We saw hundreds. Everytime we saw one with babies, Tara took a picture. They bathe in the mud at the edge of the river to stay cool and insect free (and to sometimes feed the crocs).
This one seems to be waiting for us to come get in the boat. I let Tara get in first.
One morning we spent four hours hiking around looking for anacondas. The downside of dry season is that many of the marshy areas where anacondas live dry up, so they run away. The guides tried hard to walk through the mud poking around for a giant snake, but no luck. The best I could do was some colorful fungus. We ran into another group that had seen one, so our group tied them up in jealousy and left them there to see some more anacondas.
A blurry sunset over the pampas. These are grasslands, but the grasses grow to about four feet high. We walked through a lot of it looking for snakes, and it isn't what you think of when you think grass. It's like Little Shop of Horrors grass.
We also went pirana fishing. Again. For those who don't remember, we tried this in the Amazon and caught nothing. This time, at least there were piranas, but they were tiny. I couldn't even get this one to bite off my nose.
The only bird that seemed fearless was this tiger heron. A really nice looking bird. He is suppose to eat fish, but given how unafraid this one was, I suspect he eats a lot of leftovers as well.
Here is a whole herd of capybaras rushing out of the water as we passed by. Okay, herd probably isn't the right word for a group of capybaras. I actually did some reseach just now, and no one seems to know. A BBC article also calls them herds, so I'm going to say what I usually say--I was right.
That brings our exciting time in Rurrenabaque to an end. I should say that we also finally saw pink river dolphins, which were really cool. They went back under too fast to ever get pictures of them, but it is the areas patrolled by these dolphins where it is safe to swim. They will not let crocs swim in the same water as them and they can be ferocious in their defense of territory.

After several nice days in the wilderness, we got back on the very slow overnight bus and went back to La Paz. We left La Paz as soon as we could and decided that we would deal with not having Bolivian visas because of stolen passports when we got to the border. So, we exited at the same Bolivian crossing where we entered.

The guy was nice enough and found our entry visa information in about 30 seconds. Then he looked at us and said, "You need to get a new visa stamp in La Paz. I'm not able to do it here." We told him all we needed was an exit stamp and he clearly had proof of our legal entry. And that we weren't going back to La Paz (4 hours away). He finally agreed to let us just leave with no stamp. So, we practically ran the 500 feet to Peru before he changed his mind.

The woman at the Peru border looked at our fresh passports and said that she could not let us in without an exit stamp from Bolivia. We told her the whole story and she reiterated that we absolutely must have an exit stamp from Bolivia. We said that we could not go back and asked if there was any way to get into Peru. After a moment, she decided that we could pay a $20 "fee" and the problem would go away. So, it surprised us, but we did not have to bribe our way out of Bolivia and instead bribed our way into Peru.

That wraps up our Bolivian adventures. It was a decent country, and is really cheap, but the culture is really difficult to adjust to. We have met many travelers who say that Bolivia is their favorite country. That definitely isn't true for us, but we certainly will keep some nice memories from parts of it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Extra, extra! Monkey snuggles puppy!

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled griping about Bolivia to bring you this picture of a monkey snuggling a puppy. The snuggling took place under a table at a restaurant near Rurrenabaque, a town in the Amazon.

I knew we came to this country for a reason.

Mo' Bolivia, Mo' Problems...

Sad to admit, but we did continue to have some issues in Bolivia after the whole backpack incident. Nothing nearly so bad--nothing else was stolen (though another attempt was made in the same bus station! See Andy´s next post), and we are still in one piece and safely across the border in Peru now, but read on to learn more about our recent adventures and misadventures in the land of Evo Morales.

Oh, Bolivia, you are an enigma. You have some beautiful, relaxing, and affordable places, like Copacabana, the town on Lake Titicaca where we spent our first nights in the country...
And then there´s La Paz. We kind of have to hate it on principal because that´s where we were robbed and dealt with a lot of subsequent annoyances, and it´s certainly not the prettiest city close up. But you can´t deny that its sloped setting, surrounded by mountains, is beautiful.

The night before the incident we´d rather forget, Andy and I spent a strange evening at the Teatro Municipal, the main theater in La Paz. We showed up in the afternoon and scored free tickets to a show we knew nothing about, except that it was a music performance. When we turned up that night, we found ourselves pretty much the only in a packed house of fans of the Familia Valdivia, who was having their 25th anniversary reunion concert there. We can only describe this outfit as a kind of Bolivian Von Trapp family, if there were only four Von Trapps, and they sang rather drippy Spanish love songs instead of Austrian folk music, and had a mariachi band backing them up during their second act.

Hey, at least it was free. We have no pics of the show itself (oh, we wish we had), but here´s the theater.

OK, so, two days later, we finally had our emergency passports and a fair amount of new gear for Andy (check out his snazzy new hat and small backpack, modeled here)...

...and were finally able to get the heck out of town. We had missed that day´s bus for Rurrenabaque, our original destination, so instead that night we headed in the opposite direction, south to visit the famed salt flats and desert outside of Uyuni.

On the bus, our troubles began. We thought we were lucky to get two of the last available seats on the bus that night...until we boarded and learned that they were the very back row, meaning the seats didn´t recline. Combine that with an extremely bumpy, unpaved road and a broken window latch in front of us, meaning every time the bus hit a bump the window flew open and blasted us with freezing mountain air, and you had pretty much the worst night bus ride we have experienced yet in South America.

But we arrived in Uyuni in one piece, booked a three-day jeep tour of the area, and were off that very morning!

The first two days of the tour were great, and the last day was largely abysmal. Lets start with the great.

Our first stop was the "railroad graveyard" just outside of Uyuni. Some very old trains were apparently running to Chile up until 1997; we got to climb on their rusting hulks. (We also think that this is where our train-loving friend Andrew slept one night when he visited the area--Andrew, if you´re reading, are we right?)

Then it was off to the Salar de Uyuni, which I think is the biggest salt flat in the world. What´s a salt flat, you ask? It´s an area where there used to be ocean millions of years ago, but thanks to all sorts of geological and climate changes, the area is now a desert, and all that is left of the ocean is miles and miles of salt, which you can drive on, walk on, and build stuff out of. Like this giant salt llama...

...and furniture like this table. Mmm, salty.

When you walk on the salt you see all these geometric cracks that have formed when the salt has gotten wet and dried again. As we moved south into drier areas, they got even more pronounced than the ones you see here.

Also, you´d often find water holes in the salt, where giant rectangular crystals formed. You could reach into the holes and pull out some crystals. Very neat.

Also, left over from the days when it was a sea, there are more than 25 "islands" dotting the salt flats. The largest is called Fish Island (we are not sure why, actually) and used to be a camping point for the Incas when they crossed the salt flats to go a-trading. Fun fact: They had to make shoes for their llamas for these trips so that their feet wouldn´t be damaged during the trip across the salt. These shoes were made from the skins of other llamas.

Anyway, on Fish Island there were amazingly tall cacti. The tallest was 9 meters, and our guide said it was 900 years old. One meter of growth every 100 years.

I thought it was fun that the trash cans on the island were made out of cactus wood.
One of my favorite things about our first day on the Salar is that it was the perfect backdrop for all sorts of fun pictures.

Everyone was taking these jumping pictures, and Andy didn´t want to be a follower and take one, but me and the other group members convinced him that he had to, and I´m so glad because this is really one of my favorite pictures of us from the whole trip.

We also spent ages putting the scenery to our advantage taking funny "perspective" pictures. I must extend special thanks to one of our group members, Ray from Ireland, for sharing his terrific picture ideas (not to mention his amazing person-shrinking machine and giant Pringles can!).

Husband in hand:
Such balance!

It was also fun to play with shadows. Anyone who has seen that classic film, "Da Ali G Movie," will surely recognize the "easside" and "wesside" signs we are throwing here...

Portrait of our tour group: The lovely David and Malin from Sweden, the most excellent Ray of Ireland, and me and Andy. True stars, one and all! (A cheesy statement, yes, but also a detail that was to come in handy when stuff hit the fan on day three of the tour.)

OK, we moved on from the salt flats and visited a cave and burial site. Local people come leave gifts of coca leaves for the ancestors buried (or, well, not so buried anymore, I guess, in the case of these skulls) here.

We watched the sun set from near the cave...

...and then went on to our "salt hotel." Yes, most of it really was made of salt! (We just wish they had built more salt bathrooms, because really, one toilet + shower for 14 people just ain´t enough.)

On Day Two, we traveled through desert south of the salt flats, near the Chilean border. Many amazing views of mountains and volcanoes...

...just don´t pee on them!!

We encountered several specimens of this strange plant, which looks like a fungus-covered rock but is actually some kind of tree. Our guide said that this particularly large one was about 900 years old.

The desert was dotted with some beautiful lagoons. This one was a little stinky thanks to the sulfur, but lovely to look at. Much like the two human specimens you see in front of it.

Most of the lagoons also had large colonies of flamingos! There are five types of flamingos in the world, and three of those types live in these lagoons in the Bolivian desert.

Here is my impression of a flamingo.

It was REALLY windy in the desert, which meant we often were only able to jump out of the jeep, race down to a lagoon to look at birds and take pictures, and jump back into the jeep before we blew away.

The most impressive lagoon of the day was the Laguna Colorada, or red lagoon. Algae in the water that makes beta carotene is what makes the lake turn red. It´s the same stuff that makes flamingos turn red when they eat it.

The strong winds in the desert have sculpted rocks there into some pretty unbelievable formations. I think that this one looks pretty Dali-esque, and in fact, south of this rock, there is a whole area called the Salvador Dali desert, because it really looks like one of his far-out landscapes.

That night, we stayed at a "basic" hostel. Which meant no hot water, no heating, and no electricity except between 7 and 10PM. Luckily there was a fire, where Malin (shoes on the far right) and I (center) spent lots of time toasting our feet.

And the next morning...well, I´ll try to be concise here. We all woke up in the dark and bitter cold at 4:30AM, as we had been instructed, and were ready to leave by 5...except that our driver, Jimmy, was nowhere to be found. Over an hour later, the other group´s driver, Jerry, found Jimmy drunk, with a woman, passed out in our jeep several miles away.

It gets better. When Jimmy was finally roused, the first thing he did was drive our jeep into a wall before managing to drive it back to our hostel...where he staggered out of the car, insisted that nothing was wrong, and said that we should all get in the car with him. Of course, we refused.

After way too much back and forth and nearly another hour wasted, the three guys in our group had to drag Jimmy out of the driver´s seat and grab the keys. Andy and David sat the protesting Jimmy between them in the middle seat, while Ray, who luckily had stick-shift and off-road driving experience (we were hundreds of miles from anything resembling a paved road) became our driver for the morning, following the other car for several hours to multiple stops. Each time we stopped, Jimmy tried all sorts of shenanigans to get the keys back, including messing with the engine of the car at our first stop so that it would not start. This lost us nearly another hour and gave everyone a ton of grief. In the end, we had to take turns guarding the car at the different stops so he couldn´t mess with it, which meant stress for everyone and that people had to miss various parts of the day´s itinerary. Thank goodness our group was so awesome, backing each other up and doing the dirty work until Jimmy finally sobered up in the afternoon and we allowed him to drive the jeep back to Uyuni.

The story gets only more unbelievable the more details you learn (like that he was drunk on wine he had stolen from the guests--apparently we were supposed to have wine at dinner the night before!), and when we got back to town the tour operator fired him in front of us...or at least pretended to, who knows if he was still fired the next day. The tour operator turned out to be a sleazeball (surprise, surprise) and there were many heated words exchanged between him and our group before he handed out a very paltry partial refund. In short, if you ever take a tour of the Salar de Uyni in Bolivia, DO NOT GO WITH EXPEDICIONES LIPEZ. They suck.

But, even that incident couldn´t ruin the trip for us. We absolutely loved our fellow travelers, and even on the third day we saw some cool stuff. Like hot steam geysers...
...and the Laguna Verde in the very south of Bolivia, which had a bunch of minerals in it making it a beautiful green color.
Also, we had been told by our guide that there were rabbit-like and chinchilla-like mammals in the desert, but we never saw any...until the very end of the third day, when we came across this.

Yeah, OK, so he´s dead. But still a chinchilla, right? You know, that´s kind of a good metaphor for how all of Bolivia has been for us...not exactly what we expected going in, but, well, sometimes you just can´t take your eyes off of it.