31 August 2012

Across Bolivia

We've been in the car for nine days now, driving across all of Brazil and Bolivia (with two hotel rooms throughout. lots of car sleeping).  We're finally in Ororu, Bolivia, heading south to the Salar de Uyuni (world's largest salt desert) today.  So far, we like Bolivia (except for the police, who are corrupt and awful).  It's cheap, the wine is finally decent again after disgusting alcoholic grape juice in Brazil, and we had the best pizza of the trip in Santa Cruz, Bolivia - so good, I almost wanted to stay another night to eat there again for lunch the next day.  

One very strange thing about Bolivia - the gas here is extremely cheap, but if you want the cheap, subsidized gas, you have to sort of steal it.  I don't feel too bad about this after dealing with the corrupt police here.  So, if we pull into a gas station with our foreign-plated car, they won't charge us the regular rate for gas - they'll charge almost three times more.  But some places, if I get out our gas can and point to it, they'll fill the car for the cheap rate. Or sometimes they'll fill the gas can directly (which is a pain, because it takes two of these to fill the car's gas tank).  Or sometimes they'll refuse us altogether, at which point we'll drive away, park off the lot, and walk back to the gas station with the empty gas can.  So far we haven't had to pay the premium price for gas throughout Bolivia, but it's a giant pain to lug a 20-liter can up the road every time we have to get gas - which is often, when you're driving about 18 hours a day. 

After sleeping in the car on another icy night in the altoplano (high plains), we visited a hot springs the next morning to thaw our feet.  We'd also climbed from 200m above sea level straight up to about 3,600m the previous day, and about five minutes after I climbed into one of the hotter baths at the hot springs, I got violently ill.  I'm not sure if it was from the drastic temperature change or altitude change or both, but after throwing up the past day's diet of water, I was basically fine again, though still a little winded here in Oruro.  Anyway, here's the first half of Bolivia (the more stunning half starts today, hopefully):  

We miss first world roads so much.

Occupy Bolivia?

One of many, many, many streetside fires we've seen.  Western Brazil and eastern Bolivia's roadsides are seemingly perpetually on fire. 

View from our hotel room in Oruro.  We splurged and spent about $28 for a massive suite.

27 August 2012

modernist brasilia, and the four-day drive across brazil

after the amazon, we flew back to salvador on the east coast to begin the long journey west.  it took us four days to cross brazil alone - now we're at the bolivia border, getting ready to cross. of course we arrived at the border around 3pm yesterday, and in true brazilian fashion, it was closed for the day (people don't work terribly hard here). almost out of brazil, i just realized we've spent the last month in places (brazil, argentina) which have enough white people living in them that we don't attract extra attention, except for in the peruvian-plated VW bug. a lot of people have automatically assumed we speak the language, even. not so here at the border; here we are getting stared down again, which always takes a few days to get used to.  and looking at my current outfit, it's no wonder:
 - the shirt was stitched years ago in india
 - the boots are from argentina
 - tacky hipster michael-approved sunglasses from brazil
 - socks from paraguay
 - jewelry and shorts from D.C.
 - fleece jacket from a thrift store in grass valley, california
... so it is a very international outfit, and of course none of it matches.
anyway, now we are going to attempt the bolivia border crossing again, and hopefully make it to the uyuni salt flats - of course, on the opposite side of the country.  it'll take us at least two days to get to la paz, and then another day to reach the salt flats.  in the meantime, here are photos from crossing brazil.  we spent a day in brasilia, taking pictures of the fantastic modernist (or is it post-modern?) architecture.

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